CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has branded Lufthansa as a “Drunk Uncle at a Wedding” in a statement he made last week questioning state aid and loans and tax breaks given to some of Europe’s largest airlines.
Lufthansa subsidiary, Austrian Airlines has made a request for €767 million ($831 million) in state grants and loans and the flagship carrier itself has just recently finalised a state aid rescue package worth up to 10 billion euros ($10.8 billion) after the Coronavirus crisis forced the airline to ground nearly all of its aircraft.
According to O’Leary, Ryanair has enough liquidity to weather the initial storm of the coronavirus pandemic and it is not keen on asking for government support during the time that much of its fleet is grounded. However, the airline has raised concern that because of the inflated cash positions of other airlines, who could subside the cost of their flights in order to gain market share, Ryanair may be left behind when passenger activity returns in the coming weeks.
Not holding back his words, O’Leary said:
“Lufthansa is going around hoovering up state aid like the drunken uncle at the end of a wedding, drinking from all the empty glasses. They can’t help themselves. […] We don’t want state aid, but we’re now being asked to compete with not one hand, but two hands tied behind our back.”
Like all airlines, Ryanair is feling the pinch and it has recently announced that around 250 members of staff need not return to work at the beginning of June. Jobs are being cut from its offices in Madrid, Stansted, Dublin, and Wroclaw. Another 3.000 jobs are also at risk.
Airlines are slowly gearing up to begin operations in the next six weeks or so with Ryanair announcing that it expects around 40% of its fleet to be airborne as it reinstates as much as 90% of its normal schedule. Nonetheless, it could take some time for operations to return to normal.