O’Leary scoffs at climate change

Michael O’Leary may be planning to stand down in a few years, but he’s unlikely to be turning his hand to politics. The outspoken Ryanair boss has waded into the climate change debate in his usual measured way, dismissing it as ‘a middle-class mid-life crisis.’

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

O’Leary was speaking to the Guardian after reporting record profits – 24% higher than last year – and a 20% rise in passenger numbers. So you’d have expected him to be in a good mood. But suggestions that climate change concerns could threaten this progress met with a typically bullish response.

It was ‘complete bloody nonsense’ to target the aviation industry, he told the paper, since it only produces 2% of the world’s emissions. ‘China and India are laughing at us while they build more coal-fired power stations. The European middle classes are having a mid-life crisis and the sooner we wake up and say so the better,’ he continued, suggesting he’s not a big Al Gore fan.

You’re always guaranteed fireworks with O’Leary, whose remarkable career we’ve been following for a long time. (In fact, an MT article five years ago prompted a Penguin book, ‘Michael O’Leary: A Life in Full Flight’ – you can read our review here).

In addition to climate change, O’Leary also found the time yesterday to have a go at BAA, the Civil Aviation Authority and Easyjet. Which is about par for the course by his standards.

Certainly the debate doesn’t seem to be doing Ryanair any harm so far. The low-cost carrier is well on course to meet its target of doubling passenger numbers from 40m last year to 80m in the next five years. It has also enjoyed a big increase in the revenues accrued from extras like drink sales, car hire deals and excess baggage charges, which were up 54%. This meant profits went up, even though fare prices went down.

O’Leary reckons the climate change debate will blow over (so to speak). But our appetite for sprinting across the tarmac for his plane seats and shelling out a fortune on over-priced booze and sandwiches shows no signs of abating.

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