Sunday 24 September 2017

Peace in our time with DAA as Ryanair declares war on Germany

Kevin Toland laughs as Kenny Jacobs and David O’Brien go Bavarian launching a new Munich service
Kevin Toland laughs as Kenny Jacobs and David O’Brien go Bavarian launching a new Munich service
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Ryanair and the Dublin Airport Authority ­- a bit like McGregor versus Mayweather, with a few slapdowns over the years that would make UFC slugger Conor wince.

So it felt like the aftermath of the recent bout in Vegas - all hugs and mutual respect - as the Irish airline bade a fond farewell to DAA boss Kevin Toland, who's off to pastures new.

Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, chief commercial officer David O'Brien and the new boss of Aryzta traded lines of praise, not punches, all on the one table.

All that was missing was the manly group hug.

Toland didn't even dismiss Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's claims he could succeed him and carry out his DAA CEO role, part-time, for nothing. "I think he'd do a terrific job," Toland confessed.

As the Irish airline launched its summer schedule - with a big emphasis on Germany, a country Jacobs says is "becoming the banana republic" of aviation - Toland was straight out of his corner, throwing plaudits his way. "Ryanair in Dublin now goes to 90 destinations, which is the same as Heathrow on the short-haul side," said Toland.

O'Brien wasn't going to be left out of the bout of bonhomie, saying Dublin has been a "tremendous success under Kevin's tenure - punching well above its weight". Indeed, he added that it's got more passengers (just shy of 30 million a year) than sun destination Athens (20 million), while Ryanair alone will carry more passengers at Dublin than Prague does in its entirety.

While O'Brien was pulling Ryanair's punches away from the DAA, it has a new target in its sights - Germany - and the airline is still seething over what it sees as a 'stitch up' over the future of insolvent Air Berlin's assets. Jacobs doesn't see why Irish passengers, and others, have to frequently connect with large cities via Lufthansa's two chosen gateways: "Why do I have to fly through Frankfurt or Munich to get to anywhere?" he asked. "You have a city like Berlin, with two airports with 33 million capacity between those two airports, which is going to one airport - whenever that opens - which will have 27 million capacity. And the mayor of that city thinks that's a great thing and that Ryanair shouldn't have an opinion on this."

"Less than Dublin," piped up O'Brien.

"Yes, less than Dublin," echoed Jacobs.

But old habits do die hard, and it was round whatever as the Ryanair duo turned back to Ireland. "Dublin Airport will never do enough for us. That's our official and immutable position," O'Brien argued, holding back a smile.

"A consistent position," Toland agreed.

And they're still split over whether the new airport runway should cost €240m or €320m. No prizes for guessing who wants the cheaper option. But still they're on the same page about one thing: it has to happen sooner rather than later.

Toland left his new Ryanair buddies with the promise that with its great connectivity, he'll be making good use of the airline's network when he starts work in Switzerland with Aryzta.

Still, given that his predecessor earned a multi-million salary in the Swiss role, on-board scratch cards and low fares shouldn't be a pressing priority.

n Of interest to the Irish corporate traveller is Ryanair's stance on onboard connectivity: it's not going to follow Lufthansa and IAG down that road, at least for now.

"We're absolutely not going to look at it, and we've looked at it again just recently to make sure we've made the right decision," Jacobs told this column at the conference. "And it's the right decision because, it's still fairly a patchy service, it's very very expensive to install, it gives you drag on your aircraft, and that increases your fuel bill, and if you take it that our average flight is 90 minutes you can't use it for 15 minutes [his hands go up for take-off] for 15 [and back down].

"We asked our customers would you like that or coat racks on the back of your seat and they said coat racks. We will be very fast followers once the technology is there, but the technology isn't there."

Also of interest are the talks with Aer Lingus and Norwegian about feeding its short-haul passengers onto long-haul services.

"It's technically like treacle - it's really really slow," said David O'Brien. "I'd be disappointed if there's nothing by the end of this year functioning, but equally it may not be."

But he said that Aer Lingus and Norwegian "definitely want to do it". Meanwhile Jacobs added, in a bout of realpolitik: "We're giving Germany a hard time today, but at some in point in time do we want to be feeding the long-haul operations of Lufthansa? Absolutely. And every other airline in Europe."

Toland added that Dublin Airport will have a new remote gate facility, south of pier 4 in Terminal 2, opening later this year, alleviating some of the pressure on arrivals at passport control.

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