Peace in our time with DAA as Ryanair de­clares war on Ger­many

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

RYANAIR and the Dublin Air­port Au­thor­ity — a bit like Mcgregor ver­sus Mayweather, with a few slap­downs over the years that would make UFC slug­ger Conor wince.

So it felt like the af­ter­math of the re­cent bout in Ve­gas — all hugs and mu­tual re­spect — as the Ir­ish air­line bade a fond farewell to DAA boss Kevin Toland, who’s off to pas­tures new.

Ryanair chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Kenny Ja­cobs, chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer David O’brien and the new boss of Aryzta traded lines of praise, not punches, all on the one ta­ble. All that was missing was the manly group hug. Toland didn’t even dis­miss Ryanair boss Michael O’leary’s claims he could suc­ceed him and carry out his DAA CEO role, part-time, for noth­ing. “I think he’d do a ter­rific job,” Toland con­fessed.

As the Ir­ish air­line launched its sum­mer sched­ule — with a big em­pha­sis on Ger­many, a coun­try Ja­cobs says is “be­com­ing the ba­nana repub­lic” of avi­a­tion — Toland was straight out of his cor­ner, throw­ing plau­dits his way. “Ryanair in Dublin now goes to 90 des­ti­na­tions, which is the same as Heathrow on the short-haul side,” said Toland.

O’brien wasn’t go­ing to be left out of the bout of bon­homie, say­ing Dublin has been a “tremen­dous suc­cess un­der Kevin’s ten­ure — punch­ing well above its weight”. In­deed, he added that it’s got more pas­sen­gers (just shy of 30 mil­lion a year) than sun des­ti­na­tion Athens (20 mil­lion), while Ryanair alone will carry more pas­sen­gers at Dublin than Prague does in its en­tirety.

While O’brien was pulling Ryanair’s punches away from the DAA, it has a new tar­get in its sights — Ger­many — and the air­line is still seething over what it sees as a ‘stitch up’ over the fu­ture of in­sol­vent Air Ber­lin’s as­sets. Ja­cobs doesn’t see why Ir­ish pas­sen­gers, and oth­ers, have to fre­quently con­nect with large cities via Lufthansa’s two cho­sen gate­ways: “Why do I have to fly through Frankfurt or Mu­nich to get to any­where?” he asked. “You have a city like Ber­lin, with two air­ports with 33 mil­lion capacity be­tween those two air­ports, which is go­ing to one air­port — when­ever that opens — which will have 27 mil­lion capacity. And the mayor of that city thinks that’s a great thing and that Ryanair shouldn’t have an opin­ion on this.” “Less than Dublin,” piped up O’brien. “Yes, less than Dublin,” echoed Ja­cobs. But old habits do die hard, and it was round what­ever as the Ryanair duo turned back to Ire- land. “Dublin Air­port will never do enough for us. That’s our of­fi­cial and im­mutable po­si­tion,” O’brien ar­gued, hold­ing back a smile. “A con­sis­tent po­si­tion,” Toland agreed. And they’re still split over whether the new air­port run­way should cost €240m or €320m. No prizes for guess­ing who wants the cheaper op­tion. But still they’re on the same page about one thing: it has to hap­pen sooner rather than later.

Toland left his new Ryanair bud­dies with the prom­ise that with its great con­nec­tiv­ity, he’ll be mak­ing good use of the air­line’s net­work when he starts work in Switzer­land with Aryzta.

Still, given that his pre­de­ces­sor earned a multi-mil­lion salary in the Swiss role, on-board scratch cards and low fares shouldn’t be a press­ing pri­or­ity.

Of in­ter­est to the Ir­ish cor­po­rate trav­eller is Ryanair’s stance on on­board con­nec­tiv­ity: it’s not go­ing to fol­low Lufthansa and IAG down that road, at least for now.

“We’re ab­so­lutely not go­ing to look at it, and we’ve looked at it again just re­cently to make sure we’ve made the right de­ci­sion,” Ja­cobs told this col­umn at the con­fer­ence. “And it’s the right de­ci­sion be­cause, it’s still fairly a patchy ser­vice, it’s very very ex­pen­sive to in­stall, it gives you drag on your air­craft, and that in­creases your fuel bill, and if you take it that our av­er­age flight is 90 min­utes you can’t use it for 15 min­utes [his hands go up for take-off ] for 15 [and back down].

“We asked our cus­tomers would you like that or coat racks on the back of your seat and they said coat racks. We will be very fast fol­low­ers once the tech­nol­ogy is there, but the tech­nol­ogy isn’t there.”

Also of in­ter­est are the talks with Aer Lin­gus and Nor­we­gian about feed­ing its short-haul pas­sen­gers onto long-haul ser­vices.

“It’s tech­ni­cally like trea­cle — it’s re­ally re­ally slow,” said David O’brien. “I’d be dis­ap­pointed if there’s noth­ing by the end of this year func­tion­ing, but equally it may not be.”

But he said that Aer Lin­gus and Nor­we­gian “def­i­nitely want to do it”. Mean­while Ja­cobs added, in a bout of re­alpoli­tik: “We’re giv­ing Ger­many a hard time to­day, but at some in point in time do we want to be feed­ing the long-haul op­er­a­tions of Lufthansa? Ab­so­lutely. And ev­ery other air­line in Europe.”

Toland added that Dublin Air­port will have a new re­mote gate fa­cil­ity, south of pier 4 in Ter­mi­nal 2, open­ing later this year, al­le­vi­at­ing some of the pres­sure on ar­rivals at pass­port con­trol.

Kevin Toland laughs as Kenny Ja­cobs and David O’brien go Bavar­ian launch­ing a new Mu­nich ser­vice

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