Business Irish

Friday 22 September 2017

Ryanair boss: 'The Heathrow slots are now largely irrelevant... Most people I know try to avoid dreadful Heathrow'

'The country has many things to discuss other than the future of a small, regional airline,' Michael O'Leary says

Geraldine Gittens

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has said the hot debate over Aer Lingus and the Heathrow slot is “now largely irrelevant” since passengers frequently try to avoid the London airport.

He lashed out over what he says is “hyperbole” in conversations surrounding IAG’s latest bid for the Irish airline.

“A lot of hyperbole goes on about Aer Lingus and the slot at Heathrow”

“Most people I know try to avoid Heathrow for connecting traffic. It's a dreadful place.”

“The Heathrow slots are now largely irrelevant... more Irish passengers choose to use other airports rather than Heathrow.”

 “I think there needs to be a little bit more common sense by the government and the commentariat on this issue.”

“The country has many things to discuss other than the future of a small, regional airline,” he added.

Mr O’Leary told Newstalk’s Breakfast today he thinks Aer Lingus would be “better owned by an Irish group”, but he said he’s “tried [to bid] three times but has been turned down”.

As a 30pc shareholder in Aer Lingus, Ryanair's boss said he was taking the view that “no formal offer has been tabled” by IAG for Aer Lingus.

“It’s open to us to consider a fourth bid,” he told Newstalk’s Ivan Yates.

He added that he hasn’t spoken to IAG boss Willie Walsh since the latest bid was made.

“They haven’t made an approach to us; I think it’s quite clear they’re trying to convince the Aer Lingus board and the Irish government.”

“The government as a 25pc shareholder is free to make its own decisions.” However, he added: “Aer Lingus will be better owned by an Irish group.”

He added: “It doesn’t matter because Ryanair is ten times bigger than Aer Lingus, and we’re going to become 17 times more bigger than Aer Lingus.”

Ryanair today reported a profit of €49m in the three months to the end of December, up €84m from a loss of €35m in the same period last year.

Mr O’Leary said Ryanair’s new focus on a better customer experience is working.

“Ryanair being nice to people has worked like a dream”

“The new strategy that we rolled out a few months ago, getting better and significantly improving the customer experience of Ryanair while still maintaining our low prices [is working].”

“Ryanair’s growth in a year has been more than Aer Lingus’ traffic.”

Meanwhile, he said Ryanair’s plans for low-cost long-haul flights to the US will be put on hold since the airline is struggling to access a suitable fleet of planes.

"We’d like to but we’re struggling to find a fleet of long haul, low cost aircraft."

"We’ll have to put that plan on hold for the moment."

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