O'Leary ignites row with his 'bonding is rubbish' attack on leave for dads
OUTSPOKEN Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has been described as "out of touch" by a leading parenting organisation over his views on paternity leave and the role of fathers in bringing up children.
Mr O'Leary, who described himself as a "Neanderthal" and "certainly not a new man", has spoken of how the idea of paternity leave drives him "mad" and how fathers who take an active role in caring for infants are feigning interest.
The airline boss's views are contained in a wide-ranging interview that covered how people see him as "Jesus, superman or an odious little s**t" and how he sees himself as "soft, cuddly and slightly misunderstood".
He said Ryanair was changing, it had plans to make the website simpler, introduce allocated seating on flights and relax its notoriously strict baggage rules.
He also said passengers who had lost their boarding card "shouldn't have to pay 70 quid at the airport".
However, he maintained: "I have always said that the customers who comply with the rules are always right. They don't moan.
"It's the customer who shows up not having checked in online who is a nightmare."
He admitted that the airline had alienated passengers by "unnecessarily stressing them out and antagonising them" adding "the business needs to evolve".
He told the London 'Times' newspaper he "never tried to be intentionally rude".
According to Mr O'Leary the airline has "liberated people to fly" and it has done "more for European integration than any other company".
Referring to the annual controversy over Ryanair's calendar featuring scantly-clad air hostesses, he said it raised £100,000 (€119,000) for charity and "the cabin crew love it". He denied being sexist, saying that Ryanair has "one of the highest" proportions of female board members.
It was his views on paternity leave and parenting that drew the ire of Cuidiu, the Irish Childbirth Trust.
Mr O'Leary, a father of four, questioned the value of paternity leave, saying that it allows fathers to "skip off for a couple of weeks", adding: "I couldn't wait to get back to work.
"I don't want to be at home with young babies, breastfeeding and changing nappies. This is not my function in life. This bonding stuff is rubbish.
"Men tend to bond with their children when they are walking, talking, following football – then we have something to say to them.
"When they are zero to nine months old, all they are interested in is milk and mammaries – it's useless."
Cuidiu's spokeswoman, Sue Jameson said: "Certainly that is not what we would find in this current generation of dads.
"They want to be hands-on, they actively enjoy parenting and we encourage and support them to do that and to be supportive to their partners."
She said that paternity leave should be encouraged and Mr O'Leary was out of touch with the current generation of fathers who want to know their babies.
Mr O'Leary also questioned why men attend the birth of their children in delivery wards saying they were "entirely bloody irrelevant" to the process.
"I wouldn't necessarily hold that one against him," Ms Jameson said.