RYANAIR’S boss Michael O’Leary is no stranger to controversy.
The 56-year-old, who has been at helm of the budget airline since 1994, has knocked-up his fair share of blunders.
Yesterday he admitted, rather sheepishly, that the cancellation of hundreds of flights, affecting over 400,000 passengers, due to a pilot rota error wasn’t even his biggest error.
The waves of cancellations knocked over £500 million off the airline’s share value, but Mr O’Leary isn’t worried.
He added: “It’s not my biggest cock-up. I have a litany of cock-ups in Ryanair over the past 25 years”.
But Mr O’Leary, we might beg to differ, as there have been some spectaular highlights.
Back in 2004, Ryanair said it would be introducing a 50p per customer fare after it lost a legal battle.
The no-frills carrier was ordered to stop charing disabled customers £18 to use a wheelchair.
In 2010, he promised to bring in a charge for customers £1 every time they needed the loo on a flight.
The charge never materialised but Ryanair has a history of making cost-cutting measures.
Just two years later a spokesman for the airline said that staff are encouraged to watch their weight to help save on aircraft fuel costs.
While in 2011, the European Commission told Irish authorities to enforce a rule which requires internet-based companies to provide an email contact.
Ryanair, the offender in question, simply said that customers could contact them in writing on the phone.
In his own words – Michael O’Leary’s best quotes
RYANAIR’S boss is known for his outspoken, off-the-cuff and often hilarious headline-making quotes. Here are some of the best.
- On passengers who forget to print their boarding passes: “We think they should pay €60 for being so stupid.”
- On why his bride arrived 35 minutes late for their wedding: “She’s coming here with Aer Lingus.”
- On the British Airways/Iberia merger: “It reminds me of two drunks leaning on each other.”
- “All flights are fuelled with Leprechaun wee and my bullshit!”
- “People either see me as Jesus, Superman or an odious little shit. I think I’m Jesus. A prophet in his own time.”
- “Ryanair’s biggest achievement? Bringing low fares to Europe and still lowering ’em. Biggest failure? Hiring me.”
- “I should get the Nobel peace prize – screw Bono.”
- “I’d love to operate aircraft where we take out the back ten rows and put in hand rails. We’d say if you want to stand, it’s five euros. People say ‘Oh but the people standing may get killed if there’s a crash’. Well, with respect, the people sitting down might get killed as well”
- “People say the customer is always right, but you know what – they’re not. Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so.”
- To a Ryanair employee who dared to join a Twitter Q&A: “Get back to work you slacker or you’re fired.”
A spokesperson added: “The process has worked for the past 15-20 years. We aim to reply to letters and correspondence within 7 days of recieving it”.
“If we get an email address, then it will probably slow down the whole process”.
Even with the company’s new customer service mantra, Ryanair is a sore loser.
In April this year it threatened to double the fee for taking a child on a flight after it lost a landmark legal battle over compensation.
In October, customers were told they needed to pay a £6 fee if they want to check-in more than four days in advance of flight.
This means anyone who leaves checking-in until they arrive at the airport must pay a £45 fee.
Just before Christmas, Ryanair announced a new package holiday service with much fan-fare.
But just a few months later the service was quietly pulled.
Earlier this year, Ryanair continued to deny that it had made a change to the way it allocated seats – even when it seated a hen party who booked together in FIFTEEN separate rows.
Eventually the airline admitted it did hold back more popular seats, but only after it was revealed that it had made £15million extra from letting customers choose them.
How you can claim compensation for your flight cancellation
THE thousands of Ryanair customers affected by the cancellations will be able to claim compensation.
If you receive less than seven days’ notice cancellation for a short-haul flight you can claim up to 250 Euros (£220) per person. For medium haul its 400 Euros (£350).
Contact Ryanair directly. The form you need available on its website and make sure you have all your details to hand including your flight number and bank details you booked your flight with.
Don’t bother using a claims management company as they will keep a lot of the compensation you are awarded.
Click here for our full guide on how to claim up to £350 compensation and get a refund from Ryanair if your flight is cancelled.
Next month, passengers will no longer be able to bring two pieces of hand luggage on planes.
Ryanair blamed the change on its popularity with customers.
More recently, O’Leary has been known for tooting the horn on Brexit. He claims that Ryanair will no longer be able to fly between Britain and Europe if a deal isn’t reached.
Even in his personal life, O’Leary has a knack for getting out of a jam.
In 2003, frustrated at being caught in traffic in his native Westmeath, Ireland, the outspoken businessman registered his Mercedes as a taxi, allowing him to avoid the gridlock and zip through the restricted access bus lanes instead.But the latest error may prove his most difficult to fix.
O’Leary claims that the debacle means only 2 per cent of its flights will be cancelled and it estimates that many of those will be rebooked onto alternatives.
But with Ryanair facing a £20 million compensation bill over the cancellations, just how much longer will he stick around?
In 2009, speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, he said he expected to stand down from the budget airline when he was 50 or 51.
Five years past that expiry date, O’Leary is still very much in the thick of the action.