Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says airline ‘completely unaffected’ as rivals cancel flights

Airline CEO says it will do ‘spectacularly well’ in a recession
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary

Breda Heffernan

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has claimed his airline is “completely unaffected” by the difficulties facing rival airlines as it saw the post-pandemic recovery in travel coming.

And he has predicted Ryanair will do “spectacularly well” in a recession due to its pricing model.

In a wide-ranging interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Mr O’Leary also said Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “entirely untrustworthy”.

As airlines across Europe cancel flights due to staff shortages, the Ryanair chief executive said his competitors “didn’t see the recovery coming as early as we did”.

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"We started recruiting and training new pilots and cabin crew last November, so we began earlier than any other airline. The other thing we did sensibly during Covid is that we didn’t fire thousands of cabin crew or pilots or engineers.

"If a pilot doesn’t fly once a month, they lose their licence. You then have to put a pilot back into a simulator for three months to get his licence back.”

Cabin crew who don’t maintain their flying hours must undergo an eight-week training course.

"We made sure, even if we had flights with no passengers, we sent up pilots and cabin crew. We sent everybody flying at least once a month. We didn’t dump them all at home and say ‘we’ll call you in 18 months when this is all over’.”

Ryanair cabin crew in several European counties went on strike this week over pay, with more strikes a possibility. Mr O’Leary says they are earning between £24,000 and £45,000

“The vast majority of people are delighted to be in jobs and also back working post-Covid.

“Everyone can afford to pay their rent. This idea that people are on minimum wage or they don’t get paid when they don't fly – it’s complete rubbish.”

He said any disruption due to strike action will affect “less than 1pc” of Ryanair’s European operations.

Mr O’Leary also took aim at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who recently said the army should be drafted into UK airports to deal with delays.

"The cabinet has less f***ing brainpower that your average plant. The prime minister is entirely untrustworthy – not just anything he says, but certainly on economic issues.”

He said he has not met Mr Johnson and “I’ve no desire to meet him. He’s an idiot of the highest f***ing order”.

As countries across Europe struggle with the cost of living crisis, and the possibility of their economies being plunged into recession, Mr O’Leary believes Ryanair will weather the storm.

"We’ve never been recession-proof but generally what happens in recessions is people trade down to the lowest-cost provider,” he said.

"If you look at the companies that do better in a recession, it is the Lidls, Aldis, Ikeas, and we are the Lidl, Aldi, Ikea of the travel industry. We have lower cost and lower fares than any other airline, and we will do spectacularly well in a recession.”

He said there are a generation of people who grew up with low-cost fares and that cannot be reversed.

"You’re never going to put that genie back in the bottle. So I think there is a strong and vibrant future for low-cost air travel, around – in a non-political sense – Europe.”

Meanwhile, on the issue of allowing Ryanair office staff to work from home, Mr O’Leary said it was “inevitable” they are now allowed to work remotely for one or two days a week.

All we’ve said is that as long as the two days a week are not Mondays and Fridays. We’re not having people doing long-weekends.”


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