Environmentalists were seen as “madmen”, says the Ryanair CEO, and he was “an original skeptic”.

A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 aircraft parked at Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands.

Nicoloas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON – Climate awareness has come a long way, according to Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair. He admits that he was initially an environmental skeptic himself.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, O’Leary said, “I was one of the original skeptics.”

When asked why he had changed his mind, he replied, “We learn from our experience. In all honesty, 20 or 30 years ago we all thought the environmentalists were a bunch of morons, you know our customers and the Ryanair employees want to that we focus on that and we are usually very responsive. “

The aviation industry has come under tremendous pressure in recent years to cut CO2 emissions and policymakers have been urged again to take action to deal with the post-coronavirus pandemic climate emergency.

This is of the utmost importance from an environmental point of view, but also for the airline business itself. Trends such as “flight shaming”, a term that refers to the guilt that traveling by air brings with it because of its environmental impact, are on Gaining ground and could seriously disrupt business models.

In France, for example, the legislature has decided to suspend domestic flights on routes that can be taken by direct train in less than two and a half hours.

However, when asked about the initiative, O’Leary said he was concerned about this type of move.

“I’m very worried about these big initiatives. You know, on trains under two and a half hours, trains (already) dominate this market,” he said, citing traffic from London to Paris and Brussels is already done by train.

With Eurostar trains, for example, customers can travel from Paris to London in two hours.

But in the end, domestic short-haul flight “was never a big feature of our business,” said O’Leary.

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