by Frank Schnittger
Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 04:34:26 AM EST
Even in the most garrulous reaches of Irish society, Ryanair's Chief Executive. Michael O'Leary, is noted for having a mouth big enough to fly a Boeing into. His latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease concerns his attempt to refute claims that the airline industry is a major and growing contributor to Global warming. In a letter to the Editor of the Irish Times (see below) he used the words "eco-loonie", mumbo-jumbo, eco-babble, "eco-twits", eco-nuts, eco-clowns, and eco kill-joys to characterise and disparage those who sought to argue the case for putting greater taxation on flying as a means of reducing our carbon footprint.
Climate change and cheap flying - The Irish Times - Sat, Jul 12, 2008
Madam, - I was disturbed to read in Thursday's Irish Times yet another factually inaccurate opinion piece from one of the small band of eco-loonies. The idea that the climate is "paying the price" for low-cost flying is as absurd as it is untrue.
In an article littered with false claims and environmental mumbo-jumbo, readers are invited to share the writer's delusion that massive increases in taxation (on air travel) will somehow "save" our planet, as if it needs saving in the first place. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
Instead of this eco-babble, perhaps your readers would be interested in some actual facts:
1. The European Environmental Agency confirms that aviation accounts for less than 2 per cent of Europe's CO2 emissions. By contrast, shipping accounts for 5 per cent, motor transport 18 per cent and power generation (mainly Government-owned) some 26 per cent.
2. No industry has improved its technology usage or reduced its emissions per customer as much as the airline industry in the past decade. For example Ryanair, by switching from older, polluting aircraft to quieter, fuel-efficient 737-800s, has reduced its emissions per passenger-kilometre by 50 per cent over the past 10 years. With oil now at $140 a barrel, airlines are doing everything they can to reduce oil usage.
3. Contrary to the myth that airlines are tax exempt or don't pay taxes, we are the only form of mass transport within Europe which pays for all its own infrastructure (runways, airports, air traffic control, aircraft, etc) at a time when Europe's ferries, trains, buses and roads continue to be massively subsidised by taxpayers.
4. Ireland is an island, and therefore the only way for our citizens and visitors to access this country is to fly. Contrary to the views of most of these "eco-twits", we can't reasonably walk or cycle or take a kayak to get on and off the island.
5. The biggest lie at the heart of all of this eco-babble is that higher taxes will somehow save the planet. This is simply untrue. Higher taxes simply means greater government revenue, waste and misspending.
The greatest polluters in Europe are the governments, which in most cases own the power generating stations (the biggest man-made polluters of all) and which, like the eco-nuts, preach to ordinary consumers about caring for the environment while doing nothing useful to improve it.
Unlike these eco-clowns, the airline industry is doing everything in its power to reduce its impact on the environment. Many of these eco kill-joys would like to prevent people flying altogether. Imagine the state of Irish tourism if we banned visitors from flying. Higher taxation won't reduce people's propensity to travel. John Gibbons's absurd claim that "the world's poor pay the highest price for runway emissions" is totally and utterly untrue.
Irish citizens and visitors are now going to be penalised by the mindless bureaucrats of Brussels, encouraged by these eco-loonies, whose predictions about global warming are the modern-day equivalent of those doom-mongers in the middle ages who used to run around towns and cities preaching that the end of mankind was nigh! It wasn't, and nor will the world's climate pay a price for low-cost flights.
Perhaps The Irish Times could encourage sensible, fact-based debate, rather than providing a soap-box for the ranting nonsense and false claims and fictional statistics of yet another eco-nut. - Yours, etc,
MICHAEL O'LEARY, Chief Executive, Ryanair, Dublin Airport.
Many here will be better able that I to refute many of these claims - although my own view is that most of them are highly selective and miss the point that aviation is one of the fastest growing contributors to CO2 emissions. My own humble (as yet unpublished) missive was more concerned with highlighting the damage Mr. O'Leary was doing to his own business by his frequent rants at all who don't see or do things his way:
I am a Ryanair customer who has bought Ryanair shares in the vain hope that I might also profit from the indignities Ryanair regularly heaps upon me and its other customers - charging 10 Euros for the use of a credit card, herding people like cattle, providing uncomfortable seating, and generally adopting an unfriendly and unhelpful attitude to customers in need of service.
Unfortunately, by failing to hedge against spiralling fuel costs, by buying more planes whilst anyone with any sense is cutting back, and by creating an atmosphere and an experience which results in many people being prepared to pay more to other airlines rather than do business with Ryanair, Michael O'Leary is not doing his shareholders any favours either, with Ryanair dividends being derisory as a direct consequence.
Now he has chosen to hurl his childish epithets at campaigners against Global warming despite the fact that air travel is one of the fastest growing contributors to CO2 emissions and that flying for most of us is discretionary, whereas generating electricity, heating houses or getting to work is not.
Is there nothing he will not do to try and destroy the Ryanair brand? Besides alienating customers, shareholders, Airport authorities, regulators, politicians, environmentalists and ordinary people who may not be experts but who care about the environment, is there anyone he has not alienated?
Ryanair is sometimes the cheapest Airline not because of Michael O'Leary's generosity or business acumen, but because people are not prepared to pay more for such a devalued brand and travelling experience - and increasingly they are choosing not to do so - with Ryanair passenger numbers due to fall this winter for the first time.
It's time for Michael O'Leary to take one of his own one way flights to a semi-derelict airport in the middle of nowhere and make way for a Chief Executive who can promote a more positive image for the airline, a better example to his staff, a more profitable experience for his shareholders and a more enjoyable experience for his customers. Goodbye Michael. Enjoy the flight. (That will be 7 Euro for the soggy sandwich and undrinkable cup of tea).