Thursday, May 27, 2004


Ryanair boss (a better title than chief executive), Michael O'Leary, can always be called upon for a good quote. That's why he's become the darling of the media. Yesterday the Pink 'un quoted O'Leary as telling the European Commission to "fuck off".

Ryanair has been told by the Commission that it must re-imburse Charleroi airport (Brussels South in Ryan-speak) some 3 million euros because the rates the airline was charged constituted illegal state aids.

"We have written back to say 'fuck off'."

It annoyed some stupid idiot called James K. Wilson who felt obliged to write to the FT.

"It does not require genius to work out that when a bad-tempered child screams and curses, the result is discipline."

Er, fuck off, James K. For a start, I'm sure O'Michaelair didn't actually say "Fuck off" to the Commission or the good people at Wallonia Airport. I say, well done O'Learyair even if I don't agree with every aspect of the company strategy.

I have never flown Ryanair. The airline doesn't fly to/from airports convenient for me. And, whilst I admire his chutzpah I don't like his attitude to self-loading cargo (that's airline-speak for passengers). OK, whilst he is right to state "what do you expect for [£9 or whatever]", that's hardly going to endear the likes of me to fly with them. (It beats me that passengers seem content to be treated with contempt. A bit like the Ratners or Amstrad approach, I guess.)

Southwest Airlines, however, I have flown on many occasions. Southwest has perfected the no frills airline business model over 25 years. They treat customers with respect, although on board staff can sometimes be a wee bit too folksy. Their time-keeping is excellent; all aspects of the operation business-like and efficient It helped that they flew from just up the road in Baltimore, but that's pat of the model. Fly from secondary airports close by to major metropolitan areas, but less congested than the major airport.

In the US Southwest invented affordable air travel (or at least perfected it). But, you could never argue that it isn't also good value. Ryanair has copied the model in many respects. However, there are big differences. For one Southwest offer a proper network with connecting flights from mini-hubs like Chicago Midway and Kansas City. Ryanair warns travellers not to rely on connecting with another flight.

Ryanair is cheap, but not always good value. Unlike the chief executive, who is both.

O'Ryanair's smiling face can be seen in this Torygraph report.

:: Posted by pete @ 12:37