9 Sep 2012


Last call for any passengers not yet sick of O'Leary's boorish rants. . 

Michael O'Leary is on the money. In an outburst that's been likened to Gerald Ratner's ruinous admission that he sold "crap" in his discount jewellery shops, the Ryanair chief executive has described thousands of his customers as "idiots".
O'Leary was specifically referring to airline passengers who turn up at the airport without printed boarding passes but the idiot tag could just as fairly be attached to anyone who travels by air.
We are idiots to stand for the shoddy treatment and bullying attitude meted out by O'Leary and other titans of the avaricious airline industry.
We are idiots to tolerate the miserable experience that a trip to the airport has become.
We are idiots to collude in the fiction that we are getting "cheap" flights when we fork out a nominal fee for a ticket that everyone knows is merely the opening gambit in a bamboozling process of cash-extraction.
Despite O'Leary's eagerness to pose as a blunt-speaker, however, this is not the kind of candour for which he would like to be renowned.
Ryanair  passengers will put up with a lot -- fiendishly hidden baggage charges, a huge mark-up on a bottle of still water -- but few will put up with being called stupid by a tycoon who has built an empire on the back of their custom.
In fairness, O'Leary's reaction to the latest row suggests he is slowly waking up to the fact that, just as aeroplanes can suffer from metal fatigue, there comes a point where the endurance of even the sturdiest customer-base starts to wane.
The controversy began when Suzy McLeod, a mother of two from Berkshire, complained about being hit with €300 in fees when she arrived for a return flight from Spain without printed boarding cards. Ryanair   passengers are expected to check in on line and print out their passes in advance. But because McLeod was on holiday, staying in a rural villa without Internet access, she was unable to comply with this stipulation.
McLeod took to Twitter to recount her dealings with,Ryanair  and her story quickly became an on line phenomenon attracting over 500,000 followers. O'Leary's dismissive and boorish response intensified the uproar.
"Mother pays £200 for being an idiot and failing to comply with her agreement at the time of booking," he said, sarcastically summarising what he felt was a non-story. He also added. "We think Mrs McLeod should pay €60 for being so stupid".
Within days, O'Leary was rowing back, insisting he meant no offence to McLeod. "I was not calling her stupid, but all those passengers are stupid who think we will change our policies or our fees," he insisted. The modest change of what passes for O'Leary's heart suggests that new realities are not entirely lost on him.
Traffic-wise, Ryanair is flying high. The airline carried a record 8.9 million passengers in August, up almost 10pc on the previous month. Its reach is spreading -- but this rapid growth creates new threats. The bigger Ryanair  gets, the more vulnerable it becomes to mass customer revolt.
Given the speed with which tales of corporate heavy-handedness spread via social media, O'Leary is wise to take greater care in how he talks about his passengers.
Even if his language moderates, however, it's unlikely to affect the manner in which his airline treats the travelling public. And, in that case, it's travellers who should reconsider their position.
Before allowing passengers to board a flight, airport security scrutinise every fibre of our person and personal effects, down to our shoes, belts and wallets. Unless airlines introduce a modicum of courtesy and respect into their customer relations, we should demand that they also have our heads examined.
- Liam Fay