Last updated: 01:55 PM ET, Fri March 20 2015

Ryanair CEO: “We @!&%$ed up”

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | March 20, 2015

Ryanair CEO: “We @!&%$ed up”

After the jaw-dropping come the questions – how and why?

Ryanair on Thursday abruptly reversed course on plans to develop trans-Atlantic flights, just days after saying it would do so. The Board of Directors for the low-cost European carrier refuted its own company, issuing the following statement to the stock exchange:

"In the light of recent press coverage, the Board of Ryanair Holdings plc wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so."

That came on the heels of this company statement earlier in the week:

“We are talking to manufacturers about long-haul aircraft but cannot comment further on this. European consumers want lower cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market.”

It was an embarrassing and humiliating turn of events, prompting Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary to tell the Irish Independent that the airline “@!&%$ed up.” Ireland’s second-biggest company had a “miscommunication,” O’Leary said.

That’s a vague answer as to "how" this might have happened. Clearly it was an enormous blunder on the part of Ryanair’s public relations/media relations department. At worst, it was patently false to say the airline was looking at trans-Atlantic flights. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as O’Leary has openly talked about expanding Europe’s biggest low-budget carrier with trans-Atlantic flights to the U.S. but doing so with a new, sister airline and not with the brand Ryanair.

In fact, the Financial Times reported that "O'Leary said that nobody had been around at Ryanair on Tuesday to retract the company statement issued to the (Financial Times) because it was St Patrick's Day. On Wednesday and Thursday he had been travelling and it was not until Thursday morning when he had a quarterly board meeting in Milan that the subject arose."

At best, this seems to be an instance of premature speculation or exaggeration – an executive gone amok by taking O’Leary’s past public comments as gospel and running with them.

As for the "why" of issuing the retraction, one possible theory is that Ryanair is a publicly traded company and the airline could have run afoul of regulators by announcing such a grandiose plan that could have unduly influenced its stock price.


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