Michael O’Leary, the controversial and often outspoken chief executive of budget carrier Ryanair, has faced a chorus of criticism following remarks he made about Muslin airline passengers in an interview with The Times newspaper. During the wide-ranging interview, the boss of Europe’s largest airline suggested Muslim men should be subjected to racial profiling at airport security.
O’Leary argued that the current methods used at airport security checkpoints, such as metal detectors and restricting the amount of liquids passengers can take through with them, are “utterly useless”. But, he said, they were designed “so that politicians can convey the impression that they are doing something.”
He then suggested that racial profiling would be a far more effective method of screening passengers.
“Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males travelling on their own. If you are travelling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is f***ing zero. You can’t say stuff, because it’s racism, but it will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion,” he said.
Rationalising his thought process, O’Leary then pointed out that during ‘The Troubles’, Irish men would have been the subject of extra scrutiny. “If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat,” he explained.
But his comments have been blasted by the Muslim Council of Britain which described them as “Islamophobic”.
“… his comments are racist and discriminatory,” a spokesperson for the MCB said on Saturday afternoon.
“He openly advocates discrimination against ‘males of a Muslim persuasion’, which presumably is not based on specific intelligence but solely whether someone ‘looks or acts like a Muslim’. This is the very definition of Islamophobia.”
The BALPA trade union, which represents many of Ryanair’s UK-based pilots said in a Tweet that O’Leary had once again put his foot in it (referring to his habit of causing offence with controversial, outspoken comments).
“Pilots employed by Ryanair, including Muslims, would all want to completely disown these ill-considered remarks. What are Muslim staff or passengers supposed to think? He should apologise for the offence he has caused.”
Calls for an apology were echoed by the Muslim Council of Britain, although as of Saturday night, Ryanair had not publicly commented on the matter.
Racial profiling is against the law throughout the EU and UK, although its effectiveness in airport security has been debated and examined on a number of occasions.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.