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Airport Security Checks 'Bizarre, Ineffective': Ryanair CEO

CNBC.com
Monday, 1 Nov 2010 | 11:24 AM ET

Security bureaucrats are going to tighten checks at airports following the discovery of two bombs on parcels in cargo planes from Yemen to the US, but this will not necessarily improve things, Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair told CNBC Monday.

Recession is Boosting Business for Ryanair
Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, told CNBC the recession is "very good for business." He said Ryanair is able to increase fares and still take traffic from other airlines as customers cut their budgets. "Theyâ??re already fleeing from high-fare airlines so I think they're paying us slightly more and still saving a fortune," he explained.

One of the explosive devices, found in a printer cartridge in a parcel in Dubai, had flown on two passenger flights before being seized.

“We’re going to have a week now where 'securicrats' will emerge from rocks they live on generally,” O'Leary said.

“We found two printers on two cargo airplanes in the last week. And they go ‘oh we’ve got to readjust security’,” he said. “If you look at where terrorists have attacked in recent years it’s been the London underground, where none of these rules apply.”

Last week, British Airways chairman Martin Broughton complained that airport security checks are redundant and said the UK should not "kowtow" to US demands on flight security.

Security checks that are too cumbersome for passengers are one area where the heads of Ryanair and British Airways, usually at each other's throats, are on common ground.

“The passenger security at airports is bizarre, it is ineffective, and it doesn’t work” O'Leary said. “The idea that by confiscating people their 200 ml bottle of water at security, but they can go and buy it again on an air site, and all of a sudden we’re safer, is absurd!”

Raising Fares

Ryanair is trying to cut costs and will leave cities where additional taxes or running costs occur, he said.

When the Belfast airport wouldn’t extend the runway for Ryanair to fly to continental Europe, they closed the base. When Germany increased passenger taxes, they closed the Frankfurt-Hahn base too.

“The great thing about an airline is your aircrafts are mobile assets, so we move them around,” O'Leary said.

The planes will now go to countries like Italy, Spain and Holland, where taxes are cheaper, he added.

But what about the 1 million passengers who won’t be flying out of Frankfurt using Ryanair?

“European governments, the Germans, the UK and even the Irish, God help them, will eventually realize that if you put it to these big passenger taxes, you’re going to deter air traffic and you’re going to deter tourism."

“It becomes ultimately self defeating,” he added. “The Irish government introduced a tourist tax 18 months ago following yet another failed British policy ... they’ve now lost more than 250 million in VAT receipts on tourism spend to gain 60 million in tourism tax revenues; it’s absurd."

Ryanair’s increased fares boosted revenue 12 percent, which O’Leary says will continue as we see customers “fleeing from high-fare airlines.”

It’s getting “easier and easier” to take traffic from airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France, because “they’re paying us slightly more and still saving a fortune,” he said.

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