ETHICS AUDIT ON RYANAIR Done By Hemanth Mutthukrushnun This is an ‘Ethics Audit Report’ prepared based on the operations of Ryan Air studied from various videos available on You Tube and the public documents disclosed by Ryanair. Set up in the year 1985 at a capital of 1 pound with a staff strength of 25, Ryanair is today the World’s favourite and most commonly used airline which operates more than 1,400 flights per day from 44 bases and 1100+ low fare routes across 27 countries, connecting 160 destinations. Ryanair operates a fleet of 250 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and is expected to increase it by another 64 in 2 years.
Ryanair currently has staff strength of more than 8,000 people. Its passenger base has been increasing exponentially over the last 15 years. It carried around 70 million passengers last year with profits of about 20 million pounds. It expects to carry approximately 73. 5 million passengers in the current fiscal year. The primary reason for it being able to achieve such huge profits despite its low cost is because of the number of customers who prefer to use the airline due to the cheap fares and the quick turnaround time of 25 minutes.
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By maximizing the time duration for which the flight is in air, Ryan Air is able to make more trips with the available fleet. It also avoids renting covered staircases in airports thereby reducing costs on the same. It does not offer facilities such as reclining seats and personal pouches thereby reducing the weight of the airline, hence reducing fuel consumption. It also made a master move soon after the 9/11 attacks by procuring cheap aircrafts from Boeing. It was a time when air travel was presumed to be dangerous and airlines were weary of procuring more aircrafts.
Ryan Air struck the nail right on its head by making a decision to go for more aircrafts at a cheap rate and ended up making huge profits. However, not all is well with the way Ryan Air is operating and making its profits. We will take a look at the various ethical issues in the way Ryan Air is currently operating and come up with recommendations in such a way that Ryan Air does not have to compromise much on its key operating procedures highlighted in the previous paragraph that are enabling it make huge profits. ISSUES IN THE EXISTING SYSTEM Recruitment Policy
The cabin crew Ryan Air recruited were predominantly young with no prior work experience. This was done mainly in order to keep their salaries low. It also gave the airline the cushion to collect 1400 pounds for training charges and 25 pounds for uniform charges from the fresh recruits thereby increasing its revenues. Ryan Air works with less number of pilots than actually required to carry out the scale of operations as they do. The pilots who are hired are also not full time employees of Ryan Air. Instead, they are hired from third party agencies so as to minimize costs.
The number of cabin crew members they have are not enough either. So they issue temporary passes to trainees and send them on board. On an average, half the cabin crew of Ryan Air are temporary pass holders. Training Procedures Though Ryan Air collects a heavy sum from the recruits for training them, the training provided is well below standards. The training is mostly theoretical with just about 2 hours allocated to practical training in the 5 week training program. Ryan Air managers feel they cannot afford to dedicate aircrafts for training purposes.
Even during the course of the training program, the crew members are advised to take the help of able bodied passengers during emergencies. The trainers are themselves unsure about the safety procedures. In fact, they are of the notion that seat number 1A is not a safe place to sit as a piece of metal piece sticks out from near it so as to attach the handrail to the stairs during emergency, which could cause head injuries to passengers. The worst part is that the cabin crew are instructed not to make the passengers aware of this. There is no proper evaluation procedure put in place.
The trainees are evaluated based on an open book exam. The instructor also hints the questions that would be asked in the exam during the class so as to enable them take notes of the same. Trainees who are not able to answer despite all these relaxations are helped by the invigilators during the exam, hence enabling them clear the training process. The examination is treated more as a legal procedure than as an evaluation criterion. The procedure was not changed even after the World Trade Centre attacks and the London bombings. Undisclosed Hidden Charges
Though Ryan Air is a low cost airline which reserves seats free of cost and charges no fuel surcharge, there are plenty of hidden charges involved, a few of which are collected unethically. The website of Ryan Air has been deliberately designed in such a way that the option to opt out of insurance is hidden from the customer. Unless the customers are aware and alert, they would end up paying an insurance fee even if they do not want one. There are also other charges such as credit card booking fee and other transaction charges that could apply at times which are not properly disclosed.
Ryan air also charges customers for use of wheel chairs. On a round trip, the seat for the return journey is charged at times. Even when a customer does an online check in and facilitates the airline by not queuing up at the counter, Ryan Air charges a web check in fee. It also charges a huge sum of 40 pounds per passenger who fails to print his boarding pass after a web check in. Ryan Air also heavily advertises the various in-flight services it provides but fails to disclose that they would be at an exorbitant price. Employee Policies
The work hours are made extremely hectic for both the cabin crew and the pilots. The cabin crew work for 10 to 11 hours a day while the pilots work for 900 hours in 9 months. Since this is the maximum they can work in one year, they are often employed only for 9 months in the whole year. as per airline regulations. This also means that they fly for almost 100 hours a month as against the industry average of 70 hours a month. This leads to fatigue of both pilots and the cabin crew raising serious questions about the safety of the flight.
Cabin crew and pilots also need to pay for everything they have on board, including water. Flight attendants are often judged by the revenues they generate through the sales they make on board and hence have to lie about the products so as to sell them, hence resulting in a loss of customer loyalty. Trade unions are strictly not permitted and the policies and procedures in place in Ryan Air are not shared amongst all employees for reasons unknown. Captains are needed to plan 6 flights in a period of 45 minutes and if required need to undertake additional sectors as well.
Anyone who fails to adhere would be demoted or may be taken off rolls. Verification Procedures As already stated, Ryan Air uses trainees to act as cabin crew by issuing them with a temporary pass. The access to flight deck requires a pass that can be issued only after verifying the police records and the last 5 year employment history of the crew member concerned. Due to dire requirements, these procedures are often skipped. Even references are faked and cabin crew refer one another so as to complete formalities for the issuance of the temporary pass.
Even the few background checks that are performed are not done promptly. They take a period of about 6 months since the date of joining of the employee. Other Issues with the Temporary Pass Ryan Air allows cabin crew to stay for as long as 6 months on a temporary pass, the maximum that is allowed by the regulations. When they are detected by airport security staff, they are taken on the grounds of ‘on the job’ training. The supervisors themselves recommend doing so, so as to have enough crew members on board.
Blank temporary passes are often found unattended in the airline office. This is a serious security breach as anyone can get to misuse the pass. Hygiene Issues Since each aircraft spends just about 25 minutes on the ground, the ground staff face extremely difficult in cleaning the aircraft. The aircraft is cleaned completely just once in a day, mostly before the first take-off. Passengers start boarding the aircraft even before the cleaning is complete, hence leaving staff members to welcome guests with garbage in hand.
Whatever garbage is unpicked remains in the flight and is just covered up with something or pushed under the carpet. Liquid wastes that have been spilled pose an even bigger challenge, mostly leaving the cabin crew to just spray fresheners so as to avoid the smell. The airline rates poorly in the customer satisfaction surveys conducted. Customers rate it at 78% for internal cleanliness and 71% for toilet cleanliness which is way below the industry average. Incomplete Security Check
The short turnaround time also leaves no time for the ground staff to completely check the aircraft for all parameters present on the aircraft security checklist. Important things such as checking of evacuation equipment and door slides are also conveniently missed, sometimes even when there is sufficient time. This can potentially result in serious mishaps in case of emergency evacuations. The passports of passengers are not thoroughly checked, wherein it is the duty of the airline to match the name on the passport to that on the boarding pass and the face on the passport to that of the passenger.
Instead, they just ensure that the passenger is carrying a passport so as to enable the queue move faster and hence complete check-in on time. Even those few employees who take their time to properly do the security checks are forced not to do so by the superiors. In fact, the cabin crew missed a deliberately placed suspected object in one of their flights to Dublin. Treatment of Passengers Passengers are also not treated very well. They have to pay for everything on board including water. The rates charged for snacks, drinks and food are exorbitant.
Even when there is a delay of several hours either due to technical or safety reasons, water and refreshments are not provided to passengers. When the plane is delayed and as a result the destination airport is shut, the information is not passed on to the passengers until the flight is about to land in another airport. This causes a lot of inconvenience to the passengers. Ryan Air is also coming up with a plan to come up with standing seats in aircrafts which would make travel even cheaper and plans to compensate the loss in revenue by making the passengers pay for the use of washrooms.
CONCLUSION No doubt, Ryanair is a growing organisation but its business practices are not something it can be proud of. With more competitors expected to enter the fray and more alliances expected to be formed, Ryanair would not be able to sustain itself for a long time with its current practices. It needs to understand the need for change in its operating model and bring it about in its culture. It needs to focus more on the society and sustaining itself along with nature, thereby making it a wonderful organisation to be related with.