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Ryanair’s O’Leary says he’ll pay up after all

After stating, with characteristic defiance, that his airline Ryanair wouldn’t compensate volcano afflicted passengers for any more than their air fares, CEO Michael O’Leary seems to be backtracking, saying he will cough up “reasonable costs.”

The airline initially said that it would flout EU rules and refuse to recompense Ryanair passengers for their extra hotel, food and travel expenses incurred while trying to get home from wherever Ryanair had landed them in the first place, often an airport in a different province from their advertised destination.

This was the polar opposite to holiday firms Thomas Cook and Thomson, which hired a cruise ship to get its customers back to the UK from Bilbao.

As always the airline was, and is, perfectly frank about its stance. The volcano wasn’t its fault, it says, and in any case it simply can’t afford to pay all these extra costs.

This follows years of O’Leary abrasively sticking two fingers up at anyone who annoys him, whether other airlines, consumer groups, financial analysts or governments, so it can’t be a great surprise.

And Ryanair has made a name for itself for its add-on charges for anything from paying a fare by card to extra baggage, cups of tea and of course the planned coin-operated lavatories on every flight. In fact one recent report claimed that Ryanair’s extras have increased by 700 per cent since 2006.

Andy yet Ryanair, the Millwall Football Club of the skies (supporters’ song – ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’) continues to ride the recession better than many other airlines despite the continual flak it receives in the media and online.

Its brand image, cheap prices, is clear and unequivocal, and it’s what the punters want. Enough consumers will go for the cheapest option and if they can get that they’ll put up with any amount of abuse. Pay cattle truck prices and you’ll get treated like, no worse than, cattle. Yet consumers won’t worry about being loved or entering a relationship with the brand or any of the other modern marketing mantras if they can feel the benefits in their wallets.

The nasty brand will be around for some time yet, although maybe not as nasty as it was 24 hours ago.

Although it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for passengers to wring compensation from the Dublin penny pinchers.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.
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