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In an interview with the business publication Management Today, Mr O’Leary was on typically bombastic form, describing himself as Europe’s “most underpaid and underappreciated boss”.
“I’m paid about 20 times more than the average employee, and I think the gap should be wider,” he said. “I was paid €1.2m last year for carrying 80 million passengers. Aer Lingus’s boss [Christoph Mueller] got €1.3m for carrying nine million passengers.”
He said he regretted getting a job in the airline industry, and described holidays as “a complete waste of time”.
“I do it because I have a wife and four children who insist that I have to go away every year otherwise they will be traumatised,” he added. “Of course I fly Ryanair, but it costs me a fortune in excess baggage.”
He also revisited the case of Suzy McLeod, who received the support of more than half a million Facebook users earlier this year when Ryanair charged her €300 (£236) to print out five boarding passes before a flight from Alicante to Bristol. There was still no sympathy, however. “Thank you, Mrs McLeod, but it was your ****-up,” he reiterated. “We’re not changing our policy.”
The light-hearted interview followed a difficult few months for the no-frills carrier.
On July 26, three planes bound for Madrid were forced to make emergency landings in Valencia after they drew near to their minimum legal level of fuel. The airline was subsequently accused by unions of putting pressure on flight crews to only carry the minimum amount of fuel required, in order to cut costs, although a report by the Irish Aviation Authority cleared it of any wrongdoing.
The airline was also criticised recently by the consumer watchdog Which? for imposing retrospective charges of up to £7.20 per person on passengers flying from Madrid and Barcelona, following the Spanish government’s decision to raise airport taxes.
Last month a Ryanair advert offering cheap flights to Malmo was ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Agency, while a survey in August by the price comparison website Travelsupermarket.com revealed that its in-flight food and drink is the costliest of any major airline.
Mr O’Leary is renowned for his outspoken views. He has claimed the best thing to do with environmentalists would be to “shoot them”, said the merger of British Airways and Iberia reminded him of “two drunks leaning on each other”, and once opened a press conference to announce the airline’s annual figures by saying: “I’m here with Howard Miller and Michael Cawley, our two deputy chief executives. But they’re presently making love in the gentleman’s toilets, such is their excitement at today’s results.”