Picture this: You are about to board a flight from London to Ibiza that you booked for less than €40. Because the flight was so cheap, you had to find a way to make the 30-mile trip to Gatwick Airport at 4 a.m., instead of being able to leave from the much more accessible Heathrow Airport.
Once you board the plane, you realize there’s something off. While it might be hard to pinpoint with all that yelling from the people who couldn't wait to land in the Canary Islands to get drunk, as soon as you sit down, you know. The seats on the plane are set much more closer than usual, almost like they jammed 10 percent more people inside the cabin than there should be.
Jokingly referring that fact to an air stewardess, you mention they “don’t make Boeings like they used to any more”, when, without pausing from closing the airlock, she corrects you: “Boeing? This isn’t a Boeing. This is a COMAC, made in China.”
While the above might sound like a terrible, terrible nightmare to many travelers -- COMAC is new to the market and has not met Western standards of airworthiness -- it is also the dream of Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary.
In an interview with the Dow Jones Newswires, the chief executive at the Irish low-cost airline said he had just returned from touring the Shanghai factory where the Commercial Airline Corporation of China, a government entity, is building a 199-seat competitor to the single-aisle Boeing A320.
In the interview, O’Leary told the newswire you could not fail to be impressed by the resources they are putting into development of the aircraft, which will likely be less costly than the alternatives currently offered by aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus, and be set up to carry 25 more passengers within a fuselage of the same size.
COMAC is still a long way from being able to mass market its planes, and it has not met Western safety standards it would need to pass in order to sell to major airlines.
Yet Ryanair is a wildly successful airline, one of the very first low-cost model operators that calls itself the “largest airline in Europe by traffic.” The executive endorsement is unlikely to fall on deaf ears.