Aviation – loudmouth with a penchant for being down-to-earth: Ryanair boss O’Leary turns 60

When it comes to business, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is never at a loss for a loose phrase. Ireland should get active with the vaccination program, he recently rumbled. Like all airlines, Ryanair has been hit hard by the Corona crisis. In the current financial year, the airline expects a loss of around one billion euros. But with considerable cash reserves, the Irish low-cost airline is doing quite well. On March 20th, O’Leary will be 60 years old.

And O’Leary wouldn’t be O’Leary if he didn’t see an opportunity in the crisis. “There are a lot of growth opportunities in Ireland and across Europe, where airlines have gone bankrupt or scaled back their capacities,” he justified the increase in an order for the Boeing 737 Max by 75 to 210 pieces – on which he received a discount. understood.

Thanks to the vaccinations, he sees masses of tourists making pilgrimages to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece again for the summer. O’Leary wipes away any objections that he might be a little too optimistic. As soon as the groups with the highest risk are vaccinated, restrictions can no longer be justified, he argues – and in an inimitable way disgusts all experts and the government in Dublin.

The mass tourism business made O’Leary wealthy. The trained tax advisor holds around four percent of the airline and is reportedly one of the richest 20 people in Ireland. He sees vacation travel as a waste of time, as he once told the Irish Independent: “The problem I have with vacation is that you waste two weeks sitting on a damn beach. I don’t understand what that is should.”

“Time is money”

O’Leary lives by the motto “time is money”. When the streets around the Irish capital Dublin were increasingly clogged with traffic jams in the early 2000s, he bought a taxi license without further ado so that he could drive in the bus lane.

He has been at the helm of Ryanair since 1994, which he developed into the largest low-cost airline in Europe with a consistent discount strategy. Similar to role models in the food industry, he focused on lower costs through simplified processes and a limited range. And he’s known for finding new sources of income. Measures such as extra costs for checking in luggage, selling food and beverages on board and the abolition of business class come from the O’Leary arsenal.

His sayings and unconventional ideas always attract attention. A few years ago he made headlines with the announcement that in future passengers would have to pay extra for toilet visits on board. He went one better later when he said he would “wipe the buttocks of the passengers for a fiver”. “I’ve always been a loudmouth,” he once confessed. At times he replaced an entire marketing department with his eccentric appearances. He liked being photographed in costumes – as a human cell phone, Pope or Batman helper Robin.

And woe if someone gets in his way. O’Leary’s crosshairs are mainly competitors, environmentalists, trade unions and governments. For example, he enjoys giving lectures on the weaknesses of other airlines. In an interview with the British news broadcaster Sky News last year, he described Lufthansa as a “crack cocaine junkie who asks for state aid”. For a long time he denigrated unions as the fifth column of competitors. Only a few years ago he gave in and agreed to negotiations with the employee representatives. Even with customers, O’Leary used to be a little squeamish. But when Ryanair temporarily slipped into the red, he learned that even a low-cost operator can’t afford everything.

Horse racing and cattle breeding as a hobby

But there is also the other side of O’Leary, who loves being down-to-earth and lives with his family on a farm near Dublin. He takes pride in the fact that he pays his taxes at home and not on an island in the Caribbean. He wants his children to grow up with animals in rural areas. He is rarely seen in a suit. Mostly he shows himself in a wide, unbuttoned checked shirt. His hobbies are horse racing and cattle breeding. But O’Leary does not reveal much of his private life. “We live in silence,” he once told the Financial Times. It is not to be expected that he will waste a thought on retirement at the age of 60. “Anyone who has to live with me would not put any pressure on me to retire,” he once said. (dpa)

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