Ryanair boss attacks bishop over sermon on sins of low-fare air travel

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The Independent Online

Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, rounded on the Bishop of London yesterday for saying it was sinful to pollute the planet by jetting away on holiday.

Mr O'Leary said that by urging people to stay at home, Richard Chartres, the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, was hoping more people would fill his empty pews. The head of the no-frills airline said: "No wonder his attendances are well down. If people stayed at home there would be a 20 per cent unemployment rate in the tourist industry.

"The Bishop of London has got empty churches - presumably if no one went on holiday perhaps they might turn up and listen to his sermons. God bless the bishop. The bishops have got their own crosses to bear. Goodness knows what he would know about greenhouse gases. He was obviously at some dinner party with the chatterati."

The bishop said at the weekend that people needed to "tread more lightly on the earth" and alter their lifestyles.

"Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin. Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions," the bishop had said.

At a press conference in London yesterday, Mr O'Leary said newspapers were primarily responsible for creating the furore over aviation's contribution to global warming. "It's July, the press have nothing to write about. The Prime Minister's on holiday, the World Cup is over, Zidane has retired - I know, let's write about the impact of aviation on the environment." He denounced such articles as "clichéd horseshit".

Mr O'Leary claimed that 4 per cent of global warming was caused by aviation compared with 25 per cent caused by animals. "So if we want to do something about global warming, should we be shooting the animals?"

He said "idiot politicians" were intent on slapping taxes on air travel, but governments had been "taxing the shit" out of motoring for 50 years and it had had no impact. He argued that aviation was only the seventh largest contributor to atmospheric pollution. The best way of tackling the problem was to tax airlines with older, dirtier planes. "They should do what Ryanair does. Get rid of gas-guzzling aircraft," he said.

In defiance of the bishop and green activists, he announced that Ryanair would be flying two new routes to Morocco and revealed he was looking to further expansion in North Africa, the old Yugoslavian countries and former Russian states.