[BBC NewsRyanair has announced record profits this week, and the purchase of 175 new Boeing airliners. It’s evidently one of Europe’s most successful airlines at present – but has it even so been blowing its own trumpet a bit too much?

Ryanair prides itself on turning around flights quickly.

Ryanair prides itself on turning around flights quickly. Photo Wikipedia

Ever heard the cheerful jingle on a Ryanair plane as it touches down on the runway?

“Last year over 90% of Ryanair flights landed on time, beating every other European airline.”

Quite a boast. According to the statistics that Ryanair puts out itself, they achieved 90% punctuality last year, and have done for the last few years.

But we only have their word for it. There is scant data available to the public on airline punctuality.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority does collect data on flights arriving and departing from 10 UK airports. It defines “on time” as being within 15 minutes of its stated arrival time.

A website called flightontime.info crunched that data and worked out that Ryanair fell short of 90%, achieving only 83% at these 10 airports.

Taking the figures for 2012, bmi regional was the most punctual. Eleven other airlines also beat Ryanair’s 83% punctuality record.

Ryanair’s overall punctuality score – taking into account its flights landing at or taking off from other airports around Europe – could easily be higher than 83%, says Jim Paton, senior lecturer in the Department of Air Transport at Cranfield University.

“A big proportion of their network in Europe is operations to small airports that don’t suffer from air traffic congestion, as would be the case around London and Paris,” he says. This makes it easier to avoid delays.

He adds that Ryanair flies to airports where the facilities are relatively close to the runway, so the plane doesn’t spend several minutes taxiing, as it would often have to at airports such as Schiphol in Amsterdam.

The airline says: “Ryanair’s published monthly punctuality is calculated as the percentage of all (approx 42,000 on average) Ryanair flights in any month, at all 180 airports, which land ahead of, on, or within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival time.”

Punctuality statistics published by third parties are unreliable because their data is based on estimates or incomplete samples, which exclude certain airports, flights or airlines, the company adds.

But the Ryanair jingle also says it is “beating every other European airline” on punctuality. Where does this idea come from?

Ryanair says it is comparing its own punctuality figures with “the most recent Association of European Airlines published statistics”.

However, that organisation has not published any new figures since 2009.

In addition, it has only 32 members. Although those members include many big airlines, more than 200 airlines in Europe are not members – including Ryanair.

So there is no public data that proves this claim. And even if there were, it might be hard to take at face value because of a phenomenon known as “schedule padding”.

This is when airlines (or other transport companies) stretch their published journey times in order to…..

Read the rest of this feature at BBC News…..


Charlotte McDonald
BBC News
26th May, 2013


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