If you live near a Ryanair base, you may have noticed something strange recently. The airline has been operating ghost flights in order to ensure that their aircraft remain flying. Of course, on such short hops, the aircraft is empty.
Many airlines have taken the difficult decision to ground their fleets. Examples include British Airways and Lufthansa. However, Ryanair is taking a different course of action. The Irish low-cost carrier has kept its fleet in the skies. It appears as though most of its grounded aircraft are being flown once every four days to maintain their operational availability.
Keeping aircraft ready for flight
If aircraft have been grounded for any significant periods of time, they are required to be checked over before returning to the skies. This means that the aircraft is unavailable for a longer period of time, and the airline must pay to check the aircraft over.
As a result, Ryanair is flying most of its grounded aircraft at least once every four days, even if this means taking off to land straight away. According to FlightRadar24.com, the airline has 451 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet.
Simple Flying sampled the data from 47 of the airline’s aircraft chosen randomly. This means that around 10% of the fleet was sampled. Of these aircraft, all bar one had been flown recently. However, since Ryanair began to ground aircraft, 35 of the aircraft whose data we sampled had been flown in loops around an airport. The remaining 11 aircraft had been in service at least once every four days.
In most cases, these ghost flights involved the aircraft taking off and then immediately returning to the airport. Some saw the addition of a couple of interesting loops and turns here and there.
Ryanair claims to be the greenest airline in Europe with just 69g of CO2 per passenger per kilometer recorded during February. However, each time one of the airline’s Boeing 737 aircraft takes off for such a flight, it is emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. As there are no passengers on these aircraft, the emissions build upon the airline’s average.
Simple Flying contacted Ryanair regarding its ghost flights. An airline spokesperson said:
“In order to ensure our aircraft are serviceable for both passenger repatriation flights and essential flights for the transportation of urgent medical supplies, some of our crew and aircraft must remain available and serviceable in line with Boeing requirements and EASA regulations.”
Now, it is more than fair if the airline wants to make sure some of its aircraft remain serviceable. However, it appears as though it is making sure that most of its fleet remains serviceable. The airline itself has said that it doesn’t expect to operate the majority of its flights until June at the earliest, which could mean another two months of aircraft emissions without passengers.
What do you think? Should Ryanair be keeping its whole fleet flightworthy despite the environmental cost? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.