Is Michael O’Leary a sinner come to repentance? For years, Ryanair seemed to delight in being vile to ­customers. Cheap fares, an extensive network, modern (if frill-free) aircraft and punctual service kept punters rolling in. But few would have professed any kind of warm feelings to Europe’s biggest short-haul airline.

Passengers were barred or fined for carry-on baggage that was too big, or forgetting to print a boarding pass. The media gleefully reported tales of disabled travellers charged for wheelchairs or harrassed holidaymakers in tears after being unable to fly home.

Ryanair has been softening its hard edge and nudging towards the market that its rival EasyJet has tapped: thrifty professional flyers happy to pay for flexibility and access to large airports. These passengers do not want to be treated like naughty children.

But the colourful chief executive’s Mr Nice Guy ­conversion should be viewed with scepticism. O’Leary is, above all, a top businessman who turned Ryanair from Irish minnow to European behemoth. He knows ­Ryanair’s new image is right for a new marketplace.

And O’Leary says he has done aviation a favour. By being uncompromising with customer service, the ­airline has made passengers more resilient. Fewer turn up late at airports these days, or overpack or fail to complete check-in procedures. One of Ryanair’s key contributions to aviation has been to sharpen us up.

Source: Flight International