For Ryanair’s O’Leary: Price, Price, Price


But let me ask you this:  is price the ultimate determiner of what airline most people fly? Let’s assume comparable safety records and forget loyalty programs. (FlyerTalk forget loyalty programs? Brian Cohen is now dialing my number.)

Michael O’Leary, who, over 20 years, cobbled Dublin-based Ryanair into the biggest low-cost airline in Europe, believes price is everything. He says the flag-carrier airlines (think Iberia or Scandinavia or Air France or you name it) are doomed to fail because they’re not committed to low fares.

There’s no prize for most improved.

And now O’Leary, 52, wants to stick around another five years to prove his point. By 2018, he says Ryanair’s fleet will number 400 jets. The airline hauled more than 79 million passengers last year.

Shares of Ryanair have increased 110 percent in the past five years. In that same time, shares of Europe’s biggest airline, Air France-KLM, have dropped 63 percent (Lufthansa shares lost six percent).

Low-cost carriers handled 38 percent of all passengers in Europe in 2012, according to the Centre For Aviation, which is the largest percentage of low-cost passengers of any region in the world. And most of those flew Ryanair. The trade group also reports record profits for Ryanair, up 13 percent in the fiscal year ending in March, even “in the face of Euro-recession.”

But probably more than anything, O’Leary wants his low-cost airline to stretch across the Atlantic in the dawn’s early light to North America (without trays of tea and pressed linens). He wants it more than his one-toilet idea (pack in more seats), more than his stand-up cabin (pack in more people), more than his one-pilot idea (pack less pay envelopes).

In a recent move, O’Leary warned Ryanair pilots not to sign a letter to airline regulators questioning employment practices that could affect passenger safety. (There’s always another story to top the last one. Like the bloom of a full diaper.)

Safety issues (ranging from serious to important) appear nothing but a distraction way out at the far, thin end of the statistical branch for O’Leary. He wants to focus on the longer view – nothing but blue skies over the next five years of growth.

He told the Irish Independent:  “We’ve re-invented the European airline industry away from this failed ’50s and ’60s model where you had to be rich to fly. And what we’re going to do in the next five years is going to be even more revolutionary.”


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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • Brian Cohen at 10:02pm May 23, 2013

    Because he would most likely agree with you, I would not be surprised if Christopher Elliott called you before I did, Gerry.

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