Ryanair and Wizz Air are flouting recommendations from the government designed to reduce interaction and avoid transmission of coronavirus on board their planes.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has suggested airlines offer a reduced food and drink service and limit the sale of duty-free and other non-essential items.
It told Which? that the purpose of limiting trolley services is to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus by limiting interaction between passengers and cabin crew. This is in line with European Aviation Safety Agency and the International Civil Aviation Organization guidance.
However, Wizz Air, which resumed flights from Luton in early May, is continuing to offer a full trolley service and passengers are still able to buy duty-free and gifts on board.
Ryanair, which will ramp up its flights from the UK on 1 July, is also continuing to sell food and drink, although it offers only pre-packed items.
Wizz Air insisted that it’s fully compliant with all local and international health guidelines. A spokesperson said: ‘For the airline’s onboard services, all products are packaged and all payments are encouraged to be contactless. Passengers and crew are required to wear face masks, with crew also required to wear gloves.’
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BA and easyJet suspend onboard sales
In contrast, rivals British Airways and easyJet have put a stop to all onboard sales.
BA is handing out complimentary water, snacks, tea and coffee instead of its full trolley service.
Norwegian has confirmed that it won’t offer any onboard catering when it resumes flights from the UK on 1 July.
Ryanair ignores bag advice
The DfT also says airlines should advise passengers to limit the amount of hand luggage they bring on board. It has urged the airlines to incentivise customers to check in bags instead.
It says that limiting hand luggage will mean that passengers can board quicker and avoids them walking up and down aisles searching for overhead locker space, potentially spreading infection.
But Ryanair has dismissed the advice as ‘rubbish’. Instead, it’s actively encouraging passengers in a COVID-19 safety video posted on its website to pay an extra £6 to £20 per person for its Priority Boarding and select the second cabin bag option.
A Ryanair spokesman said the airline ‘sets a maximum number of bags allowed into the cabin, which ensures that the boarding process speed is not affected’.
They added: ‘We are encouraging extra cabin bags because this reduces the risk of COVID-19 compared with the DfT’s idiotic advice to maximise checked-in bags, which pass through eight different sets of hands and significantly increase the risk of COVID-19.’
Ryanair and Wizz Air: profits before passenger safety
Both Ryanair and Wizz Air make a considerable proportion of their income from the sale of ancillary products, including refreshments and bags.
In 2019, Wizz Air made €953m in ancillary sales, which made up 41% of its total revenue.
In the last financial year, Ryanair made €2.9bn from ancillary sales, including from onboard catering and Priority Boarding.
Ryanair denied it was putting profits before safety, claiming that it charges more for checked-in bags than for a second cabin bag. In fact, it charges from £10 to £17.50 to check in a small bag.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stressed that the government advice is still to avoid all non-essential travel, but he described the DfT guidance to airlines as ‘a positive next step towards ensuring a safer and more sustainable aviation sector’.