Ryanair boss to Sir Stelios: I'm sorry we called you a liar

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The Independent Online

The famously rambunctious Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, apologised to Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou yesterday for advertisements portraying the easyJet founder as "Mr Late Again" with a Pinocchio nose.

The Irish budget airline settled Sir Stelios's libel claim out of court, issuing a formal apology, published as an advertisement in two national newspapers, and paying £50,100 in damages as well as undisclosed legal fees.

The offending Ryanair advertisement implied that Sir Stelios lied about easyJet's punctuality because the company had stopped publishing weekly details about its performance on meeting its schedule.

When Sir Stelios launched his legal suit in February, Mr O'Leary's typically boisterous response was to challenge him to settle the matter either by sumo wrestling or racing around London's Trafalgar Square.

But Ryanair was forced to backtrack yesterday, admitting that Sir Stelios was not involved in the decision to stop publishing the statistics.

"We are happy to apologise to Stelios for including his photograph and referring to him personally in the advert about easyJet's missing weekly punctuality stats," Mr O'Leary said. "Since he was not responsible for easyJet's decision to stop publishing these on-time statistics, I think it is only fair and reasonable that we say 'sorry' and pay him damages and his legal costs, rather than waste court time on this issue."

But Ryanair repeated its claim that easyJet had stopped publishing the statistics because it wants to "hide poor punctuality".