Leaving Cert business: Ryanair flights fiasco question leave students floating on air

Paper described as ‘lovely’ and short questions were ‘nicest ever’

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary featured prominently in the Leaving Cert business exam. Photograph: John Thysjohn/Getty Images

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary featured prominently in the Leaving Cert business exam. Photograph: John Thysjohn/Getty Images


Last year’s Ryanair flights fiasco featured prominently on Thursday’s higher-level business paper in a well-received exam.

Students were presented with a brief note about the cancellation of Ryanair flights last September after airline chief executive Michael O’Leary admitted he “messed up the planning of pilots’ holidays”.

It was followed by a curt note asking students to explain the term “contingency plan” and to “outline the importance of planning for an airline such as Ryanair”.

Pádraig Doherty, a spokesman for the Business Studies Teachers Association of Ireland and teacher at Moyne Community College in Longford, said the paper was well-pitched.

“It wasn’t too easy, and there was enough for students of all abilities. It was also a paper that required more than regurgitation of rote-learned material, with a lot of critical thinking required,” he said.

Mr Doherty said the most challenging question asked students about the difficulties that increased employment presents for the Irish economy, but that it was a good chance for the stronger students to shine.

“In terms of Irish businesses, the Ryanair cancellation of flights doesn’t get much more topical, relevant and practical.

“Supermac’s cropped up on a reasonably straightforward question on franchising. “The applied business questions asked students about the opportunities presented for a bike hire business on a Greenway which students will have found interesting and easy to relate to.”

Ruairí Farrell, a teacher at Coláiste Chraobh Abhann in Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow and subject representative for the TUI, said some of the short questions were “quite wordy and text-heavy, but there was a good mix of questions so they had a lot of choice.”

He said a question on how credit unions work as a cooperative was a nice challenge for the more capable student.

Keith Hannigan, a business teacher at the Institute of Education, said it was a lovely paper.

“It gave students a nice, positive start with excellent short questions and a lovely applied business question. The long questions were all fair,” he said.

“The paper rewarded students who had studied the whole course and not just relied on past papers for their revision. The short questions were the nicest ever. Question seven, about Cadbury’s and extending a product’s life cycle, was gorgeous.”

The ordinary level-paper was clear and to the point, said Mr Farrell. “The students knew what was expected with each of the questions and the whole course was examined.”

Mr Doherty said that the paper required a good knowledge of key business terms and concepts and that there was “no scope for waffle.”

With 17,373 students, business is one of the most popular of all non-compulsory subjects at Leaving Cert level.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert business, higher level

Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary, has apologised for the cancellation of flights. The airline admits it “messed up the planning of pilots’ holidays” (Source: Adapted from ‘The Irish Times’, 2017)

(i) Illustrate your understanding of the term contingency plan.

(ii) Outline the importance of planning for an airline such as Ryanair. Refer to strategic, tactical and manpower planning in your answer.