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Hungarian Minister for Economic Development Slams Ryanair CEO Remarks

Hungary Today 2022.06.16.

The war of words between low-cost carrier Ryanair and the Hungarian government continues after the latter decided to introduce windfall taxes on banks and other large private companies to rebalance the budget using the revenues. After labeling the measure as “beyond stupid”, in a recent interview Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary outright called  Economic Development Minister Márton Nagy a”complete idiot” demanding local authorities to reverse the tax. In response to the inexcusably offensive tone typical of O’Leary’s style, the minister said “if only airlines gave equally swift responses when Hungarian citizens turn to them with consumer complaints,” deeming the CEO’s words completely unacceptable.

Ryanair once again rejected the extra profit tax imposed by the Hungarian government in a statement on Tuesday. The low-cost airline, which last week already described the special tax on airlines as “beyond stupid”, called on Economic Development Minister Márton Nagy to explain why:

  • Airlines are being levied an excess profits ‘tax’, to ‘protect Hungarian families’, when airlines are reporting record losses due to Covid and the Ukraine invasion.
  • Why are Hungarian families and visitors being asked to pay higher fares when air travel to/from Hungary has suffered 2 years of Covid and Ukraine losses?
  • How does raising taxes on air travel ‘help’ Hungarian families?

The statement also quotes Michael O’Leary, the CEO of the Irish company, who in his own uncouth style, bashes the government’s decision:

“One can understand why the Hungarians might impose an excess profits tax on the oil and gas sectors, who are making windfall profits as a result of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” O’Leary said.

Ryanair Dumps Hungary’s ’Extra Profits’ Tax onto Customers
Ryanair Dumps Hungary’s ’Extra Profits’ Tax onto Customers

Minister for economic development, Márton Nagy, quickly announced that his ministry is launching an investigation into the 'unfair ticket pricing.'Continue reading

“But to extend this ‘excess profits’ tax to a loss-making industry like air travel, which is struggling to recover from 2 years of Covid, and the more recent impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shows that [Economic Development] Minister Nagy has forgotten his economics”, he said, adding that: “We will be sending him a new booklet ‘Economics for Dummies’, which we hope he will study,” the head of the budget airline known for his controversial comments continued.

“At a time when many other EU countries are lowering taxes and fees to recover traffic, tourism, and jobs, the Hungarian [government] is doing the opposing by making air travel to/from Hungary more expensive and less competitive,”

O’Leary concluded, calling on local authorities to reverse the “idiotic tax.”

On the same day, Michael O’Leary gave an interview to the Hungarian news site hvg.hu, in which he called Márton Nagy a “complete idiot”.

In the rather short interview, he labeled the Orbán government’s Minister for Economic Development with this undiplomatic insult a total of five times. But only so many times because, for a change, he also called Márton Nagy a moron once, right before calling him a fool.

In response to the less than flattering comments, Hungary’s minister for economic development also slammed Ryanair’s CEO.

Márton Nagy, in a way more civilized tone, reacted on Wednesday that the style of Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary’s recent remarks regarding the Hungarian windfall taxes were “unacceptable” and “leave much to be desired”.

We do not understand their double standards. Ryanair pays the same type of tax for instance in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and France, in keeping with the law, and without raising any problems … so why do they object to the Hungarian procedure?,”

the minister asked in a statement.

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Several Companies Pass Government’s ‘Extra Profit Tax’ onto Consumers

The list so far includes one of Hungary’s largest commercial banks K&H, low cost airlines EasyJet and allegedly Wizz Air, in addition to the majority of leasing companies.Continue reading

The minister said while it was typical that a multinational company protected its profits rather than Hungarian families,

we expect everyone to behave in a fair and lawful way nevertheless, including Ryanair. The Hungarian authorities will take action against anyone who does not act accordingly,”

he added.

As we earlier reported, Ryanair has been in discord with the Orbán government’s plan to introduce a windfall tax on “extra profits” on several large private companies, including banks, the energy sector and airlines.

Describing the government’s decision as “beyond stupid”, Ryanair last week announced it would pass on the added cost to passengers, even for bookings made before the tax comes into effect in July 1st. In response, the Hungarian government announced it was launching a consumer protection investigation into Ryanair’s practices.

Featured photo by Attila Kovács/MTI

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