Racing Around Trafalgar Square

By | Category: Travel rumblings

The pigeons, the stone lions, Nelson and even the empty plinth might all be put in the shade if a race between Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair and Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet ever takes place.

A couple of weeks ago, Ryanair ran an advertisement with Stelios having a nose like Pinocchio, the allegation being that easyJet was hiding the truth about the punctuality of the airline. As well as that, Ryanair in the shape of Michael Cawley, the Chief Operating Officer was interviewed on BBC Breakfast and alleged that easyJet was a high fare airline.

The result?

Letters from the lawyers of both easyJet and Stelios winged their way to Ryanair. They promptly published the correspondence, the advertisement and their responses, on the Ryanair website (You’ll find it if you click on “News”)

O’Leary has suggested that the issue could be resolved by a race around the square. If O’Leary is the winner, Stelios will admit easyJet is a high cost airline and if Stelios wins O’Leary will withdraw his accusation. Now Ryanair have turned the whole thing into a competition. They have asked their passengers to vote on which of 6 suggestions to resolve the issue should occur. Apart from the race the other suggestions are a wheelbarrow race around the square, arm wrestling, sumo wrestling (with Stelios to provide the nappies the website says), mud wrestling and a drag race in which the two of them would be dressed in high-heels and fishnets. You can vote on the Ryanair website up until February 26th.

O’Leary has taken yet another leaf out of the book of Southwest Airlines in the US.  (Most no-frills airlines business models are based on this airline.)The airline was run for many years by Herb Kelleher. He is a larger than life figure who, in 1992, had an arm wrestling match with another company over the use of an advertising slogan. Kelleher turned up with a sling on his arm, a cigarette drooping from his mouth and a handler carrying bottles of whisky. The loser would donate $5,000 to charity. Kelleher lost and was stretchered away saying he had overtrained by walking up some steps!

The difference between passengers flying Southwest (with the exception of Mr Smith who featured on these pages yesterday) is that, by and large, Southwest passengers are satisfied with the airline. Can the same be said of Ryanair?

Will the race happen?

Probably not. It sounds just like more publicity for Ryanair!


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