A lot of people don't like Michael O'Leary. I actually quite like the cheeky chap. And my respect for his business sense has escalated since flying RyanAir for the first time last week.
He has it completely sewn up. He has thought of everything. Time is money, and he has managed to shave every spare second off the turn-around time of his flights.
Our flight to Valencia last week was due to leave at 10.30. At 10.05 the plane taking us came to a halt on the apron at our gate. Immediately, the 'petrolman' (who had been standing waiting for 5 minutes for the plane to arrive) was unscrewing the petrol cap. No waiting around for the steps to be wheeled up to the aircraft either; each plane has its own set of steps built in to avoid delay in disembarking. And so, at 10.10 the first 20 passengers were already off the plane and into the terminal.
Air stewards double as lollypop people, stopping traffic on the apron to ensure all passengers get off, and the on again without having to stop their journey between the gate and the plane. One hostess came to the gate where she started taking boarding passes alongside the groundcrew, thus speeding up that process. Which is why, when I made the mistake of hesitating for a split second, trying to decide which person to give my boarding pass to, I was pointed at and shouted at: 'hurry up, hurry up!' This only proves the point that it's the passengers who let RyanAir down!
On the plane itself, there are no pockets on the backs of the vinyl, easy wiped clean seats, so if there are no pockets, there is no need to empty them of litter between flights. And during the flight we were asked 6 or 8 times for any rubbish. In fact, I think that was one attendants full time job - doing laps of the plane collecting rubbish! The safety cards are plastered onto the back of the headrest of the seat in front of you, saving the need to check that they're there in the first place.
Unbelieveably, our flight was at the end of the runway at 10.35
You know the line you get at the end of your flight ...'Please remain seated until ...' On RyanAir they practically invite you to form a rugby scrum at the door as soon as the wheels hit the ground. Disembarking resembled a scene from a Parachute Regiment training exercise, with the Sergeant Major standing at the door of the plane shouting 'Go! ..GO!! ..GO!!!'
So yes, he has his critics, and I'm sure the criticism is somewhat justified, but you have to admire Michael O'Leary's business savvy.