Welcome to the wonderful world of Michael O’Leary’s cognitive dissonance. Ryanair’s boss has always been a master of squaring circles but this crisis has sent him tumbling down a wormhole into a parallel universe.
Take Ryanair’s annual results. In the year to April, the airline posted profits of €1bn (£900m), an increase of 13pc. Turnover rose 10pc to €8.5bn, traffic was up 4pc to 148.6m passengers, and its planes were 95pc full on average, a 1pc decrease, but still the most efficient in the industry. Meanwhile, it is axing 3,000 jobs and wants staff to accept a 20pc pay cut.
Ryanair ended the year in good financial shape too. Yet despite sitting on an impressive €4bn cash pile that has left it boasting about “one of the strongest” balance sheets “in the industry”, thousands of customers are preparing to storm the cockpit over delayed refunds.
O’Leary also used the results announcement to continue two of his current favourite bug bears: “unprecedented quantums of state aid” being handed to overseas rivals, €30bn in total to Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Alitalia, SAS, Finnair, and Norwegian, by Ryanair’s own calculations; and the Government’s response to the pandemic, chiefly the 14-day quarantine restrictions for international travellers, which he dismissed as “idiotic and un-implementable” – all while simultaneously revealing that Ryanair has been the recipient of a £600m emergency state loan.
And yet, only someone with his chutzpah could emerge from this morass behaving as if he had been dealt some kind of terrible injustice.