Ryanair accused of flying overweight planes: German regulator claims budget airline may have saved millions by giving false information
16:52 GMT, 19 December 2012
Ryanair routinely falsified the weight of its aircraft to evade millions of pounds worth of air traffic control charges, it has been claimed
The budget airline could face court action after being accused of using the ploy to avoid paying around 42million in extra fee levies in Germany.
Air safety watchdog Deutsche Flugsichering, responsible for air traffic control in the country, is investigating the company.
Axel Raab, head of communications at Deutsche Flugsicherung, said internal lawyers are currently studying the case, adding: 'If the outcome will be that Ryanair evaded charges we will go to court.'
Ryanair is accused by Germany of falsifying weights on take-off to 'save millions'
Ryanair has earned itself a tough
reputation for weight when it comes to passengers; turning up with a
suitcase over the specified maximum allowance and it can cost a small
But now there are reports that the company has not been so shy about disguising the weight of its planes upon take off.
Germany claims that the airline has
misinformed authorities about take-off weights by as much as eight tonnes on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft. In Germany alone that amounts to
a €17 (13.80) surcharge on every flight.
Die Welt newspaper in Germany
calculated that could add up to 300,000 a year in Germany,
around 42million across Europe if the practice is so
Online specialist freight magazine
Cargo Forwarder reported: 'The Irish discounter has continuously
breached fee regulations claim national aviation authorities and air
traffic control organizations. The consequences could be expensive for
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary: His company is well known for its policies towards passengers carrying extra baggage
'Where an aircraft has multiple
certified maximum take-off weights, the maximum one shall be used,' for
levying fees, say the German aircraft regulators.
According to the EU aviation body
Eurocontrol and Germany's Federal Air Traffic Controlling Office, the
Boeing 737-800s of the Dublin-based carrier's uniform fleet are
registered with a maximum take-off mass of 67 tons each aircraft'.
But Cargo Forwarder says: 'However,
some of the traffic watchers must have become suspicious when comparing
the Irish discounter's low MTOM weights with data delivered by other
carriers having the same Boeing variant in their fleet.
'This resulted in numerous on-the-spot
checks of Ryanair flights to and from Germany, particularly at
Ryanair's hub Frankfurt-Hahn. The outcome of these controls seems to
have corroborated the aviation authority's concerns over the doubtful
weight declaration submitted by the Irish airline.'
It adds: 'At all inspections the
declared MTOM of 67 tons had clearly been exceeded, occasionally by up
to eight tons,' emphasizes a source close to the case. For Ryanair a
bitter and probably costly resume since the findings clearly contradict
the weights submitted by the no-frills airline to the authorities.'
Ryanair said: 'Ryanair
has a policy of not commenting on rumour or speculation. Ryanair's 737
aircraft operate in full compliance with Boeing's flex-weight programme,
as certified and approved by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and we
will continue to do so.
'We do not comment on specific flights
but we are happy to address any issues or queries raised by EuroControl
directly with them and we will continue to do so.'
If Ryanair has flouted the weight rules it has not put flights or passengers in danger, according to Cargo Forwarder.
But it added:' However, by submitting
the lowest possible MTOM figure instead of assigning the maximum
take-off mass as documented by the Irish authorities and demanded by
aviation administrations of other countries for levying their service
charges, Ryanair frequently evades fees and route charges, claim
internal Eurocontrol sources.
'So dodging costs at any circumstances
seems to be the name of the game, critics suspect. And indeed, the
savings resulting from this practice seem to run into millions of euros.
This might be one factor why the carrier keeps on announcing
'unbeatable low prices' at all occasions, comments a Swiss aviation
The carrier's 1,500 daily flights
multiplied by 30 days and 12 months brings it to 540,000 annual flights
or savings of €43.2million on Eurocontrol fees. Together with the
charges withheld from more than 30 national European national air
traffic control organizations (ATC) it might well add up to €50million
in 2012, said Cargo Forwarding.
Earlier this summer Ryanair pilots
made emergency landings in Spain blaming low fuel readings. Critics
said that the airline makes personnel fly with less feel precisely to
keep weight down upon takeoff and save money.
A fortnight ago German safety experts
said a Ryanair plane from Manchester nearly met with disaster in
September as it came into land at Memmingen in Bavaria. The plane was
running late and the pilots approached the runway from a different
direction in a bid to save time taxiing to the gate on the ground.
It had to pull up and make another approach to land. Investigators classed it as a 'serious incident.'