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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Ryanair snubs air travel inquiry
Ryanair plane
Ryanair said the public was 'voting with its feet'
Ryanair has refused to appear before an inquiry into whether taking a flight is becoming a less pleasant experience.

Commons Transport Select Committee chair Gwyneth Dunwoody said Ryanair had sent a letter essentially saying there was "no way" it would appear.

Bosses from EasyJet, FlyBe, Silverjet British Airways and Virgin Atlantic appeared before MPs.

In a letter Ryanair said the inquiry's terms of reference "demonstrate that it is prejudicial and ill thought out."

It added that the growth of low-cost air travel showed passengers "love the low fares... the British public is voting with its feet and choosing low fares airlines wherever possible over the high-fare, frequently delayed, inconvenient schedules offered by British Airways or others."

'Waste of time'

A Ryanair spokesman also told the BBC appearing in front of the committee would be a "waste of time".

Mrs Dunwoody described the letter as "an extraordinary reply which can be translated as 'no way"'.

She told representatives from EasyJet and Flybe: "It says something for the confidence you have in your airlines that you are prepared to come and give open evidence."

Very unpleasant, a good proportion of people shout the length of the cabin, walk around with drinks, use foul language and are generally awful
Passenger's description of cheap flights

The committee is looking at whether the experience of air travel, which has increased more than 100-fold since 1950, is getting better or worse.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told FlyBe boss Jim French and EasyJet communications chief Toby Nicol that the committee had taken complaints from passengers about the behaviour of other passengers on low-cost flights.

He read out one description, saying the experience could be summed up as "very unpleasant, a good proportion of people shout the length of the cabin, walk around with drinks, use foul language and are generally awful".

Tough line

But both Mr French and Mr Nicol said they did not think it was about one of their planes, and denied suggestions a poorer standard of behaviour was tolerated on low-cost flights.

Jim French, chief executive of Flybe, said: "All forms of transport are experiencing increased levels of misbehaviour by some passengers."

But he said the airline took a tough line on anyone who threatened staff or other passengers.

People...fly because it is convenient, it's quick, it's not because they enjoy the experience
Eric Martlew MP

Flybe ejected badly behaved passengers "once or twice a month", while EasyJet, which handles more passengers, said it was nearer "once a week or once a fortnight".

EasyJet had prosecuted hundreds of people in the last year for breaches of the Air Navigation Order, MPs were told.

Mr French said customer satisfaction with his airline was at its highest for 10 years - and that the main gripe from passengers was security delays at airports.

EasyJet flew 38 million people a year and "most will fly on time, without any difficulties whatsoever", said Mr Nicol.

But Labour MP Eric Martlew challenged him: "People...fly because it is convenient, it's quick, it's not because they enjoy the experience."

Mr French agreed that few people flew "for leisure", but said: "If we didn't give a reasonable, a satisfactory standard of service we would lose our customer base."




SEE ALSO
Ryanair sees profits soar by 30%
05 Feb 07 |  Business
Flights hit by BA sale to Flybe
05 Mar 07 |  Business
Blair feels Dunwoody's lash
04 Jul 06 |  UK Politics

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