Ryanair Threatens to Ground Flights and ‘Prove’ Brexit Voters Wrong, ‘No More Cheap Holidays’

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary attends a press conference of Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, on March 6, 2018, in Brussels. / AFP PHOTO / BELGA AND Belga / ERIC LALMAND (Photo credit should read ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)
ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty

The boss of Irish airline Ryanair attempted to wield corporate power to influence British politics Tuesday, threatening to ground flights to make voters “rethink” Brexit and prove that “everything will fundamentally change” when the UK leaves the bloc.

Michael O’Leary (pictured), the chief executive of Europe’s biggest airline, said he wanted to make the British think they were “no longer going to have cheap holidays” outside the European Union (EU), Travel Weekly reports, going out of his way to punish Brits for voting against his wishes.

The Irishman was seemingly backed by the boss of German carrier Lufthansa, who said it was a “good idea” to “use the industry” to “prove” British voters were wrong.

The bullying tactics are by no means out of character for O’Leary, who has long run his business on the principle of there being no such thing as bad publicity, calling his customers “stupid”, and saying of Germans they would “crawl bollock-naked over broken glass” to get cheap airline fares.

On his role in forcing a new Europe, O’Leary said in 2011: “Ryanair is responsible for the integration of Europe by bringing lots of different cultures to the beaches of Spain, Greece and Italy, where they couple and copulate in the interests of pan-European peace.”

Speaking to an audience of airline leaders in Brussels this week, Mr. O’Leary said: “I think it’s in our interests – not for a long period of time – that the aircraft are grounded.

“It’s only when you get to that stage where you’re going to persuade the average British voter that you were lied to in the entire Brexit debate.

“You were promised you could leave the EU and everything would stay the same. The reality is you can leave the EU, yes that’s your choice, but everything will fundamentally change.”

Ryanair’s business has performed relatively well since the Brexit vote, defying pro-EU campaigners who pushed “project fear” and insisted there would be economic turmoil.

However, Mr. O’Leary boasted Tuesday that there could be a “real crisis” as flights between the UK and Europe are disrupted after Britain divorces from the EU.

He added: “When you begin to realise that you’re no longer going to have cheap holidays in Portugal or Spain or Italy, you’ve got to drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland as your only holiday options, maybe we’ll begin to rethink the whole Brexit debate.

“They were misled and I think we have to create an opportunity.”

Yet O’Leary’s insistence on forcing Brits into taking his point of view by deliberately withholding his business from them may backfire. In 2017, it was revealed that three quarters of UK adults were planning a ‘staycation’ — a holiday within Britain not generally needing a budget flight — and this figure was up some 70 per cent over the previous year.

Ryanair’s budget flight competitor was also on hand at Tuesday’s meeting to take advantage of O’Leary’s political posturing. Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of EasyJet, was on stage and interrupted the Ryanair boss to slap him down. “If you start grounding your planes, I’m flying,” he said.

However, Carsten Spohr, the boss of German carrier Lufthansa, appeared to side with Mr. O’Leary. “In theory, if we could use this industry to prove to the British how wrong the decision was, that might be a good thing,” he said.

.