Budapest When Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary makes an appearance, you’re never quite sure whether to find it refreshingly different or just embarrassing. The marketing of the low-cost airline is a matter for the boss and is tailored entirely to the 61-year-old. That was evident when O’Leary showed up in Budapest on Tuesday.
Breathless, he rushed into the event room of a hotel and, as is usual with such performances, held up a board with the number of destinations, this time those from Budapest. He also cut silly faces – it was an appearance especially for the photographers.
At first glance, the announcement was flimsy. Ryanair is expanding its network to include one single destination: the airline will fly twice a week from Budapest to Belfast. Hungarians who fancy a short break in a “sunny summer destination” now have even more choices than before, O’Leary said. The manager maintains the irony – there shouldn’t be many managers who make jokes about a new service offered by their own company.
Hungary levies a special tax of ten euros per flight ticket
O’Leary wasn’t just in Budapest to promote a new offering, though. He came with a more weighty concern. He has been feuding with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban for the past year. His visit apparently also served the purpose of exerting pressure.
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He is now making the government an immoral offer that borders on blackmail. If they abolish their special levy on airline tickets, he is ready to expand the Ryanair offer at Budapest Airport, O’Leary said on Tuesday.
Orban had come up with a new tax in 2022 and thus annoyed the head of the low-cost airline. Anyone flying away from Budapest has been paying a fee of ten euros per ticket since July 1st. The measure is part of a package: Hungary imposes a special levy on banks, insurers, airlines, retailers and energy companies for allegedly making “excess profits” as a result of inflation.
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These are mainly foreign-controlled companies that cannot easily leave Hungary. In the case of the airlines, the excess profit tax is now called an environmental tax, but that does not agree with O’Leary by any means: the manager likes to emphasize how ecological Ryanair is as a provider of short and medium-haul flights.
When Hungary introduced the excess profit tax in 2022, O’Leary was so provoked that he was carried away with expletives: It was “more than stupid” what Hungary was doing. However, Orban needs money, also because he generously distributed election gifts before the elections in April 2022.
Michael O’Leary is also targeting Easyjet and Wizz Air
The Constitutional Court is currently dealing with the tax. O’Leary said that his lawyers had asked him to be careful about his choice of words. He simply called the levy “anti-consumer and anti-competitive”.
per ticket passengers pay since July 1, 2022 when departing from Budapest.
O’Leary also calculated how lucrative the abolition would be for the economically stricken country: According to his calculations, Hungary takes in 60 million euros a year from the tax. But if Ryanair continues to increase the number of destinations from Budapest, the country’s economy could do much better.
At the end of the performance, O’Leary was no longer able to curb his propensity for provocation: he called Orban’s excess profit tax “silly”.
Some Hungarians will take glee when O’Leary takes on Orban in this way. However, O’Leary’s bullying is a scam and can hit anyone. In Budapest, he also targeted low-cost competitors Wizz Air and Easyjet. You can’t make sustainable profits by competing with Ryanair, he claimed.
The consolidation will come, simply later than he always predicted. In two to three years, however, Wizz Air and Easyjet are ready for a cleanup – in other words: for being taken over.
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