Not so long ago, after Ryanair announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese aircraft maker Comac over the construction of a new narrow-body airliner, I took advantage of this blog to express my opinion. According to me – and the views I expressed still hold today – the MoU didn’t necessarily mean Ryanair was going to leave Boeing for Comac for good. While there are no reason for these point to be any less true today than there were before it seems that Ryanair’s business with Comac wasn’t all bragging and that the airline is actually trying to get things moving.
A recent article by Metal Miner offered a bit more insight into what type of cooperation may be going between Ryanair and Comac. It appears that Comac is definitely trying to position itself against Airbus and Boeing on the narrow-body, medium-haul, airliner sector. The company intends to do so by offering a 150+ seats aircraft (the fabled C919). Where the MoU with Ryanair comes into action relates to overall design. It seems that, by request from Ryanair, Comac would be designing a 199-seat version, taylor-made for the low-cost carrier.
Why 199 seats, you may ask? Well, that magic number is the shining result of Ryanair’s cunning business skills. You see, EU regulations (look for OPS 1.311) stipulate very clearly that once you reach 20 passengers inside a plane, a minimum of one flight attendant is mandatory. Beyond that, the minimum is one flight attendant per pair of floor-level emergency exits and, further down, “one for 50 or fraction of 50, passengers on board, whichever is greater”.
In case it’s not so obvious, it means that by choosing 199 seats instead of 200 Ryanair would deprive itself of one potential passenger per flight, but also spare the systematic cost of a mandatory additional flight attendant on board. It doesn’t take much to see how much advantageous it would be for Ryanair. While such dedication to cost-cutting may not even be surprising coming from Ryanair, it does add a bit of credibility to a potential order from Comac.