In Europe’s dreary economic climate, you can always count on Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary to provide a little light relief with his far-fetched cost-cutting ideas.
Most of us can see through O’Leary’s radical ideas as nothing more than publicity drivel. As if standing only seats, paying to use the on board toilet or ditching a pilot from the cockpit would ever fly with the public or regulatory authorities?
It serves its purpose to get us talking though – and makes great fodder for lunchtime gossip in our office when our news feeds are otherwise full of economic doom and gloom.
Today we’ve been discussing Ryanair’s latest ploy to have a new plane built with wider doors that could allow two passengers to file through the door side by side, instead of single file, to speed up boarding. (You can visualise it by looking at our photo, above).
This came to light at the same time as the airline announced its earnings – and a 28% drop in quarterly profits, plus a weak economic outlook. Not that Ryanair would be trying to float a story to distract people from its disappointing financial results?
According to Ryanair’s chief financial officer, Howard Miller, the airline is in talks with Boeing and Airbus’s rival, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (comac) to build a prototype aircraft with wider doors. Of course Ryanair wouldn’t be trying to ruffle a few feathers at Airbus or Boeing either.
O’Leary has been open about his discussions with China’s Comac to acquire a fleet of C919 narrowbody jets (a stretched 200-seat version), which are scheduled to fly the first paying passengers in 2016 at the earliest. Ryanair has so far failed to agree terms with Boeing or Airbus on a large aircraft order and has turned to China for negotiations.
What airlines do agree on is the importance of a fast, seamless boarding experience that keeps their planes in the skies and earning. Every second that an aircraft is parked on the tarmac chips away at an airline’s bottom line. Just ask ruthless Ryanair, which can turn a plane around in an average of 25 minutes.
But wider doors are not going to help Ryanair, or any airline achieve new records for as long as planes are designed with passenger aisles that you struggle to swing a handbag in.
Boarding remains a faff on most airlines, as passengers scramble to find their seat and then block the aisle while hurling their oversized cases in the hold. If the aisles could be widened and passengers avoided bringing overstuffed bags on board, wouldn’t boarding be a civilised affair?
I’ve always wondered why the boarding process can’t be refashioned and started at the airport. Imagine if airline gate lounges could be arranged like mock seat cabins, with passengers waiting in the seat that’s been allocated to them (Ryanair and easyJet are trialling allocated seating on flights) and then boarding the plane from back to front, in that order?
With airlines changing gates, and their aircraft frequently, it would require a lot of reshuffling of furniture. But there has to be a better way!
Skip forward 20 years and you never know, we might even see the mock cabin seats – full with passengers – being directly loaded on to the plane via a thunderbirds style hydraulic launch platform.
Okay, I admit I may be getting a little carried away with this boarding malarkey. But then again I’m not the only one.
Do you have any ideas of how airlines could make the boarding process quicker and easier? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Drop me a message below.