Leading article: Head in the ash cloud

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The Independent Online

Ryanair passengers are wearily resigned to being at war with the airline's owner, Michael O'Leary. They know that their cheap seats come at an ever-rising cost to their dignity and comfort.

In April last year, Mr O'Leary played true to form, refusing to pay the hotel and food costs of passengers grounded by Iceland's volcanic ash cloud until he was browbeaten into doing so. But when he rounded on the authorities and claimed that European airspace should not have been closed "because there was no ash cloud", there was something of a truce: he and his passengers had found a common enemy.

Yesterday, as another plume rose from Mount Eyjafjöll, the businessman was at it again, disparaging the "bureaucrats" and inveighing against a ban on flying.

"If you see a big volcanic cloud you don't fly into it," said the voice of reason. Last month, however, researchers at the University of Copenhagen revealed that the particles of volcanic ash ejected by the volcano last year could indeed have brought down aircraft. The decision to close airspace, they concluded, was the right one.

Mr O'Leary has always vaunted Ryanair's safety record. It is regrettable to see him willing to risk even that for ever greater profits.