Following the good success of our program “Hold Short of Tango“, shortened in HSOT, among the Italian community, we decided to share an editorial after the episode to share with you the best themes we discussed, in the meanwhile we work to an English edition.
Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has defined “an idiotic idea” the proposal to leave the middle seat empty in order to ensure social distancing on aircrafts to resume flight operations after the Covid-19 emergency.
He also said that his company isn’t going to fly again should the proposal become law.
Up to this point we can see the classic O’Leary. The ways he says most of the things regarding Ryanair are hard to share, but what it’s very critical during this period is the core of his statements.
Ryanair, in 2019, moved more than 150 million passengers.
To give you an idea about this number, one of the best airline in Europe, Lufthansa, moved just approximately 145 million passengers.
You can immediately understand the importance of the Irish low fares airline, and its direct competitors such as EasyJet, in the European market.
Low fares with 66% capacity?
It’s basically impossible to force Ryanair to operate with two thirds of the capacity, because the way the company has been conceived is to fly full in order to make profit while keeping the fares very low.
An example would be Milan-Tenerife for less than €50 once a day.
These airlines are losing money if they fly with less than 75-80% capacity applying their prices.
They could still fly with less passenger, but the ticket cost would have to be higher.
This is not easy, because if the cost raises too much it would become comparable to an higher end airline, which would probably be preferred. Their offer would be out of the market.
If I have to choose between booking a Ryanair fly and an Iberia one for just 20€ more, I’m going for Iberia.
And, moreover, in the current situation, passenger are not likely to fly companies with high fares, considering the economical crisis which is hitting the whole world.
This issue is not involving only Ryanair, but the other airlines have more moderate CEOs, apparently.
Would an empty seat help social distancing?
I guess almost all of you flew on a Boeing 737 or in an A320, and you should have an idea of how tight the space is inside the aircraft.
And the low cost airlines, which are always aiming to the highest capacity possible, are widely famous for their reduced legroom.
Leaving the middle seat empty would help gaining 40 to 50 centimeters of space, basically a quarter of what the experts are recommending. Not much.
I understand the point of the avoided direct contact between passengers sitting next to each other, but have you ever considered the passengers you touch while walking down the narrow aisle?
It’s not just a seat, it’s the entire aircraft which should be adapted to such a situation, even the lavatories would have to be perfectly clean after each usage.
Are the airlines going to go for an adaption like this? I don’t think so.
Leaving the middle seat empty is an idea, but it’s more like a hole in the water. The narrow-body aircrafts are just impossible to protect against direct contacts among passengers and crew.
O’Leary is one of the few men in the industry which has proposed a solution to the current problem. It’s a rather impracticable one, but it’s pretty basic.
He asked the government to pay for the empty seats.
This would involve, of course, a huge amount of money, but I believe that the governments should help their struggling airlines to ensure a quick restore of the market.
And when I say “help” it’s not meaning that the airlines should be nationalized like Alitalia, but I wish for a concrete help in resuming the normal operations.
In the meantime, Ryanair itself, stated that they are going to give priority to airports that apply no taxes at all until October, and reduced taxes until at least March 2021.
They are also looking forward to open new routes between “tax-free” airports.
What if Ryanair shouldn’t come back
Bringing an airline like Ryanair down to its knees, doesn’t only mean to put in danger the workers directly employed by the company.
The Irish airline and its subsidiaries are operating in quite a few airports exclusively (or almost exclusively), and they have an incredible number of monopoly routes.
In case of a severe crisis hitting Ryanair, some airports would have to be, at least temporarily, closed, and their workers fired.
Moreover, considering the huge amount of passengers that this airline is moving year after year, it would be pretty hard to imagine our airspace without the yellow&blue 737s.
Would you imagine Ciampino, Treviso, Girona and so on without Ryanair?
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