Is Michael O’Leary, in his own words, “Jesus, Superman or an odious little sh**”?
If you tick the third option, do you feel so insulted by the man’s outrageous utterances that you would rather boycott Ryanair, pay more and fly somewhere else?
Forgive me if I don’t join you. I love Ryanair. I love its shiny new planes and the places they fly to. I love the challenge of working through its ludicrous website without being cheated. I love the naff attempts to sell you stuff on the plane and the stupid fanfare you get when you land on time. Above all I love its low fares.
And (dare I say this?) I think I love its loudmouth chief executive for the brazen, bare-faced codswallop he talks. I don’t condone his language, his PR tactics or even his business ethics, by my word he’s great entertainment.
For as long as I can remember Mr O’Leary has shocked journalists into giving Ryanair free publicity. They know he’s going to say something appalling so they cannot resist his press conferences. He never lets him down and they never fail to oblige.
By this seemingly crazy PR strategy he has done more to raise awareness of his brand than any other company boss I can think of and it hasn’t cost Ryanair a penny. As he admitted recently, “we’re in the business of generating cheap, free publicity”.
His staff are “slackers”. His rivals are “bullsh***ers, liars and drunks”. He frequently insults the Germans and French. He loves winding up environmentalists and “the chattering bloody classes”. He has called his passengers “fat bastards”, “stupid” and worse.
Don’t take it seriously, it’s comedy. It’s Alf Garnett in a leprechaun’s cap.
A survey by Which? found that Ryanair had the worst customer service out of Britain’s top 100 brands and yet still it thrives. I can’t think of any other business that would get away with that.
Mr O’Leary’s response was typically colloquial: “Why are we carrying 81 million passengers if we’re this terrible? Yes, we have the lowest fares, we have brand new aircraft, we have the most on-time flights – it sounds like kind of a f***ing Mormon, Moonie session – but we do.”
We are now told there is evidence he has overplayed the obnoxiousness, and that some people are deliberately not booking flights. He has promised to reform and to “stop unnecessarily pissing people off” (an excellent piece of PR philosophy). He swears the culture will change to a “new, cuddly Ryanair” .
I don’t believe a word of it, but the story provoked another wave of free publicity. The man’s a mad, bad genius.
A word of warning, however, in case you were thinking of emulating his insane business model of reducing service to customers and insulting them at the same time: there’s only one Michael O’Leary.
– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media.