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Michael O’Leary, nice guy

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair and well-known ‘tooth and claw capitalist’, was on a chat show in Ireland tonight. As ever, Mick had the wit ready. Surprisingly enough, he played down his tough-guy image somewhat and acknowledged the contribution that other people, including staff and previous chief executives had made.

Perhaps this is for the home market’s consumption only. O’Leary seems to deliberately cultivate a ‘bad boy’ image, far badder than the chief executive of a massive airline could really be.

The reason is probably that he wants to avoid emulating one of Southwest Airlines’ greatest weakness – it’s overdependence on its chairman and former CEO, Herb Kelleher. Some people say that if it weren’t for nice-guy Herb at the helm, keeping the peace between unions, passengers and investors, that the airline would lose its edge. As a result, the company needs him to remain in an executive position in order to maintain the confidence of the financial markets.

By the looks of it, Michael O’Leary aims to be in a position to get out of Ryanair in a few years, without doing too much damage to the value of his own Ryanair stock.

Anyway, I am very impressed at what O’Leary has done. He has taken a complicated, risky business (air travel), made it as simple as possible and delivered it as a very low-cost, large-scale, profitable product.

IT folk could learn a lot from this.

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  1. I agree. for all the mud thrown at O’Leary he still runs a good airline. His punctuality record is good and his prices are generally low, although not the lowest on some routes. That being said, he does sail very close to the wind on some occasions. Charleroi is nowhere near Brussels and Hahn is nowhere near Frankfurt.

  2. Well, Narita is nowhere near Tokyo, KLIA is nowhere near Kuala Lumpur and Stansted is nowhere near London.

    The thing is it gets a lot of people fairly close to places they couldn’t go otherwise.

    Personally, I don’t buy much of the on-time stuff. I am always suspicious that flights are cancelled, and anyway, the Ryanair schedule incorporates a lot ‘padding’ to make it very difficult to arrive at the destination over 15 minutes late.

    However, I do think Ryanair will go about upgrading its customer service over the next few years.

  3. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Antoin. Ryanair’s fundamental flaw is customer service (or the lack of it). Everyone keeps saying that Ryanair is the Southwest Airlines of Europe but the key part of SWA’s business model which they haven’t replicated is customer service.

    While I can tell very positive stories about Ryanair’s logistics (e.g. the time I flew to Paris on 2 consecutive Thursday mornings, once with Aer Lingus and once with Ryanair and Ryanair still got me to central Paris quicker than Aer Lingus where luggage got horrendously delayed in Charles De Gaulle) I can also tell very negative stories about their customer service.

    For example, I recently flew Ryanair from Dublin to Malaga where, despite Ryanair’s claim to be a low-fares airline, they are not cheap (my flight cost close to ?300 eventhough it was booked 2 months in advance). On getting to the airport we (along with nearly everyone else on the plane) found that we were over Ryanair’s new luggage weight limit of 15Kg and that they had an excess charge of ?6 per kilo.

    The real gem, however, was on the journey home where apparently because the plane had a full load of passengers and baggage it didn’t have enough fuel on board. Consequently we had to land at Cardiff to refuel (I’ve never heard of this kind of unscheduled fuelling stop happening on any other airline). After refuelling the captain couldn’t start one of the engines so we had to decamp into the airport terminal until that was sorted out.

    I actually wouldn’t have minded if this had been the kind of sub ?100 fare to Malaga that easyJet offers from Luton but Ryanair is a high fare, low service airline on this type of route.

    Ultimately this shoddy approach to customer service is going to seriously affect them particularly if Aer Lingus is successfull with its attempt to be a lower-fare and reasonable customer service airline.

  4. Nice blog, Antoine. Just seen it for the first time.

    One reason Ryanair and Easyjet are so successful is that they are very focused on whom they compete with, namely Aer Lingus, BA and the other lumbering national monoliths.

    They hardly ever compete with each other on the same routes.

    I wrote a couple of posts on this in my own “Tallrite Blog” in January and February. Ryanair and Easyjet were then flying to and from no fewer than 102 airports in fifteen European countries.

    But only fifteen of these destinations were serviced by both the airlines, and not a single route was duplicated.

    This of course is pure coincidence. There is no way these airlines are collaborating to avoid each other, as under anti-competitive-practices legislation, that would mean a jail sentence for the chief executives.

    You can view the two posts at



    T o n y
    in Dublin

  5. Commuting by bus or flying with RyanAir is equally the same spirit of transportation. O’Leary is taking advantage of his monopolistic position since major airlines haven’t yet understood the democratization of air transportation and he is right until his present customers/passengers go shopping elsewhere and find a better understanding of their requirements i.e. a little bit more consideration !

  6. Who cares about customer service? You pay for what you get except when you fly Lufthansa it seems.

    I flew recently from Frankfurt to Dublin and the ticket cost my company Euro 928.

    For this I got a sandwich colder than from the new cheap airline Aer Lingus on the flight to Dublin and a piece of tiling masquerading as a sandwich on the return stretch.

    I also carried (by accident) a penknife with a 10 cm blade on both stretches.

    It doesn’t matter with whom you fly – they’re all sloppy and unfriendly nowadays.

    My only gripe with Ryanair is that I can fly neither to Dublin nor Shannon from Frankfurt.
    Trieste would be good to.
    And when will they offer flights to Northern Croatia in summer? Rijeka Airport is far enough from Rijeka for it to appeal to Ryanair.

  7. email for Mr OLeary

    As you will see from my email address i recently purchased a ticket from ryanair at stanstead,£252 it costed me, your staff were extremely rude and arrogant and very non-helpful. Ive been told from lots of people that you dont seem to care either about complaints, My father was on his way to knock to a family funeral, he tried to find parking space for his car for about an hour, he arrived at checkin at 13.05 and his flight was at 13.45, he was just on time for checkin, and the woman still wouldnt let him through. She was the rudest person he’s ever had the mis-fortune to come accross. All of my family and friends travel with ryanair regulary but not for much longer if i dont get my money back, i was robbed by ryanair. I dont really care about your refund policy, as my father, a true native irish man couldnt make it home to a close family members funeral. I will have to speak to the media about this matter if it does not get sorted, you might be rich, but for real people like us, money doesnt grow on tree’s.

    Hope to hear from you in due course!
    yOUR’S Sincerely

    Ms C Bourke

  8. Ryanair does offer a good service and at very reasonable prices. Punctuality too is good.

    It is disturbing to know that Michael O’Leary and, no doubt, his chief executives, are bullies to their employees. They, the employees, are not allowed to join a Trade Union (which they have every God given right to do so). Bullies in whatever form they take are COWARDS. Time he grew up and gets real. If he wants respect from his employees, he must give it to them firsr, THEN he will receive it. The same applies to the executives. Then we can receive a super service coupled with employees’ high morale.

  9. MY wife and I recently were left by ryan air stranded at Charleroi Airport on the 20th March when our flight was cancelled due to fog the incoming fligh was diverted to Leige and landed at 8.40am we were only told of our cancellation at around 9.40am it wa due in Charleroi at 9am, it left Leige for Dublin at 9.20am leaving about 200 people starnded with no transport to Brussels laid on, it cost me approx 450euro to book a flight with Aer Lingus from Brussels Int airport to get home. No Ryanair staff on hand to explain what was happening and the only flight offered was on on Fri 24th nothing else. we were left abandoned and to make matters worse another flight to Shannon was also abandoned. reason fog but a flight from Milan landed at 11am some 70mins after ours was cancelled. The flight was cancelled synically to avoid refreshment costs for a delay over 2 hours and so Ryanair could avail or try to of the clause in the recent eec regulation of extraordinary circumstances which includes weather. Gangsters thats what they are

  10. To whom this mite consurn:
    Dear Mister O’Leary, I was on your flight on 07.05.2006 from Milan Bergamo (9.30) to Brussels Charleroi (10.30) and I want to get intouch with a passenger that I met on the flight.I was to shy to ask for his number and even was he.I believe in destiny so if this is a way to give my mail adress to that person,I woud be very glad.I don’t want persenal information of that person just a change to give my e-mail adress to him.Coud you be so kind to contact me, I know that you have million other things on your mind, but hè…..don’t blame a girl for trying!.Thank you and kind regards,Beluga.

  11. I feel more secure that the airports in the UK and America have seen it fit to put my security and loved ones, friends a priority. What if the terrorists plans had have worked and planes with hundreds of people, loved ones, friends on board had blown up and their remains, scattered, because security level was calm and down? Then we would ALL be delighted to follow the current proceedures. Why not get behind the airport security staff and police and everyone who is on that one team to combat terrorism and show them solidarity instead of threathening to sue UK governments? What does money mean when life ends? I am happy to request the airport give me a shopping list of what I can put in my suitcase and what I can carry onboard the aircraft – anything I can do to help them in their quest to make this world a safer place for all of us, and I mean all – okay I don’t know any of you personally, but you mean a hell of a lot to somebody – so out of respect for life itself and life that has been lost due to 9/11 and other terrorist attacks around the world, I think if we all pull together and get behind the airport security people and show them, we’re on the same team, things will calm down a lot quicker and airlines will get back to normal. Thanks.

  12. Seems your all complaining about air travel,but the short and not so sweet of it,is,everytime you fly you are distroying mother earth,and will regret it.

  13. Editor/
    I fly to Torp Norway frequently to see my daughter.No problems whatsoever.
    To Mr O’leary /Ref Co2 Emissions; The Air Tax
    by Brown will hit the poor. In Iraq US/UK war
    planes have flown 50,000+ ‘Sorties’ since 1998.
    Do war planes not emit Co2 gases? If the crisis
    in our planet is so bad perhaps Blair and Bush should ground all their war planes.Aye right!
    Jimmy Ayrshire

  14. ah shut up will you carol for christs sake. live your life and enjoy it while you can. mother earth will understand. hooray for michael o’leary and his brady bunch of people.

  15. Does anyone know how to contact Michael O’Leary directly? I need to contact him asap

    Thanks 🙂

  16. White Out’s.

    Here I am at the foot of
    The Luberon hiding from the sun.
    I saw an Irish car today,
    with a pair of Mick’s.
    Anaemicks my wife said,
    florescant like a pair of corpses
    with an O ‘Thule coffin on the roof.
    Dubliner’s they were, Bram Stoker
    country and possibly vampires
    down for the tomatoe picking season.
    It’s the same every year,
    we go there and they come here.
    Ryan Air white out’s, they are known
    as on the Riviera, burnt as toast
    in a day and cursing the French.

    Finbar Owens
    Poet Laureate
    De Lacoste

    Michael O’ Leary is a modern folk hero and as a fellow Irish and Corkman, I am very proud of his achievement.

  17. Lingus.

    Bumble Bees,
    Boeing, Buzz,
    Aeroflot and
    Qantas does.
    But there’s one,
    which all the other
    licks ! Cunnilingus
    run by pricks.

    This is a poem I wrote for Michael O’ Leary and anybody who has ever used Aer Lingus, could but agree with it’s sentiment.

    Finbar Owens
    Rue Basse
    Lacoste 84480

  18. Carol – there’s no evidence at all that increasing CO2 levels are causing warming (despite all the hysteria in the media), so no need to whinge about damage to the planet. Also no need for the additional taxes imposed by devious politicians to raise revenue needed through their incompetence.
    Michael 0’Leary – fix some of the problems with your badly run operation. DON’T EVER call people to board until you’re actually ready to board them. Sort out the check-in queues – anybody with half a brain could run this better. For example, when we arrive at the check-in we take a number (like the supermarket deli counter) and sit and wait our turn. It’s not rocket science!

  19. Michael O’Leary is total shit but that’s what most Irish people admire nowadays. They think he’s swashbuckling, and daring and a ‘cute hoor’ etc.

    His airline used to offer cheap flights but that’s not the case anymore. I had to go to London several times recently and by the time all the ridiculous rubbish was added on it was over €100. In the bad old days, it used to cost around £200 to get to London but it’s going to head that way again because of rising fuel costs and then where will he be? Knowing him he will probably have managed to offload the company because he is first and foremost a cute hoor as well as being an unmitigated bully and a creep. Anyone who treats staff like he does in my book fits both of those descriptions.

    Apart from its cheapness, the service is terrible. On my flight back from London on the 21st June, the flight was delayed 3 hours because some plane had technical problems in Shannon. When we asked the English lady dealing with all the queries at Servisar she threw her eyes up to heaven and said ‘Ryanair do nothing for passengers’ and that about sums it up. The flights in and out from Shannon to Faro the same night were delayed 5 hours.

    That said, bad and all as Ryanair customer service is, Aer Lingus is ten times worse. I went to Paris from Dublin with them 2 years ago and we were left stranded in a satellite terminal with no cafeteria or toilet in Charles de Gaulle airport for 3 hours. No announcement was made and there were no Aer Lingus representatives available to let us know when the plane would arrive or if it would arrive. There was a security barrier in the boarding gate so that no one could leave. When we finally got on the plane there was no apology whatsoever and the Aer Lingus trolley dollies were swanning around in full make up like it was still 1976 and treating the passengers like dirt. They didn’t even tell the passengers to put their seats in the upright position when we were coming in to land and I had to tell the person on front of me to put their seat which was practically on my lap, up. At least the Ryanair cabin crew are pleasant and helpful.

  20. What I love about Michael O’Leary is his honesty. He means what he says and doesnt mess around. We have a lot of people running the country who are acting in their own self interest and lie to us continually while pretending that they are not.

    They act like we are fools and I suppose we are for allowing them to do this to us. I am not suggesting that O’Leary should be in government but I think that if they were all a bit more upfront like O’Leary than we might approve of them a bit more.

  21. for 7 years now I live in Umbria, Italy. Ryanair has been flying to and from the local airport for years now. Barcelona and London are the main destinations. I wonder why O’Leary doesn’t consider the Netherlands (Eindhoven)and Belgium (Charleroi) to fly from and to… Statistics clearly show they are amongst the largest groups of foreigners visiting this beautiful region in Italy… I’m sure here nobody will have any problem with ryanair’s policies, on the contrary. Having a company like Ryanair flying to your region is for the benefit of many, many people, not only O’Leary! I tried to get in contact with Ryanair to ask them to consider flying from above named destinations, but, as I already expected, no one can be found within the company to discuss such matters… So in some way I hope O’Leary or someone close to him gets to read it… You never know 🙂

    Have a good summer!
    Tim Gaston Huwé
    La Vallata, Umbria, Italy