No wonder Michael O’Leary was skipping along with a big grin on his face when he held a press conference at Shannon airport earlier this week.
For the Ryanair chief executive, the Shannon-Aer Lingus debacle presents a win, win, win situation.
It’s highly unlikely, but let’s suppose there was a division in the cabinet ranks of government if an Aer Lingus EGM is forced. And suppose that the government intervenes on behalf of the people and businesses of Shannon and the mid-west to hold on to the Heathrow slots.
Aer Lingus’s share price would drop, presenting an ideal opportunity to snap up another 1.99 per cent of the airline to bring his stake to the maximum 29.99 per cent allowed.
Secondly, Ryanair has already said it will add another three flights to London from Shannon if Aer Lingus stops flying to Heathrow.
Three Boeing 737s full of passengers per day represents more than 360,000 extra passengers a year for the airline. Even if there’s an average load factor of between 60 and 80 per cent, that’s still 216,000 – 288,000 extra passengers.
Thirdly, always on the lookout for free publicity, O’Leary has offered Aer Lingus two of Ryanair’s planes and pilots during next week’s strike. News reports say that they’ll be used on routes to Heathrow.
You have to hand it to him. Aer Lingus is ceasing flights to Heathrow and screwing thousands of people and businesses in the west of Ireland.
But Michael O’Leary has found a way to get two of his planes on the tarmac at Heathrow.
Heathrow is one end of the busiest air route in Europe (London – Dublin). It is also one end of the most profitable air route in the world (London – New York), and has thousands of premium passengers passing through it every day.
An estimated 60,000 people pass through Heathrow every day. Some of those will see Ryanair’s plane on the tarmac and will no doubt wonder if Ryanair is flying there now.
The irony is that Aer Lingus are paying him full commercial rates for two days to fly one, or perhaps two planes, to and from Heathrow.
It’s better than free publicity for Ryanair. It’s publicity that the airline is being paid for – by one of its competitors, no less.