The cuddlier side of Ryanair's Michael O'Leary

Yes, you read that right. The combative Ryanair boss has pleasantly surprised MT this afternoon...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
It's fair to say that Michael O'Leary is not renowned for his impeccable manners; the Ryanair chief is renowned as the master of the controversial soundbite, and is rarely shy to give a forceful opinion on any subject (particularly his bete noire, regulators). So it was with some surprise that we opened a letter from him here at MT Towers this afternoon - to discover one of the politest missives we've ever received. Has the Ryanair boss undergone a Damascene conversion? Or was he just misunderstood all along?

Let us explain: towards the end of last year, we wrote to Ryanair to say that it been voted by its peers into second place in the Quality of Management category in our Britain's Most Admired Companies awards; it also was the second most admired company in its sector (behind Stagecoach). The airline wasn't able to send anyone to our shindig in December, but today a letter arrived from its HQ in Dublin, signed by O'Leary himself. 'While we don't have much time for awards,' he began (unpromisingly), 'I would like to thank you and the editorial team of MT for recognising Ryanair's achievements in your awards ceremony'. He went on to wish us all the best for 2011, before signing off.

Regular readers will know that we have had occasion in the past to take issue with some of O'Leary's public pronouncements, and his/ Ryanair's 'unique' approach to the concept of customer service. So we were, it must be said, a little surprised to receive such a courteous response (especially since some companies don't bother replying at all).

But perhaps we were just looking at it the wrong way. After all, when O'Leary speaks to the press, it's usually with the intention of promoting Ryanair, or undermining its rivals, or furthering his cause with regulators or governments. But that doesn't mean that he can't be polite, charming and perfectly reasonable at a personal level. After all, if Ryanair's corporate peers are so admiring of the airline's quality of management, he must be doing something right.

Anyway, we'll leave you to make up your own minds about O'Leary. But we thought this provided an interesting alternative perspective...

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