Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary Is Right About Social Distancing

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As and when the economy opens up again do we go back entirely to normal or do we have certain restrictions still imposed?

For example:

Ryanair planes won’t return to the skies if the airline is forced to leave the middle seat empty to comply with “idiotic” in-flight social distancing rules, its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has said.

The boss of the no-frills carrier, which has thrived by packing its flights as full as possible with passengers lured by low prices, has previously said that blocking out the space in between aisle seats is “nonsense” that would have no beneficial effect.

He doubled down on the comments on Wednesday, saying that if governments insisted on social distancing measures, then Ryanair’s business model would be in tatters and the carrier would not fly.

O’Leary said that Ryanair had already told the Irish government that if it imposes the restriction, then “either the government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly”.

The Dublin-based carrier’s business model relies on flying as frequently as possible, stripping out costs and running an extremely high “load factor”, the aviation industry term for how full planes are.

“We can’t make money on 66% load factors,” he said.

Leave aside the obvious capitalist point being made, that he wants to make money. Think, instead, of the larger economic point.

Things that don’t make money don’t happen. BC, before coronavirus, 157 million people took Ryanair flights in a year. It might not be true that all entirely enjoyed the experience but on net each trip added to utility. Because they did it, they thought it was worth it. That is, there were 157 million additions to human happiness.

Cool.

Now, now we say that there will be limits on that. OK, that’s fine, we impose limits on things all the time. We do though have to insist that the limitations are worth it.

Let’s even assume that the preventive measures would work. Some number of Covid-19 deaths will not happen as a result of people not taking Ryanair flights. So, how many?

And how many deaths are worth those 157 million jolts of pleasure? Utility is lost by a death. Utility is gained by a jolly hol. What’s the correct balance?

You can come up with all sorts of answers to that but you cannot avoid answering the question.

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Bloke in Wales
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Bloke in Wales

He’s probably also thinking about everyone on board breathing the same recirculated air for hours on end, no matter how near or how far their seats are separated.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Filtered each time by things that remove viruses.

John B
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John B

Bio filters on aircraft? Since when?

CJ Nerd
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CJ Nerd

The pilots have some control over the degree of recirculation. I’m not sure how much, but it could be they can cut it to 0%. But the penalty for less recirculation is more fuel consumption.

Spike
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Spike

If it were “the same recirculated air for hours on end,” trying to suck oxygen out of it would become very difficult.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

But if all airlines are similarly constrained to fly at a maximum of 2/3 capacity, doesn’t that simply mean fares will all rise by ~50%?

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Doesn’t work like that for LCCs. The market is only the size it is for them thanks to stimulation through low prices. If they have to charge £100 as the lowest price, then 50% of their customers disappear. Along with all the ancillary revenue they make from them. Ryanair doesn’t make any money with a £5 fare, but it does with a £8 lunch, £150 car hire, £300 hotel…

Barks
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Barks

He might be in the money with restricted seating if fuel prices stay at the current level. Don’t bet on it though.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

On the aircraft air filtration thing: No the penalty for less recirculation is not more fuel consumption. Quite the opposite. The higher you run the air circulation, the more power – hence the more fuel – used. And I gather, when the smoking ban on flights came in, airlines did reduce the degree of filtering of cabin air because it was no longer necessary to remove cigarette smoke. So the capability to increase current air filtration rates should still be there on many aircraft.

John B
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John B

Conservation of energy.

Very, very cold air comes in from outside and has to be heated before turning the passenger cabin into a fridge. The heat energy comes from the engine. That heat energy comes from the fuel the engine burns. Recirculating air requires less heat from the engine, therefore requires less fuel. Recirculating less air requires more fuel.

John B
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John B

Scientists yesterday revealed that after careful examination under the microscope, Covid-19, in common with other viruses, does not carry a tape measure. Careful questioning of the virus revealed it had no understanding of the concept ‘social distancing’.

Virus once outside the respiratory tract are carried in air flows, free or attached to particulates in the air and are largely transmitted by contact using intermediary surfaces, rather than droplet infection.

The only proven, effective personal antiviral technique is thorough and frequent hand washing with soap and water.

Spike
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Spike

But I thought cooties are jumping off our shoulders and backs, and this is why we must not sit side-by-side on airplanes or at ballparks and this is why there must be no ballgames at all.