Jokes about Michael O’Leary and his airline Ryanair keep us amused. A favourite of mine is Michael’s attempt at buying a pint of beer at his local. He remarks on it being competitively priced. “So it is, sir,” replies the barman: “Will you want a glass with it?”
Often the joke is on the travelling public as the airline boss is a master at generating headline-grabbing publicity. Like fellow airline tycoon Sir Richard Branson, O’Leary is rarely off our front pages. Richard gets his through participating in epic stunts and is usually surrounded by eye-candy.
The two are following a well used flight path for the aviation industry has always attracted high-flying showmen. Many will remember the bright and breezy Freddie Laker who by re-seating surplus World War 2 aircraft opened up the cheap holiday abroad market. His aircraft were the Volkswagens of the skies.
O’LEARY’S LATEST RUSE
We are suckers for showmen’s’ tactics and always have been. O’Leary’s latest ruse was to have vertical seats fitted in his aircraft allowing him to cram in a few more passengers. There was never any chance of the wacky scheme taking off but the publicity the story received was worth far more than the profitability such an arrangement might have brought.
The like him or loathe him airline boss hardly allows a hoax to drift from the front pages before he dreams up yet another. They rarely come to pass but it is fun to wonder which of them will come to fruition.
Aviation experts say vertical seating is pie in the sky. Boeing, manufacturers of Ryanair aircraft ruled out the concept. Spokesman Nick West says; “Among other things, stringent regulatory requirements, including seats capable of withstanding a force of 16Gs, pretty much preclude such an arrangement.
WACKY AND WEIRD
Ryanair’s fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft are licensed to carry 189 passengers apiece. Whatever way O’Leary moves the goalposts he simply isn’t allowed to exceed this figure and knows it. Another impractical ruse was to impose a €1 charge for using aircraft loos. This was followed by the ‘fat tax’; a scheme to surcharge passengers considered overweight.
Each headline grabbing wacky scheme is carefully crafted to remind us that his company is a no frills low cost budget airline; it helps to keep the myth alive. Journalists adore O’Leary as he photographs well; he is a showman and his quotes are invariably outrageous.
One recalls his wearing a German shirt after England’s World Cup defeat; it got his pictures in the newspapers and doubtless endeared him to the German (Scottish and Irish) flying public without necessarily damaging his British credentials. He had his own take on it of course: ‘Now that England’s out of the cup it is time to get away.’
It works: Ryanair is still leading British Airways and rival easyJet. The business world needs more Michael O’Learys.