No-frills or spills
Airbus’s landmark deal with EasyJet for up to 240 A320 family aircraft in 2002 was the breakthrough Airbus needed to take the fight to Boeing in the low-cost sector. But Airbus blew an earlier chance to secure the airline’s business, says John Leahy.
“Back in the ’90s we screwed things up with [EasyJet founder] Stelios Haji-Ioannou when he had dinner with me and [Airbus boss] Jean Pierson, and I learned from that. Pierson was not impressed and I didn’t have a good case to argue that Stelios’s EasyJet concept was really going to make it. So we let them drift off to Boeing, almost by default.”
But while Leahy did not let EasyJet slip through his grip again, he adopted a different approach to Ryanair, whom he has never forgiven for wasting his sales team’s time a decade ago. “I am not going to use Airbus resources to help an airline get a better deal out of my competitor,” he says. So when Airbus was not prepared to be played off against Boeing, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary “got the Chinese working on it”, jokes Leahy, referring to the airline’s talks with Comac about its C919 twinjet.