25 SEPTEMBER 2017

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Article from BTNews 25 SEPTEMBER 2017

COMMENT EXTRA: Ryanair and O’Leary. “You ain't seen nothing yet”

For a man who likes to be seen flying by the seat of his pants, the past week has probably not been Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s best of times. A misguided attempt by the airline to alleviate a pilot shortage by cancelling flights went badly wrong when the number of flights involved was revealed to be in the hundreds.

See also AND FINALLY: Home Truths

More to the point was the number of passengers likely to be affected – three-quarters of a million at last count if the problem persists into mid-October, which is the current prediction.

At the end of last week much of the goodwill Ryanair has built in more recent years was showing dangerous signs of evaporating in the face of what probably began as someone’s bright suggestion of how to deal with an irritating problem but turned rapidly into a PR disaster.

Ryanair mounted an initial attempt to mollify critics by pointing out the number of flights due to be cancelled was said to be only 2% of the total and that 90% of passengers would still be able fly as planned.  Was O’Leary, the master of blarney, really telling the truth?  It didn’t work. The airline then tried to ride out the turbulence by publishing a list of the flights to be cancelled, so at least would-be passengers would have some warning.

But by then the rot had set in; O’Leary himself went in front of the cameras to describe the situation as a “mess-up” on Ryanair’s part and followed it up with a formal apology.  The language was stilted by Michael’s normal rhetoric.  He is the most recent inventor of “Fake News” not Trump.

The drama began when the airline said it was cancelling the flights because its system-wide punctuality had fallen below 80% in September, which it indicated it regarded as unacceptable. The cancellations would mean additional standby aircraft would be available to help to restore on-time performance to 90%.

All very laudable, but it ran up against a change in the leave year for pilots and cabin crew from the current April ‒ March period to January ‒ December next year. For the remainder of this year, it means annual leave has to be fitted into nine months, from April ‒ December.

Accepting responsibility for what happened, O’Leary told the media: “Ryanair is not short of pilots – we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August.

“But we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year’s leave into a nine-month period. This issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back on to a 12-month calendar leave year from January 1st to December 31st, 2018.”

We can now assume much work is going on behind the scenes to put things right but the omens for the immediate future do not look good. Some Ryanair pilots are said to be seeking to renegotiate their contracts. There are 750,000 disgruntled passengers to mollify. And competition is ever-growing – Norwegian is about to open its Dublin base and is said to be looking for flight staff.

Ryanair was the son of European deregulation.

Go back 20 years.  For practical purposes Ryanair was a UK airline based at Stansted not regulated by the all-seeing and expensive UK Civil Aviation Authority but the more tolerant and tiny Irish version.  

Cost cutting has always been the order of the day, an example being a recent flight from the UK to Eastern Europe where the vast majority of passengers spoke no English but all cabin instructions were only in that language.  The safety drill, recorded, was not demonstrated in the words of the destination.

It has been said that aircrew have to buy their own coffee.  Could you imagine British Airways, or even easyJet, pilots being required to pay for water?

Some of Ryanair’s statements over the years have been outlandish and would never stand up to scrutiny.  But parts of the media print verbatim.

At a press conference he can be obnoxious.  He thinks it is funny.  Question the number of staff required for a new route and you are treated to rudeness.  How much money did he really put into the Prestwick base?  Even O’Leary had to admit that Carcassonne was not actually Toulouse.

What is the percentage of flight deck crew actually employed by Ryanair?  He will say not many are leaving, but you can’t leave a job that does not employ you.

It is not all bad with Ryanair.  Safety has always been a priority and the airline has led with cheap flights and certainly added competition.  Some of his ‘new’ destinations have been a success.  Others not so.  What incentives were needed for Ryanair to try them?

How longer are we to put up with the man from Mullingar, County Westmeath, nonsense?  He can’t keep going on saying that easyJet is outrageous for organising a European base at Vienna and calling Austria a ‘tin-top’ country when it has twice the population of Ireland.

His embryo relationship with Norwegian has floundered and it seems that pilots are voting with their feet by joining the Oslo-based but legal British airline.  People not only change jobs for money, but for future prospects too.  Next spring could be a real crisis for Ryanair when the summer schedules begin.  “You ain't seen nothing yet”.

Is O’Leary the man to lead Ryanair into the next decade?

Don’t cry for Michael.  He is a very wealthy man.  And into horses too.  We would suggest that he visits the Czech Republic for the Great Pardubice Steeplechase.  It’s a new Ryanair route.

See also our last COMMENT EXTRA:  The O’Leary Show 11 September  and European Court of Justice & Ryanair 18 September

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OUR READERS FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum


franco mancassola, honolulu

I believed that in the long run Ryan Air business model is basically flawed and now the first cracks begin to appear in the façade. A 'low cost' model, when brought to an extreme, has its limitations because, as the economy improves, passenger’s expectations are higher. O’Leary and Ryan Air managers fancy themselves as acute business genius, but they may fail to understand that a different type of management is required in this new business era, one that realizes that responsibility begins, rather than end, when the passenger board the aircraft. In business, there is nothing more fatal than cunning management. But hopefully O’L will understand that airlines must entice passengers by improving -- not reducing -- the quality of their product. It seems that Ryan Air management has forgotten a fundamental principle of business: "Never irritate the minds that you are trying to influence" -- in the airlines' case, passengers and employees


Anthony Keane, Ireland

How would Mo'L feel if his race horse trainer told him none of his horses would be racing for the next three months 'as the jockeys are all on holidays'?


Anthony Keane, Ireland

How would Mo'L feel if his race horse trainer told him none of his horses would be racing for the next three months 'as the jockeys are all on holidays'?


Anthony Keane, Ireland

How would Mo'L feel if his race horse trainer told him none of his horses would be racing for the next three months 'as the jockeys are all on holidays'?


Ian Hamer, Cardiff

Maybe it is time for Ryanair to move on in the corporate sense and for Mr O\'Leary to do other things. The passengers who use Ryanair deserve a management team that can create an airline on which they can rely, that will fly to schedule at a price fair to the passenger and the airline.


Ian Hamer, Cardiff

Maybe it is time for Ryanair to move on in the corporate sense and for Mr O\'Leary to do other things. The passengers who use Ryanair deserve a management team that can create an airline on which they can rely, that will fly to schedule at a price fair to the passenger and the airline.


Richard Stokes, UK/Staines

It is hard to criticise a man with so much success. He has been in charge for more than 20 years. When Ryanair started 32 years ago, they carried 5,000 passengers. They now carry 5,000 passengers every 21 minutes 24/7. However, this is a dreadful way to treat passengers. Surely he could have wet leased a dozen aircraft from Qatar for 3 months, as BA did recently, when it had a strike. This would have been expensive, but probably much cheaper than the current situation. It also would have been a PR success, as the Qatar cabin service is superior to Ryanair.


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