Ryanair is apparently making all the wrong noises in Frankfurt

Irish budget carrier’s arrival at Frankfurt Airport was one of the biggest surprises of its revised business model. After initially focussing on serving cheaper out of town airports, changing travel trends and a push for higher yields has seen the carrier, like other LCCs, look to serve more primary airports with regular flight schedules. This now sees it serve a network of over 20 destinations from Frankfurt, including a mix of business and leisure markets, but in its push to maximise fleet utilisation it is struggling to maintain a flight schedule without flying during the German airport’s strict night curfew.


Summary:

  • Ryanair makes tweaks to its Frankfurt schedule after late night delays into Frankfurt post its night curfew upsets local authorities.
  • In Nov-2017 Ryanair was responsible for 32 of the 40 post curfew ‘late’ flights into Frankfurt. 
  • The Blue Swan Daily investigations show that ten Ryanair flights in the past week alone arrived in Frankfurt post the 23:00 curfew.
  • The Blue Swan Daily investigation reveals that Ryanair is generally being impacted by the late night scheduling of its aircraft to maximise aircraft utilisation rather than through general operational delays through the day.

Aircraft utilisation is one of the successful tools LCCs have used to reduce costs and scheduling early morning departures and late night arrivals enables them to get an extra rotation per day versus legacy operators. However, delays can build through the day, and at airport like Frankfurt where there are strict operational restrictions between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00, it can cause some major political issues. After all If you really want to get into trouble in Germany and in particular in Frankfurt, you disturb the ‘Nachtruhe’ (night peace).

Executives at the airline were this week summoned to a meeting with the Hessian minister for commerce, transport and energy, Tarek Al-Wazir after it was responsible for more than 30 ‘late’ arrivals in November. Unlike the normal aviation definition of late which is generally 15 minutes after the scheduled departure or arrival time, the strict night curfew means any arrival after 23:00 is deemed late. In Nov-2017 there were 40 arrivals at Frankfurt defined as ‘late’, 32 of which were Ryanair flights. In Oct-2017, Ryanair’s count was higher at 39 arrivals post 23:00.

With effect from this week (w/c 11-Dec-2017), Ryanair will reportedly move its schedules forward by around ten minutes to slightly reduce the risk of small delays translating into ‘late’ flights, It is also supposedly going to base a couple of additional Boeing 737-800s at Frankfurt to maintain its evening and late night schedule should delays occur on early flights in the day.

The latest night curfew was introduced in Apr-2012 after an administrative court in Leipzig upheld a provisional ban, originally imposed by another court the previous October, in response to complaints about the noise from the growing Frankfurt operation on residents. At the time Lufthansa Cargo, the main operator of the airport during the 23:00 – 05:00 period, estimated that a night flight ban will cost it EUR40 million in earnings each year.

Ryanair arrived in Frankfurt to a big fanfare this summer initially flying to four mainly leisure destinations in Spain and Portugal – Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma using two based Boeing 737-800s. The budget carrier subsequently boosted its Frankfurt fleet to seven units this winter and expanded its network to include 24 destinations, including many major city destinations.

CHART – Ryanair is expanding its activities at Frankfurt, but still accounts for around just three per cent of seat capacity at the Lufthansa hub Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

The winter operation includes almost 130 weekly return flights, providing almost 50,000 weekly and over 2.5 million annual seats across a network that encompasses a mix of major business centres served on at least daily schedules and smaller markets served with less than daily frequencies. The airline says its past summer schedule from Frankfurt had attracted “record bookings”. It will grow its Frankfurt operation to ten aircraft in summer 2018 serving 38 destinations across nine countries.

The Blue Swan Daily investigates…

The airline’s so-called timekeeping problems come from its scheduling and attempts to maximise utilisation. In the last hour before the curfew Ryanair has over 30 flights a week due to arrive into Frankfurt, some of which are operating as the sixth sector of the day. The Blue Swan Daily decided to take a closer look at a week of Ryanair’s flights into Frankfurt over this past week and especially those late flights in the day when the stationed aircraft return to base for the night.

Over the last seven days Ryanair was scheduled to operate 232 flights in and out of Frankfurt providing almost 44,000 seats ( However, a number were cancelled due to bad weather on 10-Dec-2017). These included the following 33 services that were scheduled to arrive in the 22:00 to 23:00 window. In our analysis period ten of these flights arrived after the curfew.

Monday 04-Dec-2017
FR1559 from Catania – scheduled: 22:25; arrived: 22:55
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; arrived 22:36
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 22:50; arrived 22:51
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; arrived 22:53

Tuesday 05-Dec-2017
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; arrived: 22:41
FR4130 from Alicante – scheduled: 22:35; arrived: 22:19
FR4170 from Faro – scheduled: 22:45; arrived: 23:17
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; arrived: 22:48
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; arrived: 22:55

Wednesday 06-Dec-2017
FR4110 from Malaga – scheduled: 22:15; arrived: 22:14
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; arrived: 22:37
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 22:50; arrived: 23:21
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; arrived: 22:40
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; arrived: 22:52

Thursday 07-Dec-2017
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; arrived: 22:38
FR4170 from Faro – scheduled: 22:45; arrived: 22:27
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; arrived: 23:01
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 23:00; arrived:
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; arrived: 23:12

Friday 08-Dec-2017
FR4110 from Malaga – scheduled: 22:15; arrived: 22:06
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; arrived: 23:13
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 22:50; arrived: 23:26
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; arrived: 23:02

Saturday 09-Dec-2017
FR4130 from Alicante – scheduled: 22:35; arrived: 22:21
FR4170 from Faro – scheduled: 22:45; arrived: 22:41
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 22:50; arrived: 23:17
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; arrived: 20:38
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; arrived: 23:06

Sunday 10-Dec-2017
FR4110 from Malaga – scheduled: 22:15; Cancelled
FR1547 from London Stansted – scheduled: 22:25; Cancelled
FR1679 from Madrid – scheduled: 22:50; Cancelled
FR1681 from Barcelona – scheduled: 22:55; Cancelled
FR2425 from Valencia – scheduled: 23:00; Cancelled

Aircraft tracking data shows that Ryanair had a stable operation last Monday, but its aircraft deployment had already been rejigged as the previous night’s late arrival from Valencia (FR2425) had diverted to Frankfurt Hahn as it was more than two-and-a-half hours late. It was ferried the short distance back to Frankfurt (a 25 minute flight) on the Monday afternoon. Although Ryanair’s late night flight from Catania was delayed, it still landed ahead of the 23:00 curfew. Airport information does show that a NIKI flight from Palma de Mallorca that was due to arrive into Frankfurt at 22:05 was diverted to Cologne/Bonn after departing the Balearic islands more than three hours behind schedule.

On Tuesday, Ryanair’s flights encompassed five of the last eight arrivals into Frankfurt alongside a TAP Air Portugal Airbus A319 from Lisbon (TP572), scheduled at 22:25; an Iberia A319 from Madrid, (IB3126) scheduled at 22:40 and a TUI Airways 737-800 from Funchal (X32807). A one-and-a-half hour delay on the outbound Faro flight (FR4160) in the evening meant a beyond curfew arrival into Frankfurt. Although some time was made up on the turnaround in Portugal, the return flight (FR4170) still left just over an hour later than planned, arriving into Frankfurt 32 minutes late at 23:17, almost 20 minutes after the curfew.

On Wednesday it was a similar story with four of Ryanair’s five arrivals in the last hour of operations at Frankfurt making it home before curfew. This time it was the Madrid flight (FR1679) that sneaked home after hours. The aircraft serving the route had picked up just a 19 minute delay on its morning rotations to and from Lanzarote, which grew to 34 minutes on the outbound to Madrid and then 52 minutes on its return from the Spanish capital. The flight landed in Frankfurt 31 minutes late at 23:21, 20 minutes after the curfew.

Thursday highlighted how Ryanair has some light padding in its flight schedule to avoid late arrivals, but although it enabled FR1547 from London Stansted to arrive in Frankfurt just 13 minutes late despite leaving the UK capital 45 minutes behind schedule, it did not provide enough time for it three late night flights from Spain to arrive ahead of the curfew. The FR1681 was 33 minutes late departing Barcelona, the FR2425 left 27 minutes late from Valencia and FR1679 departed Madrid 43 minutes behind schedule. These arrived in Frankfurt at 23:01 (six minutes late), 23:12 (12 minutes late) and 23:20 (20 minutes late), respectively.

On Friday three Ryanair flights arrived after the curfew was introduced with the Malaga flight (FR4110) the only of the late night arrivals to beat the 23:00 deadline, actually arriving almost ten minutes early. The FR2425 from Valencia was only two minutes late, but its scheduling meant it arrived post curfew at 23:02. The FR1547 from London Stansted followed at 23:13, 48 minutes late and the FR1679 from Madrid at 23:26, 36 minutes late. For the first time this week Ryanair was not alone breaking the curfew with a Lufthansa Cargo McDonnell Douglas MD-11F (LH8293) the last arrival of the day at 23:24 having delayed for a number of days on its global flights.

Saturday saw the Madrid and Valencia flights again fail to make it into Frankfurt before 23:00. The FR1679 from the Spanish capital arrived 27 minutes late at 23:17 and is another example of how a simple delay on the outbound sector ultimately caused the late arrival. The aircraft allocated to this service had arrived in Frankfurt at 15:20 following a delayed morning service to Lisbon, but was then unable to make the manageable one hour 35 minute turnaround in Frankfurt, departing at 18:02, almost an hour late. Similarly, the FR2425 from Valencia was impacted by a 30 minute delay on the outbound departure, time it was unable to recoup. For the second consecutive night Ryanair was not alone in breaking the curfew. A Turkish Airlines A321 from Istanbul (TK1597) arrived at 23:15, over an hour behind schedule, due to a delay on an early rotation to Milan.

On Sunday flight schedules across Europe were hit by inclement weather with heavy snowfalls across parts of the Continent, including at Frankfurt Airport. All of Ryanair’s late evening flights out of the German city were cancelled, among more than 600 flights that were cancelled across Europe.

Our The Blue Swan Daily insight into Ryanair’s activities at Frankfurt highlights that its so-called poor timekeeping is more to do with the late scheduling of its flights into Frankfurt and not due to an general reliability issues. A revision of the schedule to bring aircraft back to the German city earlier than currently scheduled, alongside current schedule buffers, should overcome the issue.  If additional aircraft are required to make this work then the addition of spare based aircraft should deliver stability to its network and hopefully reduce the curfew breaking arrivals.