« Pictures the key in online shopping: study | Main | Tough economy gives rise to more coupon cutting »

September 08, 2021

Now Ryanair wants its planes to fly with only one pilot

For a writer of a blog dedicated to money and consumer issues, Michael O’Leary is a godsend.

Because, frankly, the Ryanair CEO is a geyser of juicy headlines – a master of PR who gets his kicks provoking the air traveler one outrageous suggestion at a time.

Maybe passengers should have to pay to use airline toilets, O’Leary pontificated in February of 2009. Or perhaps Ryanair should try out standing-room seating, with rollercoaster style butt supports in a bid to conserve cabin space, he announced last July. Or maybe, just maybe, travelers should be bringing their own bags right to the tarmac, as O’Leary has long been fond of saying.

But don’t think for one second that the boss of Ryanair, Dublin’s budget airline, is done there. His mind is always racing, always thinking. He’s always going to say what other airline men will not.

Like, say, his latest throwaway proposal, mentioned in passing to a Bloomberg writer earlier this month.

“Why does every plane have two pilots?” O’Leary asked himself, as quoted in a feature on Bloomberg.com. “Really, you only need one pilot. Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”

If O’Leary sounds somewhat mad for thinking planes can get away with just one pilot – a crew member on all Ryanair flights would be trained how to land an aircraft, he says, in case of an emergency to the remaining pilot under this proposal – that’s because he is. Admittedly. He is like Sir Richard Branson after a case of Pixy Stix, self-advertised as the most flamboyant and outspoken man in the airline industry.

Yet read further into O’Leary in this Bloomberg feature and you’ll realize maybe for all his harping about drastic cuts to make airline travel cheaper, the CEO isn’t really all about fighting for the wallets of consumers like you or I.

At the heart of every Ryanair PR stunt, the standing room seating, the pay toilets, is cheaper fares for consumers, and it’s beginning to look – as Ryanair continues to turn profits in an industry that’s lost almost $50 billion over the past decade – more and more that O’Leary might be the only one with this whole business figured.

Still, the Bloomberg feature on Ryanair is a good read (my favourite passage: “These days, any commercial flight may leave you with the impression that airlines consider you cattle. Only O’Leary will call you a cow, lick his chops, and explain how he plans to carve you up for dinner. His 17 years at the helm of Ryanair have been one long feast.”) but let’s focus on O’Leary’s latest suggestion.

Travelers out there: would you ever feel comfortable flying on a plane with just one pilot, and if not, would the promise of a cheaper fare make you more inclined to do so?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...