Ryanair's response to documentary hardly reassuring for travellers
Anna Healy Fenton
Ryanair did not take kindly to Travel Trade's comments on an undercover documentary about the European budget airline. Filmed secretly over five months by two reporters posing as Ryainair staff, Britain's Channel 4 Dispatches programme homed in on many aspects of the low-cost operation, including the tight 25-minute turnaround.
Staff were shown short of time to clean planes, which in one instance led to vomit being left on seats for the next flight. Crew were also filmed napping during flights and being told by a trainer they could consult textbooks during their examinations because the regulations did not forbid it.
This column commented that while the programme showed 'nothing specifically alarming', it nonetheless made one shudder to watch. Travel Trade's conclusion on February 20 was that industry magazine Flight International's recent call for an audit on the low-cost model was indeed timely.
Ryanair's response was not, as might be expected, to reassure readers in soothing terms about the airline's devotion to safety and security. Instead, Peter Sherrard, head of communications, wrote that he was 'surprised that your coverage was so unbalanced'.
The footage produced no evidence of any breaches of either safety or security regulations, he wrote. This column never said that it had. This failure to substantiate any evidence had been confirmed by both the British and Irish regulators, he added. Ryanair had operated with a 25-minute turnaround for more than 20 years, providing ample time to occasionally clean and remove vomit should passengers fall ill, he continued.
'The journalist in question was trained to do this,' he went on. 'Had she been carrying out our procedures properly, she would have cleaned and removed it in less time than it would have taken her to go to the front of the aircraft to get the No1 to come down and look at it.' If this was all they could manage after five months of undercover filming, it merely proved these reporters found nothing, he said.
He professed himself 'surprised that any journalist would cover this programme without mentioning that Ryanair's offers of both a live and unedited pre-recorded interview to answer the allegations were refused'. Then his tone turned personal. 'If they had spent five months under cover filming in the offices of the South China Morning Post, or God help us, in the offices of Anna Healy Fenton Inc, they would probably have found more.'
Thanks, Ryanair. Is this the way to reassure concerned travellers?
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING
In the Pacific Asia Travel Association's latest report on Russian tourism, the World Travel and Tourism Council forecast that the Russian Federation would be a leading market of the next decade, predicting growth of 7 per cent in annual tourism demand.
The jump in domestic air fares is prompting Russians to holiday abroad, with outbound trip volume put at 13.5 million for 2004. Boosted by a 20 per cent increase in outbound trips, Russia's air traffic rose 17 per cent in 2004 to 83 billion revenue passenger-kilometres.
Russians love shopping: Global Refund says Russia is now No3 after Japan and the US in terms of global travel spending. From 2000 to 2004, the Pata region attracted 12 per cent annual growth in arrivals from Russia, well above the average for the rest of the world. Northeast Asia accounted for 88 per cent of total arrivals in the Asia-Pacific in 2004, while Southeast Asia recorded annual growth of 20 per cent. Sun and sand destinations in Thailand and India are proving the Russians' Asian favourites.
Chef-turned-entrepreneur Harlan Goldstein's new Italian restaurant, Tuscany by H, on Va Bene's old Lan Kwai Fong site officially opens any day now.
The New Yorker chef-in-black is ready to prove wrong sceptics who doubt his ability to pay humungous rent to make an upscale Italian concept work just around the corner from the relocated Va Bene.
Competition between the two upmarket pasta joints will be intense, but Mr G is characteristically upbeat. 'It's already booked solid - it'll be like Harlan's in IFC Mall - people just keep coming back,' he says.