Are O’Leary’s long-haul plans a publicity stunt?

It appears that the two Michaels at Ryanair are singing from different hymn sheets when it comes to the prospect of launching a long-haul low-cost carrier.

As exclusively revealed by my colleagues at Flight International, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has detailed his intention to launch a no-frills long-haul airline around the turn of the decade with a fleet of up to 50 Airbus A350s or Boeing 787s.

But speaking at this year’s French Connect conference in La Baule near Nantes, Ryanair deputy chief executive Michael Cawley dismissed the plan disclosed by his boss as a “public relations stunt”, adding that there is “no substance in it for Ryanair”.
This apparent discord between the two Michaels suggests two possible reasons behind O’Leary’s announcement.

Either he is planning to launch his own long-haul low-cost carrier when he leaves Ryanair, or he made the whole thing up to get in the headlines.

Given that O’Leary has publicly said he will step down as Ryanair chief executive in two or three years – which coincidentally brings us to the turn of the decade – perhaps the former is the more likely option. Who knows?

I’ve heard plenty of people in the industry saying that if anyone can pull off the long-haul low-cost model and make it work, O’Leary can.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether there is actually any substance to O’Leary’s long-haul plans, or if it was indeed just a load of hot air designed to get the world’s media talking.

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