Brussels invites Ryanair boss -- but won't pay fare, if it's with Ryanair
Published 01/01/2012 | 08:11
MICHAEL O'Leary was offered free flights by the European Commission to address a conference in Brussels -- but the offer was withdrawn when he told them he would be flying Ryanair.
"We got an email back saying, 'I'm sorry but the Commission can't pay for a Ryanair flight because there is a ban on low-fare flights within the Commission'," revealed the Ryanair boss this week.
But he went anyway and, describing himself as "a Brussels virgin", the millionaire businessman told the conference on innovation that he was offered free flights, a limo and a hotel room.
"You work in the Commission and pay higher prices by law because, let's face it, the European taxpayer is going to pay for it anyway," he said.
"The European Union spends most of its time either suing me, torturing me, criticising me or condemning me for lowering the cost of air travel all over Europe and making life really difficult for their favourite airlines."
He went on to describe Brussels as the "evil empire" -- despite the fact that he was there as a guest of the European Commission.
He told the young entrepreneurs present to "get the hell out of Brussels as quickly as you can or any streak of innovation and intelligence will be beaten out of you by Brussels".
The airline tycoon's attack on the Commission was met with a mixture of laughter and open mouths.
He went on to tell his audience: "Any hint of innovation is left at the door when you walk in to become politicians and bureaucrats.
"A conference on innovation is so important because, if you look at the mess that Europe is in... there's only one way out of it -- and it's not going to be a summit of European politicians.
"It's certainly not going to be a conference held in Brussels, where the last innovative idea came in 1922. Innovation is going to be the way for the European economy to grow, to develop, to create new jobs and that's the way out of the mess we are in."
He told the young entrepreneurs he was nervous that they were brought to Brussels where their "innovative spark might be dulled" by long lunches and sleepy afternoons.
He also made the rare move of speaking about his wife, Anita, when discussing his airline's policy of baggage fares, saying even she was having difficulty keeping within Ryanair's rules for travelling.
Defending the high cost of checking a bag in, he said: "We don't want your money, we just don't want your bloody checked-in bag.
"You need to get into the discipline, unlike my wife, who is incapable of getting into the discipline of travelling with one bag; she needs three."