O'Leary: race to the bottom

Watching Michael O'Leary pick his way through this severe downturn is fascinating. A few weeks ago, when he said Ryanair would let its fares drop by 5% this winter, even his most ardent fans appeared nervous. Ryanair said it wanted to lead a move toward "downward pricing" to stop its rivals from having the luxury of putting their fares up. In other words, it would be happy to see them go out of business.

The logic was simple and compelling, but many of us wondered if O'Leary would not be better off just leaving fares alone (or raising them), thus protecting his income and Ryanair's share price.

But that is not O'Leary's style, he wants to plunge the whole European airline business into a fares war which many of then are ill-equipped to survive.

At the time of going to print his strategy was very much working, with the news that Alitalia is departing the European aviation scene, leaving the Italian market exposed to predators such as easyJet and Ryanair.

Increasingly, it seems O'Leary's race to the bottom is paying off. Its not pretty, its not immediate, its not cheap, but its working.