CONNECT! 2014: Ryanair succeeding through flexibility, says director Cawley

Ryanair showed its ability to respond to market changes when Vueling announced bases at Brussels Zaventem (BRU) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO) by not only announcing bases of its own at the two airports, but by beginning flights before the Spanish airline, according to non-executive director and former COO Michael Cawley (pictured).

For the airline to do that, Cawley admitted that perhaps some of the airports which lost service among the 222 routes dropped this year might not have had cuts in other years. “But we did need to respond to Vueling at BRU and FCO so aircraft needed to be moved,” he confirmed in a one-to-one interview with’s chief analyst Ralph Anker in front of CONNECT! delegates.

Cawley added that services from BRU in particular are going well even though it still operates from Brussels Charleroi Airport. “We’re making out like bandits in BRU and will continue to do so. We could do with lower costs though,” he commented with a dig at the airport’s charges.

Asked how the company recruited when opening new bases, Cawley noted that airline has 45 different nationalities – principally European – on staff. “What we find is that people like to get back to their own countries. For example, the Polish members of the team liked going back when we opened bases there.”

On the latest EU guidelines over airports and state aid, Cawley described them as “quite positive for airlines, not perfect but positive”. Airports, he noted, “don’t like them as much”.

On the airline’s existing competition cases with the EU, Cawley remarked, “We think some might not succeed, but believe we will mainly win as we have good arguments.”

The airline’s fights with the French authorities brought a less favourabel response. “French labour laws won’t change in our favour. They are protectionist on behalf of Air France and are bad for consumers,” Cawley declared.

He noted that police action had been used to close the airline’s Marseille base. “That was in a ‘democratic’ western nation. If it had been in China, there would have been uproar,” he argued.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Marrakech, Morocco

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