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Ryanair: Who Needs a Beauty Contest Anyhow?

Ryanair took the honors in a recent airline survey run by Tripadvisor, for all the wrong reasons. The online travel site asked its users to rate airline companies and Ryanair came in as the least favored.

In typically combatative fashion CEO Michael O’Leary said on the show this morning the results are meaningless in comparison with the number of passengers the company carries on a daily basis. The Irish businessman called the website silly and insisted the evidence of the company's popularity is plain from the numbers.

Ryanair does attract extreme views - its charge-for-everything approach irritates users of its Web site but they still book tickets because its prices, and more recently, its price promise make it must for travelers on a budget.

For investors, it's an amusing side-show to the real issue of the company's performance - and it is a harsh judge who would be too critical. Revising up full year guidance (this was Q2) O'Leary said the slower rate of cost increases and hedging on oil prices had held unit costs down.

Some analysts were anticipating a revision of guidance, citing Ryanair's conservative approach and habit of exceeding forecasts for their views. The confirmation was pleasantly received along with the more upbeat tone on winter yields. The focus is shifting to the end of the company's full year, and fiscal 2009, where the oil exposure is unhedged.

Is O'Leary concerned about the high fuel oil price? Not a bit of it, in fact he argues higher prices will drive passengers towards Ryanair and away from airlines with fuel surcharges.

The bottom line: Ryanair has again delivered. Some may not like the sales pitch or the salesman, but the numbers will be popular with shareholders.

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