Hit or Miss?: Ryanair boss O'Leary ups the stakes in easyJet spat

Low blow: The low-cost airline market descended into the school playground this week when Ryanair attacked arch-rival easyJet.

Newspaper ads accused easyJet boss Stelios Haji-Ioannou of lying about his airline's punctuality - complete with a picture of him as Pinocchio. Stelios is now suing Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary for libel. O'Leary has suggested the pair settle their differences through a 'chariots of fire' race or wrestling competition.


Both airlines have built a reputation as the low-cost consumers' champion. But where easyJet has stuck largely to the low-cost script, O'Leary has crossed the line into personal spat territory. Never good.

It leaves Stelios in a difficult position - does he defend himself by engaging in a public row that helps give the (negative) story legs?

Generally, we advise clients not to slag off rivals in public. Consumers expect it, no matter how entertaining the spat becomes. And when we're dealing with a service so closely linked to public safety, I wonder about the frivolousness of O'Leary's challenges for chariot races and sumo wrestling. Is this the behaviour we expect from a man at the helm of a major airline?

If pushed, I'd suggest O'Leary, and how his actions impact on the Ryanair brand, is at risk of being the bigger loser.


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