easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has accepted undisclosed libel damages over advertisements by Ryanair that accused him of lying. The Irish carrier ran adverts depicting Stelios as Pinocchio, suggesting he was lying about easyJet’s punctuality, and has since published grovelling apology adverts in two broadsheets.
Sir Stelios brought proceedings in London’s High Court over the adverts which appeared the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph and on Ryanair’s website in January and February.
The adverts concerned the flight on-time statistics of easyJet, which had not been published on the airline’s website for 37 weeks.
The two budget airlines have often used knocking ads in an effort to steal market from each other.
Ryanair has also apologised unreservedly to Sir Stelios for including his photograph, and referring to him personally in four adverts.
Ryanair, which creates its ads in-house, has issued the apology in today’s The Guardian and Daily Telegraph, which also includes a photograph of a smiling Stelios.
In The Guardian, the apology states: “Michael O’Leary and Ryanair unreservedly apologise to Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannous, for including his photograph in an advert which ran in The Guardian on 20th and 29th January 2010.
“That advert featured a picture of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannous and referred to him as ‘easyJet’s- Mr Late Again’ and called on ‘Stelios… to stop hiding the truth’ about easyJet’s flight delays and resume publishing weekly details of easyJet’s on-time performance.”
It goes on to state O’Leary and Ryanair will not publish the ad again, and refers to the fact that they have “agreed to pay him [Stelios] damages and legal costs in settlements of his libel claim.”
The final line of the ad states it accepts that Stelios “is not in any way responsible for easyJet’s management’s continuing failure to publish weekly details of their on-time stats.
The Irish carrier claims the adverts were published to draw attention to its rival’s failure to publish weekly details of their on-time performance.
Michael O’Leary said: “We are happy to apologise to Stelios for including his photograph and referring to him personally in the advert about easyJet’s missing weekly punctuality stats, and since he was not responsible for easyJet’s decision to stop publishing these on-time statistics, I think it is only fair and reasonable that we say ‘sorry’ and pay him damages and his legal costs, rather than waste Court time on this issue.”
“Today’s settlement won’t detract from or end Ryanair’s campaign to expose easyJet’s failure to publish its weekly on-time statistics for the last 52 weeks. Ryanair believes they have been hiding these details since May 2009, because they know they can’t compete with Ryanair’s punctuality, just the same way easyJet can’t compete with our pricing either,” he added.