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For many years, Michael O'Leary has been Ireland's answer to Donald Trump who has realised he can get more free publicity through outrageous behaviour than he can ever hope to buy with his airline's measly advertising budget. In more recent times he has finally realised that you can be cheap without having to be nasty, although that has not diminished his hostility to trade unions.

But his biggest volte face has been in relation to the EU itself.  For many years the EU was deemed to be the incarnation of evil, restricting competition between airlines, airports, and ancillary services to the disadvantage of Ryanair, the lowest cost operator in the marketplace. With Brexit, he has suddenly realised (or at least publicly admitted), that without the EU there could have been no Ryanair at all, because it liberalised competition between airlines and airports within the EU.

This has enabled Ryanair to successfully undermine the "high cost" flag carriers, together with their state subsidies, and turn Ryanair into the fifth largest airline in the world, by number of passengers carried. He has revolutionised air travel to/from Ireland, which is, on average, cheaper now than it was 30 years ago, and enabled the rapid growth of the Irish tourist industry.

Brexit represents an existential threat to Ryanair's business model, which is still very heavily based on the UK. I have not seen his central contention challenged, which is that without a Brexit agreement, the UK will no longer be part of "Blue Skies", and without that UK/EU flights will simply cease, as there is no WTO like fall-back position in the event of no deal. He appears concerned that a combination of negotiating incompetence, allied to the interests of his mortal foes, the large EU flag carriers, could allow that seemingly outlandish situation persist for quite some time.

As Airlines plan and publish their schedules 6-12 months in advance, he needs a deal by mid-2018 if he is not to dramatically reduce Ryanair's exposure to the UK/EU market and cut flights to/from there on a wholesale basis and this would put huge pressure on the UK government to come to a deal.  I doubt he is joking.  Unlike Boris, he has a track record of following through on his threats, and in this case he may have very little option.  His comments to the European Parliament were quite moderate and measured by his standards... Unlike Trump, his antics have been calculated to maximise publicity for his airline, and not simply a narcissistic conceit. He means business.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 25th, 2017 at 10:30:35 AM EST
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