Pass him on the street and you wouldn’t look twice – a normal looking middle-aged bloke with an opened necked shirt, chunky black shoes and greying hair.
But Michael O’Leary is exceptional. Quite unlike any chief executive in any industry, let alone aviation. Take this week’s Ryanair press conference in London.
The topic: Ryanair blasts fuel surcharges of network carriers. A well worn drum for O’Leary.
The start is 10.30. Nobody there except a goodly crew of scribes and a projector. At 10.45 in rushes the middle-aged bloke, apologising profusely to the audience for being late. Something about delays at Dublin (he flew Aer Lingus as his own airline was full) and Gatwick and the tube.
He grabs a plastic packet and says he’ll be back in minute. The PR guy meanwhile tries to get the laptop up and running. O’Leary returns with a T-shirt brandishing the words Aer Lingus and BA fuel surcharge: 1 million free seats on Ryanair.
The laptop isn’t working – is O’Leary going to lambast his PR? No, he’s got a reprieve as O’Leary is personally handing out the presentations. He jokes that we should pay for them.
Ah, the computer is working, and without a pause O’Leary sets off on a 15 minute, high-octane, machine-gun blast at anyone who needs a good kicking around the industry.
* CAA failure – (regulator) Harry Bush must go (incompetent)
* BAA monopoly – must sell Gatwick and Stansted
* NATS – staff shortages
* Ban screen-scrapers – “scam artists”
And this is just a taster. O’Leary then answers questions on any topic (including possible long-haul low-fare opportunities) for a good 45 minutes until we are exhausted – he’s ready for more of course and strides out to do some TV.
It is an admirable performance.