The chief executives of five of Europe’s biggest airlines were asked which of their rivals they would choose to run for a week.
But then they were asked a provocative question that revealed jovial yet insightful answers, the news agency Reuters reports.
The heads of the five airlines on the Airlines for Europe (A4E) lobby group panel – IAG, easyJet, Lufthansa, Ryanair and KLM – were asked: If they could trade places with one of their rivals for a week, who would they choose?
“I would take Ryanair, and I would show customers that they can really have an enjoyable journey if they paid [a little more],” answered Pieter Elbers of KLM.
O’Leary responded that Elbers’ answer had made him change his mind before referring to the Dutch government’s recent sudden purchase of a stake in Air France-KLM.
“I was going to say Lufthansa, so I could feel what it’s like to own Germany and Austria,” he said. “I’ve changed at the last minute, Pieter, so I could encourage the Dutch government to buy more of the shares.”
KLM for IAG?
Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, also opted for KLM, injecting an M&A aspect into the conversation.
“I would pick KLM, and I would spend that time convincing them that they should be part of IAG,” he said.
Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr chose IAG’s British Airways, as he was “jealous” of London as a home hub.
Finally, easyJet’s Johan Lundgren pointed out that none of the others had chosen easyJet, meaning he must be doing a good job. “It’s a massive compliment,” he said.