Thursday, February 22, 2007

Budget airlines and 'harsh' landings

I don't know about you, but I am almost certain you've flown at one point or other with Ryanair, Easyjet or any number of other budget airlines if you live in Europe. We don't expect any service from them really, and they usually manage to meet this sort of expectation. What we do expect, of course, is that they bring us from A to B reasonably safely - at least we expect them to be as safe as any full-service legacy carrier. After all, our savings are meant to indicate that we're happy to be treated pretty terribly as opposed to getting killed in an accident driven by these airlines' cost cutting exercises.

Now, I wonder, whether there's a pattern here. Ryanair (and I got to be honest, after flying with them for a few times, I just can't get myself to use them ever again) is currently being investigated in the Republic of Ireland for its allegedly dangerous landing approaches. The claim has been made that rather than doing a second round if they come in badly, the airline's pilots will set the planes down anyway to avoid punishment from the airline's management. It goes without saying that the airline thinks the pilots are wrong. In my experience with Ryanair at least, truly nasty landings are standard operating procedure. I was on planes that literally fell out of the sky onto the tarmac and swerved all over the runway just to come to a stop before running out of space. The pilots seemed to go deliberately left to right to left just to increase the length of the runway. Pretty scary stuff. I decided that probably the life-time savings made by using Ryanair are not worth the nerve wrecking experience of its landing related gambles. - Mind you, I made a similar experience on a BA flight just this Monday, but at least it happens rarely on legacy carriers. That's a start.

In Indonesia (see picture above left) meanwhile, a plane was set down sufficiently harshly by a local by a local budget carrier's pilot to break apart on impact. Mind boggling.

So, other than the obvious question of whether or not we should be flying as much as too many of us do (myself definitely included here, so I am not pointing my finger at you!), I also wonder whether budget carriers in their ever-more desperate attempts at efficiency savings gamble with our and their staff lives. After all, as the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn't true. Quite possibly budget carriers' prices are a case in point.

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