After more than two decades at the head of Ireland-based LCC Ryanair, Michael O’Leary has exchanged his role as CEO of the airline for a similar position at parent company Ryanair Holdings.

O’Leary is one of the few airline chief executives whose name and face became inextricably linked with the company he headed. His pugnacious management style, which for many years involved publicly castigating passengers who had fallen foul of the airline’s strict regulations of carriage, made him well-known beyond the bounds of the aviation sector.

Despite innumerable passengers swearing they would never fly with Ryanair again after brushes with regulations, such as failing to have pre-printed their boarding cards or having overweight baggage, the Irish LCC experienced an inexorable rise through the late 1990s and the 2000s.

However, when a new, softer, approach to customer relations was introduced some five years ago and passengers started to flock in even greater numbers to the airline, O’Leary memorably said that if he had known being nice to people was so profitable, he would have adopted the tactic years previously.

In O’Leary’s new role as Group CEO, which formally began Sept. 2, he will oversee the several airlines that have gradually accrued under Ryanair Holdings, such as LaudaMotion (Austria), Buzz (Poland) and Malta Air.

His position as CEO of LCC Ryanair is being taken by the carrier’s chief people officer, Eddie Wilson, another long-serving executive.

Alan Dron, alandron@adepteditorial.com