ATW Editor's Blog

O’Leary’s Mea Culpa

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Who thought we’d ever see the day that Michael O’Leary said sorry?

In seriousness -- and Ryanair’s €25 million ($29.9 million) chaos caused by a crew vacation scheduling error is certainly serious – his company’s  customer relations fiasco is exactly the moment when the guy at the top needs to apologize. Especially when the CEO is someone who has a reputation for no-holds public statements and calling out others on their mistakes (including his own customers).

Ireland-based LCC Ryanair is the butt of many European tabloid headlines. The Mirror:  “The shaming of Ryanair”; Daily Mail: “Flightmare!” And there are plenty of stories of ruined vacations, honeymoons and weddings in jeopardy, and irate passengers who say they have no information on when they will fly.

But to be fair, CEO O’Leary held a press conference, put himself in front of the cameras and apologized unreservedly, describing the situation as “a mess of our own making.” And he claimed responsibility personally, saying he would not resign because “it is my mess-up, and a mess I have to clear up.”

Ryanair is going to have to do a lot more than say sorry, starting with getting its customers where they expected to go and compensating them (Ryanair has just made itself Exhibit A for the European Commission to justify its passenger rights regulations and compensation laws).

But saying sorry, publicly, quickly and unequivocally, is important too. And it appears that when he messes up, O’Leary can be as blunt on himself as he more typically is on others. It's almost worth $30 million to see it.

Karen Walker karen.walker@penton.com

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