Brutally honest Ryanair CEO says: “go away” to demanding passengers

The New York Times recently sat down with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary for what turned out to be a brutally honest interview.

The essence of his interview was simple – Ryanair will get you to your destination for a very low fare, on time, with few cancellations and few lost bags. Mr O’Leary was very clear about providing anything other than the most basic of services – anyone expecting or demanding more can “go away”.

The airline never grants refunds, has a zero tolerance policy for excess baggage and does not allow for rebookings or changes to unused tickets, no matter what kind of sob story you tell them.

The result of all this thriftiness is quite amazing – the average ticket price on their entire route network is just $56. In his interview, Mr. O’Leary really does paint an honest picture of how his airline operates – from a ban on highlighters and post-it notes in his offices, to his total lack of patience for email. The entire airline runs like a well oiled machine, albeit one very basic machine.

When Mr. O’Leary issues press releases about paid bathrooms, or a fat tax, everyone laughs. But at the same time, they are very well aware that he could be serious. When Ryanair speaks – the press listens, because at the end of the day, Ryanair is one of just a handful of airlines still making money.

Sure, there are always going to be people who’d rather be shot than step on board one of his planes (I’m one of them). But given his success in recent years, there are probably more people who’d rather pay $10 for a plane ticket and deal with the lack of stuff frequent fliers think they can’t do without.

If anything, the biggest thing to come out of Ryanair is forcing the European legacy carriers to pay close attention, and copy parts of his business model. It is quite obvious that behind the rude and obnoxious exterior lies a brilliant businessman who is changing the aviation world one “go away” at a time.