Well, he has a lot more to say, as it turns out.
Interview with Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary
O’Leary just had an interview with Sky News, where he talks about all kinds of topics. This is his first televised interview since the current pandemic started, and as you’d expect, he has quite a bit to say.
First of all, you can watch the interview here, if you’re interested:
I wanted to hit on a few of the highlights:
People don’t understand the refund issue
O’Leary argues that people don’t understand the scale of the refund issue in the airline industry:
- In a normal month Ryanair processes about 10,000 refunds
- In April the airline is dealing with 10 million refunds
- The airline has a quarter of the usual staff working in refunds due to social distancing
- O’Leary claims they have 10,000x the usual refunds right now, but in reality it’s 1,000x the usual refunds
- It’s going to take the airline “many months” to get around to refunding everyone; they’re asking people to reschedule travel rather than get a refund in order to “ease the backlog” (hah)
Governments should pay for middle seats
Ryanair has stated that if middle seats need to be blocked on planes they won’t resume flying. According to O’Leary:
- It delivers nothing in terms of social distancing since you’re still close to others, still have to get to the airport, still have to board and get off the plane, etc.
- If governments want to force airlines to block middle seats then they should pay for them; for most airlines in Europe profit margins are 4-5% and load factors are 85%, so running a 60% load factor isn’t sustainable
- Ryanair plans on requiring passengers to wear face masks and doing temperature checks on passengers
Layoffs could be coming in June
Ryanair has kept almost everyone in employment in April and May (thanks to payroll support schemes), but if the groundings continues into June, the airline will have to look at job losses.
O’Leary hopes that there will be a significant uptick in travel in late June or early July.
O’Leary on state aid OMG
Asked whether Lufthansa should get state aid, O’Leary said:
“Lufthansa is like a crack cocaine junkie looking for state aid. They’re already getting huge payroll support from the Germany government. What do you need more state aid for? We don’t have many other costs at the moment because we’re all grounded. They see this as an opportunity to get one last huge quantity of state aid so they can go around and buy up everyone when this is all over.”
There has been a lot of controversy around Virgin Atlantic’s bailout request, given Branson’s wealth and residency. How does O’Leary feel about that request?
“Virgin Atlantic is ridiculous. This is Branson’s second go at trying to fleece the British taxpayer for state aid. He tried this with Flybe. Now you have Virgin Atlantic, owned by Delta and a Caribbean island based non-resident billionaire. Frankly if he’s worried about Virgin he should write the check himself. It’s not like he’s short of money. Sitting in the Virgin Islands as a tax exile asking the British government to bail you out when you have more than sufficient resources to bail out Virgin Atlantic yourself isn’t something that should be considered.”
I might not always agree with O’Leary, but:
- He’s always outrageously fun and interesting to listen to
- He provides some much needed balance to what we otherwise hear in the industry, both in terms of countering the rhetoric we otherwise hear, and also in terms of approaching problems in a different ways
What do you make of this O’Leary interview?