FINAL CALL: The 11:30am Departure to Manchester!

You don’t have to be an expert to understand the fundamentals of aviation utilisation.  In simple terms, while an aircraft is sat on the ground it is not making money and for low-cost carriers maximum daily utilisation of assets is essential to boosting revenues due to the smaller business margins.  Airlines like Irish budget carrier Ryanair have turned aircraft turnarounds into something similar to a Formula One Motor Racing pit-stop where every second counts.

It is not unusual for passengers to be already congregated on departure gate stairs at an arrival airport as the inbound aircraft taxies to its stand to enable the boarding process to commence almost as soon as the last arriving passenger has disembarked the aircraft.  In the past you would expect short-haul ground turnarounds to last an hour or even more, now some carriers are getting aircraft back in the air in just 15 minutes.

By minimising the time aircraft are on the ground, budget airlines can add an additional flight sector a day.  However, to achieve this on-time performance is an essential ingredient.  This subject has brought many an argument between low-cost carriers over the years and every month Ryanair, which claims to be “Europe’s No.1 on-time airline,” reveals its latest reliability figures on its website. 

Many of us that have flown Ryanair have experienced the fanfare of “another Ryanair on-time arrival” when we reach our destination.  Sceptics suggest the excellent performance is due to longer block times for its flights meaning that aircraft can depart late but still arrive early.  However, this week we have learnt another case of how the airline maintains such a high on-time performance… by departing 30 minutes ahead of the actual departure time and on at least one occasion leaving passengers behind in the terminal building.

This alleged example of timekeeping relates to the airline’s current operations in the Polish capital, Warsaw.   After having served the city’s main airport, Chopin, Ryanair transferred its operations last year to the newly opened Modlin facility, but when the airport was closed to Boeing 737 sized jet aircraft from December 22, 2012 for safety work, the budget airline moved its operations back to Chopin.  The problem was two of its three weekly flights on the Warsaw – Manchester route departed Modlin at 11:00am and Ryanair was unable to get a similarly timed slot at Chopin. 

The flights have been re-timed to depart at 11:30am but according to Chopin Airport officials the carrier still tries to maintain the schedule from Modlin in order to maintain aircraft utilisation.  If passengers arrive at the gate and an early departure slot is available, all is well.  However, on one occasion this week it is understood that around 20 passengers were left behind when the aircraft departed ahead of its scheduled departure time. 

Below is what Chopin Airport had to say on the subject on its official twitter feed…

11012012 Warsaw
approached Ryanair about this and received the following response from its communications chief Stephen McNamara: “Warsaw Airport is responsible for the accuracy of the information displayed on its customer service screens and it is each passenger's personal responsibility to ensure they are at the departure gate before final boarding, the time of which is advised on their boarding card.  Over 140 passengers boarded this flight without issue and Ryanair assisted a small number of passengers who failed to show up at the departure gate on-time for their scheduled flight departure.”

Ryanair has confirmed it will continue to serve Warsaw’s Chopin Airport instead of Modlin Airport until January 22, 2013, so if you are flying with the airline from the Polish capital, our advice is… make sure you arrive at the gate in plenty of time!