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‘Go to the loo before boarding...’

Simon Binns meets Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s cheeky chief exec

Written by . Published on January 26th 2011.

‘Go to the loo before boarding...’

Michael O’Leary certainly made an impression on his flying visit to Manchester this week. The cocksure Ryanair chief executive was full of praise for the new management team at Manchester Airport and couldn’t resist a jibe at some of his rivals.

The four new routes represent a canny deal for Manchester Airport and suggest that Ryanair – for all their bluster otherwise – do actually need a proper presence here. The new airport management team are making strides in the right direction with some good route wins in the last few months. Not to forget the A380.

So, Ryanair and the airport are friends again. It certainly won’t be dull.

Simon Binns sat down with Mr O’Leary for a cup of coffee and a pastry in Terminal 2 – here are the highlights.

On Manchester Airport:
“The management at Manchester Airport has changed. The old lot didn’t know how to grow. The new lot recognise Birmingham, Liverpool and East Midlands have taken some of their business. They want to win routes back from those airports.

“We’re all involved in prostitution, but the old management didn’t know much about the sex industry. We’re Irish, we’re not proud. We know you have to pay for sex and you have to pay to be at Manchester Airport too.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Manchester, which may have led to some marital disharmony, but we still had the Dublin route so we always had a good relationship.“We approached Manchester (over the new routes) and the new team has to try and work with Ryanair if they want growth. They realise Liverpool has grown and that a lot of those customers should be using Manchester. They’re on the right track.

“The deal with Manchester is actually worse than the one we discussed 18 months ago but the level of growth is different. It’s higher cost on lower traffic figures. I think it’s a fair arrangement.

“We always knew Manchester was an expensive airport. The challenge for them is to balance big international routes while targeting the low fare market. We’ll take it step by step.

“We’ve fallen out at times and if the cost goes up, we won’t hesitate to pull the flights.

On his rivals:
“Easyjet, Monarch and Jet2 all masquerade as low cost. They’re not, but we are.

“We’ve got a fixed price on fuel so there will be no surcharges over the summer, unlike the tour operators. It’s amazing what tour operators get away with.

“BA will whack their fuel surcharges up this year. They used to be the world’s favourite airline; now they’re not even Britain’s favourite airline. They’re in such a mess they even appointed a Paddy to run it. But he’s not as handsome or as charming as me.

On the new routes:
“We think these new routes will fill quickly, we think lots of customers from Liverpool will come to Manchester. That doesn’t mean a diminishment of services from Liverpool, but it will certainly mean growth for Manchester and Ryanair.

“We’d love to put an aircraft in Manchester but it’s about finding available slots.“We know Manchester and Liverpool compete. We’ll use that to leverage the lowest cost. We’re a one trick pony.”

On possible cross-Atlantic flights:
“Not for three or four years. Planes are too expensive at the moment. There’d need to be a big downturn in the long haul market. We’ve got enough planes to see us until 2013

On recession:
“Is there another one round the corner? We’re not free of the last one yet. But people don’t fly less in recession – they actually fly more. They just want to pay less.

On customer service:
“As soon as we can charge a customer for going for a wee, we will. The only think holding us back is getting the technology to swipe a credit card at the toilet door.

“I don’t want you clogging up my aisles going to the loo. I want to sell you stuff so we can keep fares down. Go before you get on the plane for god’s sake.

“I don’t want you checking luggage in. We’ve got to handle it and that costs money. You get 10kg and that should be enough. Just bring hand luggage.

“Use a PR firm? Why would I want to do that? They’ll tell you the customer is always right, which is bollocks. The customer is normally wrong.

“The ash cloud gave us a kicking, having to pay insiurance claims. But it showed the rules and regulations to be bizarre. The airports were acting like bandits in their shops and the airlines were paying for it all.”

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

GordoJanuary 26th 2011.

why oh why did I not go on this interview?

Simon BinnsJanuary 26th 2011.

I think you two would have got on like a house on fire...

John HarrisJanuary 26th 2011.

Full respect to O'Leary for what he has achieved, but hell will freeze over before I get on one of his planes again. I do not like paying to be treated like shit.

AnonymousJanuary 26th 2011.

highly entertaining interview. I laughed out loud at the comments about the customer normally being wrong and wholly agree that sentiment... not before time that this subservient and demeaning Anglo-American customer service culture was challenged.

Smyth HarperJanuary 27th 2011.

O'Leary isn't "cheeky" - he's a dickhead who almost makes me ashamed to be Irish (it would take more than that tw*t do do that though!).

I flew once with Ryanair about 13 years ago. I vowed never to again, and haven't, thank god.

In my opinion, any interview with O'Leary should try and look beneath the bullshit and try and find out more about their sharp practices over the years towards disabled people. For example he thought he could put a surcharge on wheelchair users just because they were disabled until the courts had to rule that it was illegal and that, no, ryanair was not above the law. There are other countless examples, like the group of deaf kids who were refused on a ryanair plane because they were deaf, or the husband who had to carry his crippled wife onto the plane without assistance because ryanair customer service didn't extend to decent human dignity.

Treating him as some kind of wacky entrepreneur masks the fact that his airline has engaged in disgusting practices over the years. I'm sorry Simon, but this interview is vacuous and shite.

CEKJanuary 27th 2011.

Lighten up you lot - you have a choice where and on what to spend your money. I admire anyone who can make money and create real jobs in this day and age. Contrast that with the artifically created public sector jobs disappearing fast and which could never last in the real world.

chris huntJanuary 27th 2011.

funny comments from o leary! fair enough a lot of people dont like him or ryanair but you've got to commend his past record. ryanair is the second biggest airline in europe. plus if you don't like them don't fly with them. that's pretty simple.

ClassJanuary 27th 2011.

I think the man is an absolute legend in terms of his marketing ploys and how he plays the public and media. - Mancon could take example from him.

People have the opportunity to choose services. Fact of the matter is if I could get it cheaper with another carrier then I would fly with someone else but I can't.

Also, Ryanair staff have never been on strike any time I have CHOSEN to fly with them.

I am also proud that he is Irish.

M30January 27th 2011.

He's a vain and self-aggrandising scumbag.
Saying that though, he's made weekend trips to Europe affordable for the masses, as not everyone can afford to fly with the likes of BA etc.
My only issue with Ryanair is the massive hidden charges for paying with a debit card, which often cost more than the flight itself.

Christopher MeddowsJanuary 27th 2011.

Handy company Ryan Air, cheap flights all over europe... happy days!!

RJCJanuary 27th 2011.

I'm from Dublin but live in Manchester, so fly back and forth a few times a year. Neither myself nor any of my family in Dublin ever fly Ryanair on this route.

There are just as many hidden charges when flying Ryanair as any of the rivals he's calling out. 'Ryanair - same price as the others, service ten times worse' doesn't really have the same ring to it though, does it?

John HarrisJanuary 27th 2011.

If you go by the amount actually charged to your card they are no cheaper than their rivals

The customer service is several orders of magnitude worse than any of their rivals

And happily I can afford to exercise my choice for being treated like a valued customer rather than a piece of shit in return for my money

Michael O'Leary is a funny guy, but he is also a walking reminder of the adage that there is always someone who can providea product a little cheaper, and that those whose care only for price rather than quality are that man's lawful prey. Good luck to him, but he won't get any of my money.

Besides, Ryanair don't have any routes in the Caribbean

Eddy Market ForcesJanuary 27th 2011.

As many people have pointed out we, as consumers, have a choice which airline to use. I, as a consumer who doesnt like being treated like and idiot when booking and who isnt treated with contempt whilst travelling, chooses to use a real airline and not one who is to airlines what UK North were to bus companies. In my limited experience real airlines like SAS, Swiss and Lufthansa are no more expensive than pretend ones like Ryanair.

CEKJanuary 28th 2011.

Oh John the B (not baptist, ha ha)your superiorty is overwhelming. Let market forces dictate the future of Mr O L, not yr expense account comparison

Jane BaxterJanuary 29th 2011.

I totally agree with you John The Brief. I bet nobody would fly with Ryanair if they could afford to fly with BA or any of the other quality airlines!

John HarrisJanuary 31st 2011.

You don't need to fly BA (well I do, they are the only airline flying between Grand Cayman and the UK) but for European hops there are plenty of alternatives to Mr O'Leary's festival of contempt - Easyjet, Jet2, BMI Baby - they are just as cheap as Ryanair, if you go by the final charge to your card rather than the fake and misleading "headline" price - and they don't treat you like shit the way O'Leary does.

Peter HarrisFebruary 1st 2011.

I would love to see their books. The amount of profit they make from people with excess baggage must be astronomical. I got charged once for being 0.4 kg overweight. That spurred me to buy a neat little bag weighing gadget and looking elsewhere for airlines when I fly. When I got on that particular plane, it was only one third full!

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2011.

Interesting article about their website and booking system security, or lack of

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