Ryanair takes Sarkozy fine sur le menton

Ryanair's so pleased with its Sarkozy ad that it's offered to pay double the damages it's incurred...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A French court ruled in favour of President Sarkozy and his lady-friend (is it wife now? we can’t keep up) Carla Bruni, who sued Ryanair for damages over an advert featuring the pair apparently endorsing the airline’s low fares. Ryanair has been ordered to pay out €60,000 in damages to Carla and a symbolic €1 to Monsieur Le President.

However, for a company that could never be accused of lacking the appetite for a fight, Ryanair appears to be remarkably cheerful about the fine. In fact, it’s even offered to pay an extra €60,000 to a charity of the President’s choice. Barely able to contain his glee, a Ryanair spokesman said it had made the offer ‘in the light of the extraordinary worldwide publicity generated by this single advert’. In other words, the wealth of free PR has more than covered the cost of the fine.

Of course, it might just be trying to make the best of a bad job – after all, it’s trying to grow its business in France, so it can’t afford to make an enemy of the country’s most powerful man (and woman, arguably). ‘We look forward to continuing to grow Ryanair’s low fare services in France, where today Ryanair serves 23 French airports, carrying 6 million tourists each year on our guaranteed lowest air fares with a guarantee of no fuel surcharges today, tomorrow or ever,’ it crawled on Tuesday.

But we reckon that Ryanair’s probably delighted with the way things have worked out. It seems a bit unlikely that it didn’t realise the legal risks – our guess is that it decided to roll the dice, gambling (quite rightly) that the free publicity would more than offset any penalties. After all, it’s got much more coverage from the ensuing furore than it would have done by any conventional method. What’s more, it now gets to look magnanimous by offering to pay double the fine.

So it’ll be high-fives all round in the Ryanair marketing department...

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