The Ryanair Rumor Mill

November 09, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    A recent resurgence of speculation about Ryanair's plans for expanding their successful barebones business model overseas by opening aggressively priced transatlantic routes to feed into their European network turns out to be nothing more than a slightly new spin on a fairly old story.

    RyanAtlantic, as it may be called if and when it ever gets off the ground, has in fact been rumored for several years and still appears to be a couple years off at best. With airlines flopping left and right, surely now is not the time to start up such a risky new venture, although as we all know one man's, or airline's, failure can quickly become another's ticket to success.

    Put it all down for now to Ryanair's hard-charging, rather mouthy CEO and his fondness for shaking things up and keeping his enemies on their toes and shaking in their runway boots. In fine Irish form, Mr. O'Leary enjoys telling a tall tale or two, and since his habit of dropping a well-placed hint now and then is enough to rile the competition, why not have some fun with it? That's why it's always best to take anything from the Ryanair rumor mill with a generous pinch of salt and wash it down with a pint of Guinness.

    One surprising fact is that with or without intercontinental routes Ryanair has already become the world's largest international airline, but even this undeniable truth is a bit deceptive. Although Ryanair operates much like a domestic carrier on over 700 European routes, most of these flights and their sardine-packed passengers are still classified as international, flying fish or otherwise, and besides, Air France-KLM would be bigger still if they could just decide to couple their lovely figures.

    Still, any way you look at the numbers Ryanair's success is impressive. In the same manner that Southwest has quietly and steadily grown into the world's largest airline, Ryanair has, perhaps less quietly, crept up the list to number 10 and is very close to overtaking Continental. Europeans are really just getting used to the sort of casual, no-frills, low-cost air travel that Americans have been spoiled with for decades, so Ryanair is likely to continue growing and making everyone else look over their shoulders. We'll be sure to let you know when you should start looking, and packing, too.