In a recent interview with a Dutch newspaper, Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary sat down to discuss the future of his airline. The fastest growing airline in the world still operates out of a tiny office complex in Dublin, with no intention of moving to the kind of slick all-glass towers his competitors fill.
When asked about the crisis in the aviation world, he laughs – “what crisis”. In 2009, the Irish low cost carrier transported 66 million passengers, up from 58 million in 2008. But better yet – they managed to double their profits. In just under 6000 square feet, the airline takes care of their sales, marketing, HR and web site management. Nobody uses email to discuss anything – they believe that getting up out of your chair and walking to the person in question is far more efficient.
In 2009, the average price of a Ryanair ticket was just 28 euros (about $40). Even with those low prices, the airline can make a profit. The key to their success, according to O’Leary, is to use smaller regional airports and to stick to a very simple principle – your ticket get you a seat and nothing else.
Ryanair has often been the source of jokes, mostly started by the airline itself. When they say they’ll add a coin slot to airplane bathrooms, people laugh, but O’Leary is dead serious. In 2010, they plan to remove some of the bathrooms on their planes, giving them room to add more seats. With just one bathroom and a coin slot, ticket prices can once again go down a little.
O’Leary also revealed that he’ll hand over control of his airline to someone else in two or three years. Despite his success, he dislikes the aviation world claiming “profit margins are slimmer than at the local grocery store”.
When asked about his transatlantic plans, he still insists that the airline is serious – it won’t be part of the current Ryanair, but flying a plane full of people from Europe to the US should be possible for around $15 per ticket. Like in Europe, a transatlantic Ryanair would most likely make use of smaller regional airports. If he ever pulls this off, he admits that he’d need to do it in one big blow – lots of planes, lots of destinations. Given how successful O’Leary has proven to be, I don’t think anyone in the aviation world should ever doubt he can succeed.