By removing practically everything bar the seats and the pilots, company founder Michael O’Leary changed budget air travel for ever, as this scathing exposé shows

How much you enjoyed this offering from Channel 5 (Ryanair: Britain’s Most Hated Airline? – you pay extra for the question mark) will, I suspect, correlate closely with how much you have travelled on Ryanair. I have never had the … well, we’ll use the word “pleasure” for now … of travelling on this or any other airline (on the grounds that humans – and I really can’t stress this enough – shouldn’t be flying in anything other than the occasional childhood dream). So I thoroughly enjoyed this anatomisation of the no-frills Irish airline, which seemed to exist for no grander purpose – and why should it? – than to boggle at the man who, in essence, created it: Michael O’Leary.

What a piece of work is man. Particularly this man. For he is the one who looked at the airline that began as a relatively conventional one in 1985. It flew from places you had heard of to other places you had heard of and offered food, drink, plentiful access to toilets and all the other niceties of life for a reasonable price – and ran at a loss to do so. Then it said: “No. Take away everything but the seats and the pilot. And let me think about the seats. And the pilots.”

It revolutionised the industry. People who had once saved all year to go on an annual foreign holiday were, by the end of the 90s, seasoned travellers. If you wanted to get from A to B (or a few kilometres outside B and then a coach) for the lowest possible price, O’Leary was your guy. And if he was occasionally a guy who seemed to have the same whiff of contempt for customers as the criminal does for his docile marks, well – it was only a couple of tenners from Dublin to Stuttgart-adjacent, so what did it matter?

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