Ryanair, Europe's biggest airline: 13 facts you didn't know

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair is never too far from the news, tweaking its ever-changing baggage policy or hashing out a deal with a disgruntled cabin crew. It's the biggest airline in Europe and, with its ultra-cheap fares and controversial fees, it's the airline many love to hate.

But there is plenty lurking behind the jarring blue and yellow colour scheme and complex cabin bag rules that even the most regular of flyers won't be aware of.

Read on for 13 surprising things you never knew about the airline.

1. All its planes are identical

A Boeing Co. 737 passenger aircraft, operated Ryanair Holdings Plc, comes in to land at Dublin Airport in Dublin, Ireland, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Ryanair said?forward bookings have held up despite the fallout from abruptly canceling thousands of flights over mismanaged pilot leave, with the budget carrier leaving its earnings guidance unchanged.?Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

While some carriers boast the addition of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and shiny Airbus A380 to its fleet, Ryanair likes to keep it simple. So simple that its 400-plus fleet is made up entirely of Boeing 737s. Its favourite twin-engined, narrow body aircraft seats 189 passengers and boasts a range of 3,200 nautical miles.

The airline does have more than 100 of the newer version of the 737, the 737MAX, on order, and plans to grow its fleet to 585 by 2024. Should you care, its rival Easyjet employs solely the Airbus alternative, the A320.

2. It has not always been a no-frills operation

Ryanair BORYSPIL, UKRAINE - MARCH 23, 2018: Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary poses for a photo during Ryanair Press-conference at Kyiv Boryspil Airport dedicated to Ukraine market entry

Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Ryanair started life as Danren Enterprises in 1984, running only the Waterford to London Gatwick route, before being renamed Ryanair after Irish businessman and co-founder Tony Ryan. In 1986 it added a second route, between Dublin and Luton.

At this point, the carrier was the same as any other, trying to please its customers with superior service, but in 1987 Michael O'Leary was hired.

Advertisement

After a visit to the budget trailblazer Southwest Airlines in the US, O'Leary was convinced the best way to make the carrier profitable was to offer passengers a stripped back service in return for low fares. "We went to look at Southwest Airlines in the US," O'Leary later recalled. "It was like the road to Damascus. This was the way to make Ryanair work. I met with Herb Kelleher. I passed out about midnight, and when I woke up again at about 3am Kelleher was still there, the *******, pouring himself another bourbon. I thought I'd pick his brains and come away with the Holy Grail. The next day I couldn't remember a thing."

By 1995, Ryanair was carrying 2.25 million passengers.

3. Italy is Ryanair's biggest market

The UK is, surprisingly, not the biggest market for Ryanair (it is second). Nor is Ireland (fifth) or Spain (third). Italy is in fact the carrier's honeypot, and has been since 2014, when it overtook Spain and the UK. Those three stand way ahead of the likes of Germany (fourth), Poland (sixth) and Greece (10th).

If you fancy flying Ryanair from the UK to Italy, there are myriad options, from popular Milan and Naples to lesser-known Alghero and Pescara.

4. It has abandoned 19 airports in 10 years

Despite unchecked growth over the last decade, racking up a route network of more than 200 destinations, some have fallen by the wayside.

Among them is a number of British airports no longer deemed useful by the carrier, in the shape of Inverness (well-served by BA and Easyjet), Doncaster (used by Wizz, Tui and Flybe) and Blackpool, which currently has no commercial services.

Further afield, Ryanair has chucked Gothenburg, Hamburg, Malmo, Maribor and Toulon from its roster. This winter, Eindhoven bit the dust.

One, Rimini, in Italy, was dropped but returned this year to much fanfare.

5. Glasgow could be next for the chop

The Scottish city is the second fastest shrinking base for Ryanair, according to the Anker Report, which pulled data on departures from FlightGlobal. Since 2007, the number of the airline's aircraft leaving Glasgow has fallen 74 per cent, second only to the Finnish airport of Tampere, where departures are down 92 per cent.

Salzburg (73 per cent down), Derry (72 per cent down) and Girona (70 per cent down) have also seen big falls in the last 10 years. Newcastle and Aberdeen have also seen cuts in capacity.

New routes on the horizon include Kiev and Lviv in Ukraine, from Stansted, and Amman, Jordan, but not from the UK.

6. It is the world's fourth largest airline

According to figures from global airline association Iata, Ryanair carried 128.9 million passengers in 2017, behind only Delta, American and O'Leary's idols, Southwest. It rose a place from its fifth place in 2016, leapfrogging China Southern, which lost its place in top five to United.

7. Students built its first website

Two 17-year-old students were commissioned by Ryanair in 2000 to build the airline's first website. The airline was apparently quoted £3.5million for the design and constructions of its online presence, so they instead approached two teenagers, John Beckett and Tom Lenihan, who did the job for around £20,000.

8. Ryanair has never had an accident

In 33 years of flying, the closest the carrier has come to a serious accident was in 2008 when an aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Rome after experiencing multiple bird strikes to the nose, wings and engines. It is believed the aircraft hit some 90 starlings. On landing the left hand landing wheel collapsed and the plane made contact with the runway. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair and two crew and eight passengers were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

9. A Ryanair aircraft takes off every 45 seconds

Over an average day, the airline's fleet travel some 382,605 km, according to the airline, visiting 33 countries on 350 aircraft. Research last year found that a Ryanair aircraft flew 46 flights in a week, to 19 destinations, clocking up 45,586 km.

10. The airline offers luxury private jet travel

It would seem to go against every fibre of its being, but the airline does offer a top-end "private jet" experience for up to 60 passengers. Still on a 737, of course. Yours from just €5000 ($A7831) an hour.

11. They used to serve bags of booze

Bullseye Baggies, a little sachet containing 25ml of vodka, gin or rum, used to be available to all the airline's passengers, despite the product being banned in Irish pubs and off-licences.

Ryanair even offered the Baggies for two-for-one at one point, provoking the ire of alcohol charities.

12. Ryanair collects £1.5bn in extra charges every year

The airline is famed for its optional extras - not least its new baggage policy - but the extent of its annual ancillary revenue is vast, earning $2.3 billion (£1.77bn) a year. The figure ranks Ryanair fifth in the world for most-earned by ancillary revenue. United top the table, earning $5.7 billion, followed by Delta, American and Southwest. Easyjet comes in 10th, earning $1.2 billion from added extra.

13. The advertising watchdog is not a fan

Not hot enough for bikinis ... Ryanair's ad has been banned.

Ryanair's 2011 ad was banned.

Just three examples of Ryanair's busy relationship with the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA):

In 2008, the airline had an advert showing a model in school girl-style clothes under the headline "Hottest back to school fares" scrapped, after the ASA said it was "irresponsible".

In 2006, an advert offering seats for £0 was pulled after the ASA said the carrier was breaching rules in terms of pricing requirements as it failed to mention non-optional extra taxes and charges.

In 2011, a promotion for spring flights was banned after it used a photo of a model in a bikini. The ASA ruled that the advert was in breach of rules after none of the advertised destinations - Oslo, Glasgow and Lourdes, to name three - would be warm enough to don swimwear at that time of year.

The Telegraph, London

See also: Passenger beats Ryanair's new carry-on fee with special coat

See also: Airline review: Ryanair economy class

Comments