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Ryanair Boeing 737

Ryanair is Europe's largest low-cost carrier, operating 133 low-fare routes to 16 countries throughout Europe. Ireland-based Ryanair operates with a fleet of 62 Boeing 737s. It has plans to buy an additional 150 Boeing 737-800 airplanes by 2010. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

London Stansted airport is the main hub for Ryanair, which flies to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Britain, France, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, and Sweden.

Founded in 1985 by Irish businessman Dr Tony Ryan and now run by Michael O'Leary, Ryanair is one of Europe's most controversial airlines, praised and criticised in equal measure by differing groups. Its supporters praise its commitment to exceptionally low fares, its radical management, its populism, and its willingness to challenge what Ryanair calls the "establishment" within the airline industry.

Its critics accuse it of poor treatment of customers whose flights have been cancelled; of flying to airports which, while cheap, are too far away from the cities they say they are flying to. For example, Ryanair used to advertise a service to "Copenhagen", Denmark, but actually flew to Malmö in Sweden. This service is now correctly advertised as Malmö, but other examples would be Girona, advertised as Barcelona; Charleroi, advertised as Brussels; Prestwick, advertised as Glasgow or Beauvais, which is about 100 kilometers from the advertised city Paris.

Also critised are its banning of trade unions; and in particular, what are seen as vitriolic attacks on opponents, notably Irish Minister for Transport Mary O'Rourke (1997-2002), who was personally ridiculed in a series of newspaper advertisements when she refused to break up the state monopoly, Aer Rianta, which runs Irish airports. (The break-up of Aer Rianta remains a high profile demand of Michael O'Leary.)

Amongst Ryanair's main low-cost competitors are easyJet, Air Berlin, Germanwings, Volare and BasiqAir

Ryanair receives subsidies from some European airports which has been investigated by the European Commission. The EC believes that subsidies from state-owned airports is a breach of European Union competition rules.

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