My respect doesn't extend to the actual opinions that O'Leary regularly and flamboyantly expresses (nor to those of octogenarian anarchists for that matter). One of the reasons for the timing of our trip is that in 10 years, thanks to the price of oil going only one direction and and increasing popular and political attention being paid to climate change, it may not be economically feasible to make this kind of trip. O'Leary thinks that this kind of concern is just a "middle-class, mid-life crisis" preoccupation.
Correct on both counts: I am approaching mid-life, harbouring an unhealthy curiosity about the eventual nature of my crisis. And even a cursory glance at me confirms 'middle class' (a closer look would prompt a swift revision downwards). So far, from a single-sample, anecdotal point of view, O'Leary would appear to be spot on. So is he right?
Let's look more closely. Here's the detail on Michael's keen analysis of the situation:
"China and India are laughing at us while they build more coal-fired power stations. The European middle classes are having a mid-life crisis and the sooner we wake up and say so the better."
Leaving the mangled metaphors to one side for a moment, there is not even the slightest attempt on O'Leary's part to make intelligent comment on the matter. The thrust of the sentence seems to be 'China and India are catching up and overtaking Europe and the US on the CO2 front so the whole climate change thing is a delusion reinforced by our delicate suburban sensibilities'. Sorry? What's that now? You get the feeling that he might have said just about anything, depending on what he first hit his head off that morning.
In Europe and the US we tend to lend weight to the opinions of our business leaders. The reasoning is sound enough: if you can run a company successfully then you're smart and deserve our attention. The reality is that there are different types of businesses with different breadths of view, and there are varying grades of business people as well. But the typical business leader isn't looking as far ahead into the future as the Nobel winners who are trying to inform the public about climate change. And when business does look ahead, it usually squints.
I think the most insightful view on Michael O'Leary's real view of the future of cheap aviation was given in the last line of that Guardian article:
Mr O'Leary reiterated his determination to stand down in "two or three years" but said he was no nearer setting up his own long-haul airline.
Maybe Micheal is heading for an earlier than expected move to the land of high waistbands, optional hygiene and swearing at clergy.