EASYJET’S Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou yesterday achieved the nigh-on unthinkable as the High Court forced Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary into a grovelling apology over a mischievous advertising campaign.
Stelios launched a suit against his arch-rival at the start of the year over the ads, which featured a caricature of the easyJet founder as Pinocchio and claimed he had lied about the airline’s record on flight delays.
Stelios claimed that the statements in the campaign, which referred to him as “easyJet’s Mr Late Again” and called on him to “stop hiding the truth” and publish weekly details of the airline’s punctuality record, were libellous.
O’Leary was forced to issue a full-page “unreserved” apology on Ryanair’s website, though he stopped short of performing a full U-turn on the issue, insisting that the apology related to the remarks only “in so far as they related to [Stelios] personally”.
“Both Michael O’Leary and Ryanair accept that Sir Stelios is not responsible for the non-publication of easyJet’s on-time statistics for the past 52 weeks and that he is not in any way responsible for easyJet’s management’s continuing failure to publish weekly details of their on-time stats,” the statement added.
Stelios has a fractious relationship with easyJet’s management, with whom he originally clashed last year over his belief that the airline was expanding too fast in the downturn.
EasyJet’s ex-chief executive Andy Harrison also came under intense fire from Stelios for his strategy decisions.
Stelios took his own parting pot-shot at his rival, issuing a statement to say he “would like to dedicate this little victory to all those members of the travelling public who have suffered verbal abuse and hidden extras at the hands of O’Leary”.
He has received £50,100 in damages from O’Leary, which he said yesterday will be donated to his philanthropic foundation.