The outspoken CEO of Europe’s largest budget airline, Michael O’Leary, lashed out at the Hungarian government for its plans to nationalize the Budapest airport, news and opinion portal Mandiner reports.
In a cover story interview with the Hungarian edition of Forbes magazine, O’Leary said governments are notoriously poor owners of airlines and airports.
“Governments are very bad owners of airports and airlines. You can see the excellent job they did with (national airline) Malév,” he told Forbes. He said the measure would be unfortunate because the government could easily be backed into a corner by unions, and instead of long-term investment, the priority would be to satisfy the electorate. He also says that public money cannot be spent in such a way, so there is no chance of major investments.
He said that the extra profit tax on companies is not worthwhile either. He promised that if they were abolished, they would bring 5-6 million more tourists a year.
Last June, when the government slapped a windfall tax on airlines, O’Leary lashed out at Hungary’s “idiotic” minister for economic development, Márton Nagy.
“This Márton Nagy is a complete idiot,” O’Leary said. “We cannot understand his argument that an ‘extra-profit special tax’ should be imposed on the aviation industry when we suffered record losses last year due to Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. We in Budapest were growing very strongly before the idiotic extra profit tax was introduced. They made it dependent on the output of the plane, but the effect is the same.
We won’t expand again in Hungary until this and the tax on the district next to the airport are repealed,” O’Leary said in the Forbes interview. He added that he also did not think it was a good idea to tax tourists entering the country, as it could discourage many from entering. Instead, he said, this extra revenue should be included in hotel bills.