Ryanair’s Still Evil in the Sky

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO

Yesterday, we could read an indo paper about Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary thought “he was misunderstood prior to the airline’s image revamp” reported by journalist Bryan O’Reilly.

Indeed, speaking on RTE One O’Leary said he was misunderstood in the past.

I have always been warm and cuddly – just a little bit misunderstood

Thus, this is the opportunity to remember what Ryanair did Evil, before analyzing how they try to change the image of the company.

When the ultra-low cost company meets the ultra-low cost behaviour.

Ryanair is a budget airline and its business model therefore attracts passengers in their thousands. Consequently, Ryanair attracts much criticism due to its services as a result of their low-cost business model. I demonstrate how Ryanair does ‘Evil’ by examining criticism and complaints from its customers, shareholders and pilots. Equally, Ryanair responses to such ‘Evil-doing’ shall be explored.

Last november, Michael O’Leary uses the opportunity of an interview with the Daily Mail to re-affirm his traditionalism. In the article “Confessions of Ryanair boss: O’Leary says he is a ‘caveman’ who thinks men shouldn’t be allowed at childbirth and women should stay at home”. Ryanair’s CEO, while comparing him both to a Neanderthal and then to Jesus, spread his view of the man and the woman’s role in the family.
These revelations are atypical of O’Leary’s policy of generating noise and arousing conversation about himself and the Ryanair brand for better or for worse.


Despite its marketing policy which is close to “Much ado about us”, Ryanair, since its launch in 1985, has conquered the European market enabling millions of people to travel at low-cost. During last August alone, the airline carried more than 9 million passengers (Ref.) with an occupancy rate of 89%. In 2012, it exceeded all other airlines by carrying 79.6 million international passengers. For its 2012-2013 financial results, the company reported €4.88 billion of revenue, with a €569 million profit. Ryanair employs 8,500 people and owns around 300 planes. This is an undisputable astonishing success that allows people both to travel and also to work. So why does Ryanair make the headlines?

Firstly, Michael O’Leary has the ability of being brutally honest and says what he thinks, often placing blame on the client. Or even the Irish Prime Minister: “I upset a lot of people because I tell them what I think. I’m disrespectful towards what is perceived to be authority. Like, I think the Prime Minister of Ireland is a gob*****”. He is a no waffle, ‘no frills’ businessman, that understands how to make a profit. With its ‘fat tax’ proposal, to charge over-weight people extra to travel, Ryanair caused great upset. Between its announcement on April 22nd 2009 and the next day, 17 different publications wrote about the airline. The news spread throughout the world.

Ryanair is not making you pay for everything yet. It considered applying fees to access the toilets, or to get some of the paper roll, an annual subscription to their website and even “corkage” if you brought your own food onboard, but they did not. So, passengers should feel happy. The flight is cheap but all the services, after buying your ticket online and paying credit card charges are not included. You are warned: if you forget to print your boarding pass it will cost you €70 to get it at the airport – around the price of a flight return ticket.
O’Leary believes:

We think [they] should pay 60 euros for being so stupid

All you may need for your journey you will have to pay for include: extra baggage, insurance, a stroller, a musical instrument, food and drink… Even in an emergency, as what happened in June 2011 at Seville airport. The plane was immobilised after a compressor failed, “passengers were forced to endure 50 degree heat for over two hours with no air conditioning” and worst of all, one passenger reported that they were not allowed leave the plane or given any water. This is indicative of the customer ‘service’ that Ryanair provide: ‘evil’ to say the least.

Established in 2012, the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) “shares the managements view […] but not at the expense of the flight crew [claims that it] is an unacceptable situation for a company to have over 2,300 pilots employed as ‘self-employed contractors’ through hundreds of Irish registered limited companies with no job, financial or social security”. This group proves the poor and unsecure work conditions that have to be changed by the number one European low-cost airline.

Source: RPG

Last February, an RPG survey emphasised the main issues as follows: a common basic contract that complies with the laws of the country in which they are based, tax issues arising as a result of working for Ryanair, a transparent annual leave system…The health insurance scheme and the payment of all expenses associated with working – such as hotel costs, meals on overnights, transport costs… rose in 7th and 8th position only. And finally, in 13th position is to have bottled water and meals, for all flight crew, on all flights.

Ryanair management responded by sending a memo which said that “any pilot who participates in this so-called petition will be guilty of gross misconduct and will be liable for dismissal”.

Last July, Robertus Van Boekel a Dutch pilot who flew for Ryanair between 2009 and 2011 exposed an Irish tax payment system. Settled by Brookfield and Ryanair, Van Boekel contested in the English courts a €5,000 claim for damages for breach of contract which Brookfield brought against him after he gave it three months’ notice. “In order to fly for Ryanair, Van Boekel was asked by Brookfield to choose one firm of accountants from a list of approved Irish accountants and to use a service company provided by the firm he selected for his work with Ryanair.
“This arrangement is part of a system that involves pilots being made directors and shareholders in service companies. The affairs of these companies are managed for the pilots by the selected Irish accountancy firm” reported by the Irish Times.

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Source: The IT

The IT journalist, Colm Keena, concludes: “Van Boekel’s was one of 11 cases the judge said he was aware of, where pilots were being sued by Brookfield for breach of contract, five of which led to default judgments against the pilots, and one of which led to Brookfield succeeding in its claim against a former Ryanair pilot”.

Ryanair said it would be happy to comment but only after the outcome of Brookfield’s appeal.

More recently on October 2nd, another tax issue was revealed in France. Ryanair employs crews on flights to and from its former base at Marignane, near Marseilles, on Irish rather than French contracts. In that case, tax and social insurances are paid in Ireland, where charges are known to be far lower than in France. The French court, accused Ryanair of social dumping which is against the European rules of business, and imposed an incredible €8 million in fines and damages. “Ryanair confirmed that it will appeal this ruling by the Aix En Provence Court”.

But Ryanair found a way to do more “evil” to its crews. It simply charges its trainees. And, whether they succeed or not: “those who are rejected during their probationary period are still pursued for training costs, while others with jobs are left angry by the working conditions dictated by their contract. Now several have raised their concerns with third parties who have discussed their situation with the Observer” last October.

All this negative media reportage may be the reason for recent announcements from Ryanair which have all the indications of being more customer friendly: the online reservation will be simplified – reducing the number of clicks on their updated website. From next December 1st, a second carry-on bag will be allowed and the boarding pass printing at the airport will be €15 instead of the extortionate €70.

The smartphone application of the airline, which was €3, is now free. Finally, the company also joined Twitter last September to answer its clients’ questions. Indeed, Michael O’Leary is trying to change the airline’s image and there is a lot to do.

About Edouard Nguyen 5 Articles
Edouard Nguyen is a journalist coming from Paris, France. Enrolled in a BA (Hons) Journalism and Visual Media, Edouard Nguyen is particularly driven by in-depth researches and datavizualisation. Follow him on Twitter @edouardng

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