Ryanair is an airline which believes that any publicity raises the profile of the carrier and ensures it is in the (travelling) public”s eye. There are other operators whose rationale is to keep their operations top secret (although they may even employ public relations people). The covert airlines often struggle. Good or bad news the Dublin-based airline is still prosperous.
Over the last week or so Ryanair has continuously been seen and heard, essentially for three reasons.
Tradition is something that the airline family (and its staff) view with great importance. Others call it baggage. Tradition has it that when the infirm, very elderly and unaccompanied young people arrive at an airport the airline takes over and looks after them. When fares were high and labour costs cheap that was something that the airlines coped with in their stride. Times have changed. The airlines are in a vicious price war and costs have escalated at a prodigious rate. The question of who pays for a wheelchair passenger has arisen. Ryanair says why should it be them. It is an airport responsibility (or even central government). After all, the airport provides the means of access to the aircraft, not the carrier. ABTN believes that Judge Crawford Lindsay, sitting in the Central London County Court, was wrong when he awarded Mr Bob Ross nearly ”1,500 in compensation for the ”36 charged by Ryanair at Stansted for a journey through the terminal. Ryanair are appealing. The case sets a dangerous precedent not only for Ryanair but for every carrier. The Disability Rights Commission needs to review its thinking. The airport provides lifts for passengers who cannot use the stairs. Why not chairs for those who find the walking too much? There are many other examples of where the disabled are helped by the property operator. Is this discrimination against airlines?
(One point against Ryanair. Michael O”Leary, the airline”s chief executive, has made a fool of himself and reduced any help he may have secured from serious carriers by stating he is going to charge every customer 50p to cover the costs. Seven million pounds to balance the BAA ”18 per wheelchair passage does seem somewhat high!)
Charleroi in Belgium was a small regional airport trying to meet its requirements to support the local economy. Along came Ryanair with a suggestion that if the owner, the Wallonia regional government, would come in with assistance (financial) Ryanair would bring in the business. It worked, two million passengers out of nothing! The airport was not the first to offer subsidises, nor will it be the last. Any airline director can go to a target airport and ask for help for a new route, covert or direct. Besides the airport the funding can come from a variety of sources. Plenty of French regional airports have had EU badges attached where major improvements have been at least part paid for by Brussels. What is wrong with the Charleroi judgement is that it seems to offer no future transparency and is biased towards so-called private airfields. And why was not the Wallonia regional government fined too? After all they offered the subsidy (or as one commentator put it - a bribe). It happens worldwide. The city of Melbourne has even sponsored sporting events which spreads the name and encouraged tourism. A way of advertising globally. Does this mean they are not allowed to do it any longer? Has the EU influence down-under?
Our third comment regarding Ryanair is the share price which now (Friday evening) stands at ”5.25, as against a high of ”7.50. The Irish always like to gamble and Ryanair shares epitomise this national hobby. The shares are purely for speculation. Investors get no dividends or even benefits. Even BAA shareholders get something twice a year and special prices when visiting the airside shops. The only people to benefit from Ryanair shares are the original shareholders (who may or may not have put in money) and those who were able to invest at a lesser price than now offered on the London, Dublin and New York stock exchanges.
As they used to say on TV many years ago ”Oh what a week that was”. Well it was last week if your interest is air transport. The EU demonstrated that it is completely out of touch with free enterprise and the airlines. Firstly Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio fostered upon the airlines unworkable legislation forcing European airlines to pay increased compensation to any passenger they ”bumped”. And now we have the Charleroi ruling, once again seemingly offering an unworkable solution. When airline economists try to work out the direct operating costs of an aircraft they should now include an extra item ” lawyers” fees per hour.