12 OCTOBER 2009

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Article from BTNews 12 OCTOBER 2009

COMMENT: Panorama v Ryanair

Tonight (Monday 12 October) Panorama, the BBC’s flagship investigative programme, offers what it calls “a flight with Ryanair”, noting that it is a little Irish airline that has grown very, very big. 

The one thing Michael O’Leary, the boss of the Dublin-based airline, loves more than anything else is publicity, preferably for free. 

AERBT has a conspiracy theory that the fuss he is now orchestrating is nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of the Panorama investigation, but is just another astonishing ploy to generate media exposure for the carrier.  His thinking is that the more people who watch Panorama the better it is for him. 

Note that as this COMMENT is written no Court action has been suggested.

The real question is whether Ryanair is the world’s most loathed airline, or as Mr O’Leary seems to think, the world’s most popular? 

In an attempt to take an objective view of Ryanair one has to say that much of its creativity and innovations have been for the good of the airline industry and its customers, but by the same token the crude way these have been fashioned has left a bad taste.  Michael O’Leary’s language at times has been disgusting although it has to be noted that now he is a father he has toned down his act. 

He has driven a coach and horses through regulations and, in the manner of Sir Alex Ferguson, is never wrong (but will Ferguson fall down this time?).  And taking the football theme a little further he follows the Arsène Wenger philosophy of being blind to comments and very, very prone to exaggeration. 

A press release from Ryanair should be considered regarding reality, “a twice daily service”.  This is an actual fact and not embroidery.  “The new route will produce 10,000 jobs” is nonsense.  Some newspapers will publish these so-called specifics.  His attacks on other airlines are not, in the main, justified.

Michael O’Leary took his model from the late Tony Ryan whose philosophy was to build Guinness Peat Aviation into such a large aircraft leasing company that when things went wrong it was too complex to be dismantled.  This seems to be the same with Ryanair.  Love it or hate it, it is probably here to stay. 

The idea of using out of the way airports desperate for custom has worked.  180-seat aircraft as against 150-seat passenger planes (easyJet) with the same basic cost structure has worked.  The refusal to use air-bridges has worked (for the airline) even if the passengers get soaked in bad weather.  The total dependence on the internet has worked (once again for the airline).

Where Ryanair has been able to score over its British rivals is the fact that while its main hub has been Stansted, it is not subject to the same regularity authority or costs.  One wonders if a UK toxic accountant were to take a close look at the finances what they would come up with?  It has never paid a penny to shareholders.

Could you imagine Richard Branson taking space in the Irish Times to criticise the Taoiseach?

Is Ryanair the world’s most hated airline, or as the passenger figures would seem to indicate Europe’s most popular carrier?
 
AERBT does not like flying on Ryanair and will only take its services if there is no alternative.  It is certainly not the cheapest carrier and boarding can be a danger and should be investigated by health and safety.  One cannot relax until one is actually seated.  Its safety standards are as good as any airline and it is not subject to the arcane staffing problems that BA continues to perpetuate (and even encourage).

Panorama has a role to play as a leading TV programme of its genre.  Nothing wrong with that.  Let it prove that Ryanair is the world’s most hated airline.  The fact that passengers vote with their feet is a nonsense.  Crowds always follow a demagogue.  History tells us so.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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