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Budget Airline boss Michael O’Leary: controversy in the cockpit.

Recent statistics belie Ryanair chief executive’s claim that co-pilots are an unnecessary and expensive luxury we can do without, reports the Daily Telegraph. According to the Civil Aviation Authority there were 32 occasions in which a pilot was incapacitated in mid-air last year.

Commercial pilots have a medical twice a year, but there are still a number of mid-air emergencies, often due to food poisoning. In one case a flight had to make an emergency landing at Malaga; in another a pilot collapsed as a plane descended just before landing at Gatwick. Perhaps this answers Mr. O’Leary’s question, ‘Why does every plane have two pilots?’

Mr. O’Leary previously sent shock waves through the industry when he suggested charging passengers a pound to spend a penny and ‘standing-only’ areas for passengers. Now he thinks flight attendants should be allowed to land planes in an emergency.

Officials have been quick to react. Danny Fyne, editor of the pilots’ website PPRuNe, compared this to getting a nurse to do an operation because the surgeon is under the weather. Sadiq Khan, Labour’s transport spokesman said, ‘It’s one thing to go without a meal, but compromising on safety is a step too far.’

So while the budget airline model has proved a huge success in Britain, the question is just how 'no-frills' are we prepared to go?

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