With Malta Air, Ryanair continues its shift to an IAG-like structure

Cantillon: This will be the third new brand in the Ryanair family

Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair, during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York. Photograph: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair, during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York. Photograph: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

The news that Ryanair is apparently set to launch Malta Air, a new low-cost airline on the sun-soaked island of Malta, is clear evidence of the group’s ongoing restructuring in action.

It has yet to be formally announced, but it appears that Ryanair has struck a deal with the Maltese government to acquire an airline operator’s certificate (AOC) on the island for a new branded subsidiary. Malta Air is expected to start off with six aircraft, with a view to doubling this over time.

According to a detailed local report in Malta Today, as part of the overall agreement Ryanair has agreed to also re-register on Malta another 60 of its aircraft, currently operating in Germany and Italy.

These planes would not fly under the new Malta Air livery; they would remain Ryanair planes and in day-to-day terms they would operate much as they do now. But it raises the prospect that Ryanair could use Malta as some sort of aircraft maintenance hub. This may be the jam in the deal for Maltese authorities.

This will be the third new brand in the Ryanair family, after Laudamotion in Austria and Buzz, which flies out of Poland. Throw in the group’s eponymous original brand, and Michael O’Leary will now effectively be in charge of four different airlines.

This is, in effect, the conversion of Ryanair to a structure similar to that of IAG, the airline group that owns British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling.

O’Leary will end up running Ryanair as an apex structure, in much the same way that his peer Willie Walsh runs IAG.

The apex entity will then allocate capital and set targets for each of the separately run operating subsidiaries, which will in turn have their own chief executives responsible for their respective operations.

From being nice to customers, to recognising trade unions, to now building a family of brands, the Ryanair of the near future will be almost unrecognisable from the upstart low-cost carrier that O’Leary built.

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