Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary Calls Out Lufthansa Over Ghost Flights

While Ryanair Group CEO Micheal O’Leary jokingly lists his hobbies as Bog Snorkeling, one hobby he takes pretty seriously is bashing Lufthansa, the German flag carrier. Today, he continued this hobby calling out Lufthansa for its recent ghost flight claim.

Largest European airline fleet size
Ryanair has taken aim at Lufthansa once more. Photo: Getty Images

Many airlines were forced to operate ghost flights to maintain slots at the height of the pandemic until the rules regarding slots were relaxed. Ryanair also operated ghost flights during the height of the crisis. While Lufthansa was grounding surplus aircraft, the Irish LCC’s motive was to keep aircraft and crew ready for flight.

Solving Lufthansa’s ghost flight problem

This morning, Ryanair proudly proclaimed that it had solved Lufthansa’s ghost flight problem. Last week, the Lufthansa Group revealed that the reintroduction of use it or lose it slot rules meant that it would need to fly 18,000 flights with no passengers to maintain its slots.

Thankfully, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has the answer for his least favorite airline group. Commenting on the issue, O’Leary said,

“The solution to Lufthansa’s “ghost flights” problem is a simple one – just sell these seats to consumers… Lufthansa loves crying crocodile tears about the environment when doing everything possible to protect its slots. Slots are the way it blocks competition and limits choice at big hub airports like Frankfurt, Brussels Zaventem, Vienna, among others…”

Lufthansa, COVID-19, Vaccinations
Lufthansa has said it will need to operate ghost flights to maintain slots under EU rules. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Last week Ryanair revealed that it would be closing its Frankfurt base at the end of March. The airline has been publicly feuding with Lufthansa for years. Lufthansa’s Carsten Spohr, for instance, has previously called Ryanair’s €5 fares irresponsible. Meanwhile, O’Leary has compared the German flag carrier to a “drunk uncle at a wedding,” sucking up state aid like champagne from the bottom of empty glasses.

Ryanair isn’t a stranger to ghost flights

While Ryanair may criticize Lufthansa for its comments about ghost flights, the Irish low-cost carrier ran its own system of ghost flights at the height of the pandemic in 2020. As revealed by Simple Flying in March 2020, the Irish flag carrier kept most of its fleet active by flying circuits around bases with each every few days.

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This meant that the aircraft didn’t need to enter a state of storage. It also meant that the airline’s pilots remained current. In April 2020, Ryanair carried a measly 40,000 passengers on a skeleton network of around 20 routes, far from the potential with its entire fleet active.

Lufthansa parked and grounded planes
Ryanair was operating ghost flights to avoid scenes like this. Photo: Getty Images

Ghost flights aren’t an excellent look for “Europe’s cleanest and greenest airline group,” though at the time the airline defended them, telling Simple Flying that it wanted to keep its aircraft available and usable, like how Lufthansa intends to keep its slots open and usable,

“In order to ensure our aircraft are serviceable for both passenger repatriation flights and essential flights for the transportation of urgent medical supplies, some of our crew and aircraft must remain available and serviceable in line with Boeing requirements and EASA regulations.”

What do you make of Ryanair’s latest comments? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!