Has Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary had a sincerity by-pass? That's a thought that springs to mind as we are forced to watch his latest publicity stunt surrounding the Shannon debacle.
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told a press conference in Shannon that the company would be willing, if requested by the
Government, to use its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus to retain Shannon- Heathrow link. Mr O'Leary said alternatively the Government could ask Ryanair to abstain from voting. This would give the Irish Government and the Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) staff grouping , which has a 12.5% stake in Aer Lingus, a majority at the EGM.That could allow them to save the Shannon-Heathrow services.Mr O'Leary claimed that all that was now needed to save the Aer Lingus Heathrow flights was for the Government to vote in favour of the motion at the EGM.
Here is Michael's latest supposed persona, just a guy who is 'concerned' to see Aer Lingus giving up a profitable Heathrow slots from Shannon , and who will apparently in a thoroughly publicly spirited manner ally with his sworn enemies of government and trade unions to 'persuade' Aer Lingus to reverse their decision to switch their Shannon slots to Belfast. Sorry Michael, it appears that you once again must think we are all pig ignorant lame brains, and thats where your 'cunning plan' goes wrong. Its obvious that the Michael O'Leary we all know and loath could'nt give a flying scratch card for the Shannon and mid-West region or the interests of Aer Lingus.
So what are Michael O'Leary's motives in making this 'magic wand' offer? On the sad personal psychological front Michael just likes to be seen as 'clever' and a people's champion all at once, this is largely due to his resoundingly hollow personality, which needs to be filled up with some sort of attention which he lovingly believes to be adulation and approval.
Another aspect is that he is in a permanent state of raw indignation with Government's who refuse to allow him to do what he wants, the Irish government's latest outrage against his plans for the world, is that they and the equally loathed European Commission wondered whether Ryanair taking over Aer Lingus would be a good thing for competition.
So he is out to embarrass the Irish government in a retaliatory counter-blow , he wants them to squirm as he shows what nasties Berties mob really are.
O’Leary’s sincerity around his 'offer' is best demonstrated by the fact that his letters proposing the move are wrapped up in his usual shrill invective, accusing the Irish government and Martin Cullen in particular of lying, for using the claim that a Ryanair-owned Aer Lingus would dump Shannon-Heathrow to argue against their Aer Lingus bid, to the European Commission (which also thwarted it).
Other more rational business motives could be that Ryanair just want Aer Lingus out of Aldergrove (Belfast) to keep its Belfast London routes more lucrative? Perhaps Aer Lingus in turn are looking for an all-Ireland monopoly on connections to long-haul flights, a business that Ryanair has little interest, in at the moment. Furthermore it seems that the conditions of service for Aer Lingus flight crews transferred to Belfast fall far below the contracts once in operation in Shannon, hence the proposed strike action next week, Are Aer Lingus now out-Ryaning Ryanair in terms of staff conditions of service ? Lastly was it really envisaged when Aer Lingus got its Heathrow slots as the Republic of Ireland’s flag carrier, that these could be transferred outside the Republic of Ireland?
This whole sorry state of affairs arises directly as a consequence of privatisation, when the government surrenders control of a crucial infrastructural component, then the consequence is that the newly 'liberated' free market player acts in a way which damages the regional economy of the Shannon-Mid West Region. The free market does not always generate the most rational or optimal outcome, and government's should retain a strategic veto at the very least when such decisions have consequences for a vulnerable regional economy. Shannon and the mid-west is heavily dependent on inward investment from US and European multinationals, for which ready access to long-haul flights is essential. Furthermore a narrowing of access to the region from Heathrow will have negative impact on this uniquely beautiful regions appeal as a high value-added transcontinental tourism destination.
It is ironic that the most enthusiastic free-marketeer in the airline industry, is now proposing to thwart Aer Lingus in its market driven abandonment of Shannon, which is why Michael O'Leary's public posturing is so transparently bogus.