Posted: 10/5/2007


      Tony Ryan died this week at aged 71, worth at least 800 Million Euros and in tax exile in Monte Carlo. He started RYAN AIR in 1985 with one 15 seat aircraft to challenge British Airways and Aer Lingus on the Dublin-London route.

     Today Ryanair flies 557 routes in 26 countries all over Europe and has 52 million passengers annually. In 1956 Ryan competed for Ireland in the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia in the 10,000 metres and came in 7th. He started as a clerk at Aer Lingus and decided to go into business for himself and started an aircraft leasing business that at one time owned about 20% of the worlds passenger aircraft. 

     I have flown upteen times on his lean and mean planes and after the cold war ended he encouraged the opening of former NATO bases and his airline used them rather than the more expensive major airports. They stopped serving food and now you can by lottery tickets, duty free wine and spirits, bus tickets and on line when you book you can also purchase hotels, cars, insurance and pay for your luggage. There are no magazines, and safety regulations are printed on the back of seats and those seats don't incline. WWW.RYANAIR.COM is printed on the side of the planes and almost all flights are sold over the net. Fare sales featuring one way ticketless flights for 1 cent plus taxes are commonplace.  He also held a percentage of Tiger Airways, a Singapore based discounter.

    Ryan Air followed EASYJET into the market after that carrier's founder Stellios Haji-Ionnos had experienced SOUTHWEST AIRLINES and decided that Europe was ripe for discount airlines. If you look at  you will see that Europe has dozens of these no frills airlines. I have flown everything from RyanAir, EasyJet, ClickAir, Wizz Air, ThompsonFly, AirBerlin, Sky Europe, Norwegian, Jet2 and more at ridiculously low fares.  Some are quite comfortable. I flew Air Berlin Manchester-Hamburg with comfortable leather reclining seats and a free snack.

     Flights around Europe average about 2 hours and are fairly cramped, but the prices more than make up for that. Many small airports wouldn't exist if it were not for the discounters. Torp is 2 hours by bus south of Oslo, Frankfurt Hahn is miles from that city, Goteborg City is much closer than the big Goteborg Landvetta, and Airports such as Verona, Treviso, Milan Bergamo, Jerez are very easy to get to. These airlines pride themselves on a 20 minute turn around and are a pleasant alternative to gigantic London Heathrow for example. Big airports such as Barcelona, Berlin Schonfield, Budapest, Nice have regular and discounters side by side. Of London's four major airports, STANSTED is one huge discounter. Its not that easy to get to, out in Essex from other parts of the UK. That is why Liverpool John Lennon, East Midland, Leeds-Bradford, Bristol, Doncaster, Teeside, Southampton, Edinburgh are growing in leaps and bounds.

    Most of these airlines use one type of aircraft(often Airbus A320 or Boeing 737), have their cabin crew double up cleaning the interiors and maybe even check-in. Single fares as well as round trip with no surcharges, and of course easy-access, less crowded airports.  With the expansion of the European Union, and massive emigration of citizens, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria, plus the 3 new European member Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have helped the growth of existing and start up airlines.   Finland had Flying Finn go belly up after established FINNAIR matched fares, but soon Blue 1 started up and does well.  In Norway, Color Air didn't last long but Norwegian now challenges  upmarket SAS.

   The man who started the first European discount airline is Stellios Haji-Ionnos, a citizen of Cyprus and UK.  He founded EASYJET in 1995 with its distinctive orange paint job and retired as chairman in 2002.  Not content with just an airline he has since started up EASY HOTEl(I stayed in a tiny room with orange walls in London) EASY BUS, EASY CINEMA (10 screens in Milton Keynes and no box office or food outlets), EASY MONEY (personal finance), EASY MUSIC (downloading tunes), EASY TELECOM, EASY MOBILE, EASY CASH, EASY PIZZA, EASY INTERNET CAFES(I used the ones in Munich and Barcelona), EASY CRUISE.......

    If you watch EPL soccer from Old Trafford you will see the perimiter advertising boards for AIR ASIA, Asia's biggest discount airline. They don't even fly to Europe-yet, but Asians form a large fan base for Manchester United and the EPL.  OASIS HONG KONG launched fares as low as 75.00 plus taxes one way London-Hong Kong, with connections on to Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam etc., so the world is gradually coming closer and cheaper together.