James Moore: Michael O’Leary’s mouth is not the biggest problem at Ryanair

Outlook: Life would be boring if he were to turn into an identikit corporate clone

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The Independent Online

After years of bluster, bombast and bravado, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is apparently trying to turn over a new leaf.

We are told, courtesy of a newspaper interview with his outgoing deputy Howard Millar, that he’s going to try to be presidential in future, “a bit like Carolyn McCall”. For those who don’t own the airline bosses Top Trumps set, she runs Ryanair’s great rival EasyJet, with some success of late.

Given the rather fractious relationship between Ryanair’s top executives, Mr Millar’s reference to Ms McCall could easily be seen as a dig at his soon to be ex-boss. Something that might get everyone at Ryanair laughing (except Mr O’Leary).

Of course, we have heard this sort of thing before, albeit shorn of the McCall reference. Mr O’Leary has himself more or less admitted he might be part of Ryanair’s image problem and talked about the need for a change of approach.

But leopard’s don’t change their spots. It’s a racing certainty that Mr O’Leary, who’s about as presidential as an Irish rugby fan celebrating a win over England on a winter’s night in Dublin, will open his mouth and put his foot in it before too long. He won’t be able to help himself.

And if we’re honest, that’s what we all want him to do. He’s like the pantomime villain we love to hate. Life would be boring if he were to turn into an identikit corporate clone who doesn’t utter a word that hasn’t been scrutinised by a battery of PR advisers, branding consultants and media specialists.

As for Ryanair and it’s problems, Mr O’Leary’s mouth is more symptom than cause. Fix the shoddy customer service, the treatment of the customer as an inconvenience, the attitudes that led to a mutiny on flight FR8347 to Portugal earlier this year after an 11-hour delay, and you’ll fix the company’s issues. Then Mr O’Leary would be free to wear as many silly hats, and say as many silly things as he wanted.