The boy who won a plane for a day

The Times We Lived In – Published: May 12th, 1988. Photograph by Jack McManus

 

You don’t see many happy Ryanair pictures. Michael O’Leary does a great job of keeping the airline in the public eye, but between his ebullient nature and the nature of news itself, we hear a lot of talk about complaints, controversies and conflicts.

There are, however, moments of celebration too; and this merry image would put anyone in the mood to jet off to Bremen, Basel or Barcelona.

It shows 10-year-old Dubliner Stuart Alexander – who, as Ryanair’s 500,000th passenger, was given a plane for a day, and opted to bring his family and friends to London for the craic.

I say friends: it looks as if most of the kids from Stuart’s class at Whitechurch National School in Rathfarnham have come along for the ride. I think I see his mammy, halfway up the steps of The Spirit of Dublin, and there are a couple of energetic-looking ladies who are, hopefully teachers, because otherwise Stuart’s mammy is going to have one heck of a day trying to mind all those sprogs on Oxford Street.

Stuart himself stands proud, his mop of hair gleaming in the sun, his golden ticket held high. There’s a sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vibe about it: oh no, hang on, that didn’t end so well, and we said we were going to stay happy on this one.

So let’s look at some figures. In recent years Ryanair has celebrated its 500,000th passenger in – among other places – Vilnius, Zadar, Beziers and Prague where, in October 2015, they produced a rather impressive cake to mark the occasion. As celebrations go it’s not as mad as giving somebody a plane for a day – but then, with an average of 11 million passengers travelling with Ryanair last year, they can’t just go giving out planes willy-nilly, or nobody would ever get anywhere.

But then, last year . . . well, let’s not talk about that either. Happy holidays. That’s what we want. Happy holidays.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, “The Times We Lived In”, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99

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