Is Bellew pre­par­ing to take con­trol at Ryanair?

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

PETER Bellew’s re­turn to the Ryanair fold fires the start­ing gun on the race to suc­ceed Michael O’leary as the boss of Europe’s largest air­line. On Tues­day, Ryanair an­nounced that Bellew would be re­join­ing the air­line as chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer. Bellew had pre­vi­ously spent 14 years with Ryanair be­fore leav­ing for Malaysian Air­lines in 2015. He takes over from Michael Hickey, who left Ryanair abruptly fol­low­ing the pi­lot-ros­ter­ing fi­asco that forced the air­line to can­cel 18,000 flights and left 800,000 pas­sen­gers in­con­ve­nienced.

So why is the prodi­gal son com­ing home? Bellew had first been deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of Malaysian Air­lines and, since July 2016, its chief ex­ec­u­tive. With 16 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, Malaysian Air­lines is only a frac­tion of the size of Ryanair, which car­ried 120 mil­lion pas­sen­gers in the year to the end of March.

There have also been re­ports in the Malaysian me­dia that Bellew had had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with the air­line’s sole share­holder, the Malaysian sov­er­eign wealth fund Khaz­anah. Malaysian Air­lines has had a tu­mul­tuous few years since 2014, when one of its planes van­ished in the In­dian Ocean and an­other was shot down by Rus­sian-backed rebels over Ukraine.

Even al­low­ing for the fact that Khaz­anah may have been an oc­ca­sional back-seat driver, with Malaysian Air­lines get­ting through three chief ex­ec­u­tives in as many years, Bellew is go­ing from be­ing boss of an air­line to be­ing no more than one of the chas­ing pack at Ryanair. Why? When asked why he was quit­ting Malaysian Air­lines, Bellew replied: “It [Ryanair] is Ire­land’s great­est com­pany. They need my help and there is a big chal­lenge. It is a form of na­tional ser­vice.” Erm, yes. A decade or more ago a fea­ture of ev­ery Ryanair re­sults press con­fer­ence was O’leary dan­gling the prospect of his re­tire­ment in “a year or two”.

Of course it never hap­pened and as O’leary ap­proached and then passed the Big Five-oh we heard less and less of his re­tire­ment plans.

While Hickey’s un­sched­uled de­par­ture may have bought him some time, there is lit­tle doubt that the ros­ter­ing fi­asco has brought the end of O’leary 23-year reign as Ryanair’s boss a lot closer. Af­ter al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury of be­ing syn­ony­mous with the air­line, we may soon have to get used to the idea of Ryanair with­out O’leary.

What­ever the rights and wrongs of the mat­ter there is lit­tle doubt that Ryanair’s re­la­tion­ship with its pi­lots, with­out whom it can­not fly its planes, is dif­fi­cult. Af­ter years of be­ing able to dic­tate terms to its pi­lots, a re­cov­ery in the de­mand for pi­lots from other air­lines means that the shoe is now on the other foot.

This is hap­pen­ing at the same time as Ryanair’s growth from up­start to be­ing the largest air­line in Europe, with a fore­cast 130 mil­lion pas­sen­gers in the cur­rent year, means that not alone is its pre­vi­ously cav­a­lier at­ti­tude to its pi­lots and other staff no longer work­ing, it is down­right counter-pro­duc­tive.

As his re­cent deroga­tory com­ments about Ryanair’s pi­lots demon­strate, O’leary seems to have dif­fi­culty fully grasp­ing this fun­da­men­tal change.

The Ryanair state­ment an­nounc­ing Bellew’s ap­point­ment made it clear that he had been hired to fix the ros­ter­ing mess. He will have “spe­cific re­spon­si­bil­ity for pi­lot pro­duc­tion, train­ing and ca­reer devel­op­ment with a mis­sion to en­sure that the pi­lot-ros­ter­ing fail­ure which Ryanair suf­fered in early Septem­ber will never be re­peated”.

If, and given O’leary’s ap­par­ent re­cal­ci­trance that could be a very big “if ”, the 52-year old Bellew suc­ceeds in this task he could then be in pole po­si­tion to take over the con­trols at Ryanair when­ever O’leary fi­nally de­cides to spend more time with his race­horses and Aberdeen An­gus pedi­gree cat­tle.

Is Bellew’s sec­ond com­ing at Ryanair merely the first step in a canny strat­egy that will ul­ti­mately see him be­come boss of his own air­line, in this case the big­gest in Europe, once again? SHOCK­ING as the mis­be­haviour of the banks in wrongly tak­ing cus­tomers off tracker mort­gages was, what it tells us about the state of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion in this coun­try is even more dis­turb­ing. Al­most a decade on from the crash, our sys­tem of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion is still not fit for pur­pose.

The Cen­tral Bank had been pushed “to the lim­its of its pow­ers” and “all lenders did not suf­fi­ciently recog­nise or ad­dress the scale of th­ese un­ac­cept­able fail­ings,” Cen­tral Bank gov­er­nor Philip Lane told the Oireach­tas Fi­nance Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day.

The pre­vi­ous day, Fi­nan­cial Om­buds­man Ger Deer­ing re­vealed that of the 700 cases his of­fice had ad­ju­di­cated on since 2009, the banks had only re­stored the tracker mort­gage in 25pc of them.

The pic­ture that emerges from the com­mit­tee’s hear­ings is one of at least some of the banks feel­ing free to treat their “reg­u­la­tors” with con­tempt. This is de­spite all of the re­forms that have been put in place since the bank­ing cri­sis first struck nine years ago.

So can any­thing be done to ad­dress the reg­u­la­tory fail­ings that have been high­lighted by the tracker mort­gage scan­dal? What the af­fair demon­strates once more is the in­abil­ity of the Cen­tral Bank to com­bine its pru­den­tial role, i.e. en­sur­ing that the banks don’t go bust, with its con­sumer pro­tec­tion role, i.e. stop­ping the banks from rob­bing us blind.

With the banks still on life sup­port and the State re­tain­ing 75pc share­hold­ings in AIB and PTSB along with a 14pc stake in Bank of Ire­land, the Cen­tral Bank is hope­lessly con­flicted.

At least 13,000 cus­tomers are now known to have been wrongly moved off track­ers, a num­ber that will surely rise. This means that the fi­nal cost of the tracker scan­dal will run into the hun­dreds of mil­lions and pos­si­bly bil­lions of euro. Wear­ing its pru­den­tial hat, the Cen­tral Bank would cer­tainly have an in­cen­tive to en­cour­age the banks to min­imise th­ese losses.

To fix our bro­ken sys­tem of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion we need to strip the Cen­tral Bank of its con­sumer pro­tec­tion role and hive off the func­tion to a new agency with the re­sources and pow­ers to do the job prop­erly.

Peter Bellew is go­ing from be­ing boss of an air­line to a less se­nior role at Ryanair

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.