Nov 9, 2012

Ryanair CEO O’Leary may have gone insane

The possibility that Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has gone bonkers is supported by his latest outburst against the wearing of seat belts in jets

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Michael O'Leary at a press conference in Germany

The evidence that Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary may be insane continues to grow, this time with his denunciation of seats belts and a call for standing room zones on aircraft.

His comments in this interview are not in one sense new.

But the tone has deteriorated to new lows, especially at the level of personal and vulgar insults aimed at his customers, airport owners, government officials, safety authorities and Airbus and Boeing, neither of whom appear prepared to give away their airliners for free and thus are included in growing list of the ‘enemies’ of the Ryanair business model, which is to redistribute things taken for nothing from others and package them up for a price to air travellers.

O’Leary’s antics belie his knowledge of aviation, including the consequences for an airliner like the 737-800 Ryanair uses, which is certified to carry no-more than 189 passengers seated, when the load would be increased beyond those limits by standing passengers to a point where some airports with short runways could no longer be legally accessed by the carrier.

His now somewhat hysterically delivered demands on Boeing and Airbus require a total redesign of such things as emergency exits, cabin air ducts and emergency oxygen systems in their single aisle jets and the flight testing and certification of the changes, all at very substantial costs.

The dilemma for observers of Ryanair is that the airline is very good at connecting dozens of neglected city pairs in Europe and the UK with time saving non-stop flights for a fraction of the fare charged by legacy carriers like Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France, for services that take two to three times as long because they require connections at major hub airports.

Ryanair is one of the great airline success stories, but run by a figurehead who looks and sounds increasingly mad or desperate.

A portfolio of photos of O’Leary simulating indecent acts with models of Ryanair 737s or otherwise making a total fool of himself can be found here.

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17 thoughts on “Ryanair CEO O’Leary may have gone insane

  1. Cat on a PC©

    Hey, why have any seats at all? Just get everyone to sit on the floor. Even better stack them one on top of another. Might be able to get 400 on a 737 that way!

    Maybe Boeing and Airbus could save themselves embarrassment and never sell another plane to him.

  2. ggm

    If you didn’t write about him, and if the other aviation journalists didn’t write about him, then he’d have to actually SPEND MONEY to promote the airline and it would be less profitable. no?

  3. Ben Sandilands

    Disagree, but agree. Let me explain. If you are a Ryanair customer today the reason is almost certainly mostly driven by price and time comparisons between two points, enabled by the internet and search engines.

    Consumers have become accustomed to visiting the Ryanair site and those of its low fare and legacy competitors as applicable.

    If Ryanair doesn’t win on price, and as many reporters have found, this happens quite frequently, it may still win on time saved, which is what has given it the depth of adding business travellers to its original offerings to bargain hunters.

    There is also the matter of airport access. It is true many Ryanair airports seem to be inconvenient, yet they are also Europe being Europe, within an hour or so of millions, sometimes tens of millions of potential customers for whom the so called central city airports are hours away.

    We have a Ryanair which has a much richer and more complex market catchment than had been previously recognised. Which is why AF in particular is developing a set of low fare brands to serve similar sectors without appearing to dignify the Ryanair impertinence in serving customers for whom its hubs are in fact very inconvenient.

    O’Leary’s stunts are just a distraction in this new marketing context. I wonder as to the extent to which his antics are an attempt to keep himself relevant, as well as irritating, to the public interest.

  4. comet

    O’Leary can afford to insult Boeing and Airbus.

    He was recently seen at the headquarters of Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac, inspecting the construction of the C919 airliner. No doubt he asked them to produce a model with standing room only and large escape doors. Or maybe he just visited Comac for the purpose of scaring Boeing and Airbus.

  5. yankiwi

    I recognise his problem: he’s Irish. We do things differently!

  6. NeoTheFatCat

    … especially at the level of personal and vulgar insults aimed at his customers</

    I can accept the carry-on baggage restrictions and the additional charges for absolutely everything in the interest of getting absolutely low-cost travel within many people’s reach. But the rudeness of their staff is what turns me off in the end. I put Easyjet in this category too.

  7. Aidan Stanger

    yankiwi, is that Alan Joyce’s problem too?

  8. keesje

    O’Leary says he wants it for free and negotiates a 50% discount.

    Same for standing seats. He probably wants 200 passenegers/4crew aircraft and thinks the A321 and 737-900ER are to big and expensive.

    A320 and 738 can fit 200 (with additional off the shelf exits) with “standing” seats.


    Airbus and Boeing are hesitating and O’Leary keeps on building pressure.

    If Airbus responds to the 200 seater demand (also Easyjet, AF, Jetblue) with a A320.5 he is fine too.

    He has nothing to loose and stays in the spotlights. He isn’t crazy at all…

  9. patrick kilby

    What will he do when there is unexpected turbulence or a hard landing and the associated injury based law suits about his lack of duty of care. While buses and trains ocassionally have crashes (and by the way seat belts are compulsory on British long ditsance buses), hard landings and turbulance (which do injure people unless strapped in) are far more frequent.

  10. Ben Sandilands

    My understanding is that one of the plane makers has told O’Leary in the clearest of terms that he is making an ass of himself in relation to standing passengers, in particular through his professed ignorance of the way survivable crashes in a standing person not very substantially restrained can see their legs and arms ripped out of their sockets.

    Whether or not the information is true, the medical knowledge of trauma inflicted on the human body without seat restraints is very clear, and proven.

    Why he should make such silly, and irresponsible statements supports my view that he has crossed the line between headline pumping and a degree of lunacy.

    There are some very good things about Ryanair in terms of speed, price and network structure given the density of population in Europe, which merit recognition. Instead we get very insulting comments about customers, and factually insupportable ravings about what are essential and legally enforced regulations about seat belts.

  11. comet

    Re: O’Leary’s standing passenger concept:

    What if someone faints in standing position?

    What if there’s lots of turbulence and people start feeling sick, and are vomiting into bags? Do they also have to stay in standing position? They couldn’t go to the toilet to be sick either, because the perfect Ryanair aircraft wouldn’t have any of those unnecessary devices, either.

  12. keesje

    We have to keep open to innovation, knee jerk reactions to ” standing” in the cabin miss the point IMO.
    First, as show in my link, passengers sit, like on a motor bike.
    Secondly no doubt there will be a few rows of conventional seats for disabled, young families, eldery etc. in the back of these short flights.
    Third, imagine those seats to be of soft leather, with 3D HD entertainment screens, free drinks at the gate and 15% cheeper tickets and less environmental damage then conventional seats.. Replace the acient seatbelts, add airbags.

    Who wants to dismiss everything and compete with the current 60 year old cabin concepts?

  13. Ben Sandilands

    Hey, that’s the key! Think of free standing room, but with ancillary charges for all the life and limb saving extras. (You could rent out panoramic video goggles, with games as well, and avoid the weight penalties of large entertainment screens.)

  14. pieter

    Well, at least the guy is thinking out of the box.
    Imagine what you could do in a plane if you ripped out the furniture. I wouldn’t be surprised if next he’ll want to turn the passenger area into a department store and the cargo area into a casino. And last but not least, a rooftop cocktail bar and terrace. Might get a bit chilly, but at least the sun is always shining above the clouds.

  15. keesje

    It seems Airbus got their first order for widebody without any inflight entertainment, just power connections & a wifi server. As per runwaygirl.

    Panoramic video goggles seem impractical, logistics, wires, etc. If passengers are close to the screen (like with those standing seats, Nintendo 3D like screens can be used, without any colored glasses etc.

    Weights & cooling of flat screens have come down enormously as processing power went up. Pushed by the R&D billions of the mobile industry..

  16. Chad Henshaw

    Call him Crazy, call him daft, but every time he gets mentioned in the press, bookings go up (or so Oleary says).

  17. Boston the Dog

    Irish-born, airline CEO’s. They sometimes seem a little potty with their views. Who needs them?

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