The many clown faces of Michael O'Leary... Click for gallery

If you’re American, the chances are you haven’t heard of him, but if you are Irish, you certainly have. In fact, in the case of the latter, you’ve probably flown on one of his planes, at a rock bottom price.

Michael O’Leary is one of the best-known businessmen in Ireland, and transformed a loss-making airline called Ryanair into one of Europe’s most successful airlines.

O’Leary’s brash, bullying style would undoubtedly make him an absolute nightmare to work with. But he’s an entertaining character, nonetheless.

People in Ireland and Britain, who have grown used to O’Leary’s stunts, undoubtedly groan at the sight of him, saying to themselves, “There he goes again….”

But for the uninitiated, we at Irish Central have compiled a top five list of outrageous (and let’s face it, occasionally hilarious) Michael O’Leary outbursts.

1. Swine flu is for people “living in slums”

Never far from the headlines, O’Leary recently reported as saying that swine flu was something that would affect only people “living in slums.”

“Are we going to die from swine flu? No. Are we in danger of SARS? No. Foot and mouth disease? No. Will it affect people flying short-haul flights around Europe this summer? Thankfully, no," he told a press conference.

'It is a tragedy only for people living. . . in slums in Asia or Mexico. But will the honeymoon couple from Edinburgh die?

'No. A couple of Strepsils will do the job.'  (In Ireland and Britain, a Strepsil is a mild over-the-counter medication for a sore throat.)

O'Leary added because of his interaction with various airport authorities, he had “been dealing with swine for many years.” 

2. “Beds and blow jobs”

At a press conference in Germany, announcing a new transatlantic service, O’Leary told a stunned audience that there would be an economy class costing €10 and a premium class costing between €4,000 to €5,000 - "beds and blow jobs" included.

His German translator looked unsure of quite what to do next. So O'Leary turned to her, and asked, “What’s the German for blow-jobs?”

She replied, “There is no German…” to which he responded, “There’s no German for blow-jobs?! Terrible sex life in Germany…”

A Ryanair spokesperson later told an Irish newspaper that the working title for the business class service is “Beds and Blowjobs.” 

3. Charging for toilets on flights

One of the reasons that Ryanair has managed to be such a profitable company is its mastery of extra charges. You can fly from Dublin to London for as little as $20 – but expect a whole heap of sneaky costs on top of that, for bags, airport levies, breathing etc.

And if your flight is cancelled or delayed, and you find yourself stranded in the middle of Poland, don’t expect any special treatment from Ryanair. such as a hotel room. Or a cup of coffee.

One possibility the company considered earlier this year was charging people to use its bathrooms when in flight.

"One thing we have looked at in the past, and are looking at again, is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might have to actually spend a pound to 'spend a penny' in future," O'Leary said. (“Spend a penny is a British expression for peeing.)

"I don't think there is anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair aircraft with less than a pound."

He later told a press conference that the plan was no joke.

"(People say) you can't be serious. We are serious," he said.

"If you look at it sensibly, it would reduce an awful lot of the unnecessary visits to the toilet that pisses so many passengers off onboard a plane.

"Our average journey time is one hour. Most people would go to the loo before they get on the plane, or they hold it until they land. You would only have to deal with the people who absolutely have to go.”

"All this pious stuff about if you're serving teas and snacks, you can't charge for entering the toilet. All right then, we'll charge you to exit the toilets and we'll let you enter free, but you'll have to pay a pound to get back out again.

"I think eventually it's going to happen. It's just we can't do it at the moment because we don't have a mechanism for charging you." 

4. Charging fat people extra

An on-line survey of 100,000 of Ryanair passengers found that one–third was in favor of a so-called “fat tax”, which would charge overweight people extra.

(The idea being that the heavier the passenger load, the more fuel is required to fly the plane.)

The plan would mean that men weighing more than 280 pounds and women more than 210 pounds would be charged extra.

 “Nobody wants to sit beside a really fat bugger on board,” explained O’Leary.

“We have been frankly astonished at the number of customers who don’t only want to tax fat people but torture them. 

However, he acknowledged that practical difficulties in implementing this plan.

“You can’t weigh them at check-in because we’re getting rid of the check-in desks; weighing them at the gate slows down turnaround times; and we can’t be weighing them on board,” he said.

“Maybe we’ll just introduce a voluntary thing.” 

5. “Free flights for life” – that are taken away

In 1988, Dublin woman Jane O’Keefe became Ryanair’s one-millionth passenger, and was given “free flights for life” with the airline.

Or so she thought…

By 1997, O’Keefe had found the airline increasingly difficult to deal with. She also found that her free flights for life were restricted to one flight per year, and once endured a torrent of abuse from Michael O’Leary when she called the company.

She successful sued the company, and was awarded €67,500 in 2002.