Ryanair invites Pope Francis to fly no-frills to Ireland

Michael O'Leary says the airline has contacted the Vatican ahead of the Papal visit in 2018

Michael O’Leary, the stunt-loving CEO of Ryanair, has invited Pope Francis to avail of the budget airline during his visit to Ireland next year.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, the Ryanair CEO announced a new €883m investment in 44 new routes and 2,250 jobs in two Italian airports. A quipping O’Leary then added that he was hopeful the frugal pontiff would be among the first new passengers availing of the new Ryanair services when he makes the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979.

“He is a Jesuit and he is very clever when it comes to PR, so we look forward to flying the Holy Father in 2018,” O’Leary said, claiming he had already written to the Vatican to suggest the plan.

The frugal Father

Pope Francis’s reign as the head of the Catholic Church has seen him embrace the traditional luxuries and trappings of the papacy. After Pope Benedict wore designer shoes and vestments, Francis marked a change by choosing to live in a modest boarding house in the Vatican instead of the luxurious and ornately decorated papal apartment.

While the bishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the Pope also preferred using the local bus network to get around, and was known for paying his hotel bills out of his own pocket. The Pope also recently requested that his image be removed from Vatican Euro coins, which, because of their rarity, were becoming expensive collectors' items.

As such, the concept of the pontiff flying Ryanair’s famous no-frills aircraft does not seem ridiculous.

Vatican traditions

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, however, said that it is traditional for the Pope and his team to fly out of Rome with the Italian national carrier Alitalia, returning from his destination with the national carrier of the country he visits.

Burke described Alitalia as an “essential part” of papal trips, although when Pope John Paul II made his visit to Ireland almost 40 years ago, he did so in a specially designed Aer Lingus jet that then flew him on to a visit to the US.

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