Newsmaker: Frank Jensen, Copenhagen Mayor
Published 25/05/2015 | 02:30
He's the unlikely latest nemesis for Michael O'Leary, but Frank Jensen could be as big a thorn in Ryanair's side as rival airlines or European politicians. In a plot twist worthy of a Nordic noir serial, Copenhagen's Lord Mayor last week dented Ryanair's plans to make a killing with its new base in the Danish capital.
Mr Jensen, a Social Democrat who has been the city's boss for five years, banned his staff from flying with Ryanair on official trips, even if it means paying more on Scandinavian airline SAS. Copenhagen has 45,000 municipal workers, so that's a major potential earner. Mr Jensen told the 'Berlinske' newspaper: "We require all of those who deliver services to the municipality, including those who would sell us plane tickets, to offer their employees proper salaries and working conditions."
On his Facebook page, he described Ryanair's practices as "social dumping".
Ryanair responded by tweeting a picture of Mr Jensen's face superimposed on Marie-Antoinette's body, with the slogan: "Let them eat cake!" and "Let them pay high fares!" The airline has a long history of striving to avoid what it sees as onerous labour laws by employing crew on contracts written under Irish law. The Danish trades union movement is seeking to have this practice overturned, with a case set for next month.
Ryanair, the biggest budget carrier in Europe, set up a base in Copenhagen this year. It had previously offered flights to the city, though rather than landing in the Danish capital they touched down at Malmo in Sweden - on the other side of the bridge between the two nations.
Copenhagen is already experiencing strong low-cost competition, with rival airlines Norwegian and easyJet taking on SAS. Aviation consultant John Strickland said: "Like Marie Antoinette, it might have revolutionary consequences for the mayor. Ryanair can play the hand of democratising air travel and assisting public bodies to show they are cutting their travel budgets."
A spokeswoman for Ryanair said: "Ryanair's pilots and cabin crew enjoy high pay, job security and already have a collective agreement with Ryanair. We are also surprised at [the Lord Mayor's] boycott call when all Ryanair flights in Copenhagen are handled by workers who are represented by Danish unions.
"SAS is cutting flights, closing routes, cutting pensions, cutting pay and cutting jobs. Which model does Mayor Jensen prefer to support? SAS's jobs cuts, pension cuts and pay cuts or Ryanair's growth?"
A keen weekend runner, Mr Jensen may have a soft spot for the underdog - being a lifelong Liverpool football fan.
He's also keen on Netflix's 'House of Cards', and like its White House characters, he'd better be prepared for more bruising battles in the future.