Ryanair's failure to reach an agreement over employment conditions with Danish unions in 2015 led to strong criticism of the company by media, unions and politicians alike. Last week, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen came under fire for using the airline to travel to a winter break in Malaga.
But the company's poor reputation has been great for business, claims O'Leary, who also denies any wrongdoing in the union spats.
“We believe we are right. And we think the Danish media is unfair and has treated us poorly. But that is their right, and Danish customers have voted with their feet,” O'Leary is quoted as saying by broadcaster DR.
Danish unions and politicians clashed with the self-styled low fares airline throughout 2015, accusing the company of social dumping and violating the Danish model of working conditions for employees. Ryanair countered by criticising union action as ‘secondary strikes,' pointing out that none of its pilots or cabin crew were members of Danish unions. The feud eventually led to Ryanair withdrawing services from Copenhagen and Billund airports, albeit only briefly in the case of the latter.
“Some people don't understand that bad press sells more seats than good,” said O'Leary, as quoted by DR. “The best thing that could have happened was the unions mouthing off about the Danish model and trying to stop us. Everyone knew us after that.”
O'Leary also claimed to be unconcerned by the effects of the union conflicts on Ryanair's brand.
“We could easily agree that our brand and image are not very good, but our seats are 90 per cent full… Have we won or lost? I don't care,” DR reports O'Leary as saying.
While cheering the success of his own company, O'Leary also criticised Scandinavian policymakers for not doing enough to encourage growth, citing potential new travel taxes in Sweden and Norway and calling for a "credible or a realistic growth scheme that will encourage not just Ryanair but all of the airlines – will encourage Norwegian, will encourage SAS to grow here."
"You've got good football teams and generally attractive ladies but other than that I don't wanna go here," he told journalists at a media briefing in Stockholm.