Senior Adviser (Consultant)
Charlie started at Ryanair in 1986 when it was just a start-up operation. In fact, he sold the airline's very first ticket! As Director of Ground Operations, he left in 2002. He then ran the Tiger Airways joint venture in South East Asia with SIA. He was invited to join Webjet, a struggling Brazilian airline at the start of 2010 before an Industry Sale to Gol in 2011.
Charlie joined Ryanair at its inception in 1986 and was the fifth employee of Ryanair. He sold its first ticket to a passenger. Since then, he has gained unique experience by working his way up through the organisation during a period when the airline changed dramatically from a loss -making full-service carrier to LCC, and one of the most profitable airlines in the world.
Ryanair was the first airline to adapt the low-cost no-frills model to fit the European environment. That experience has given Charlie a unique level of understanding on how dramatic change from full service, loss making carrier, to a profitable low-cost carrier can be managed successfully. It has survived the change and prospered dramatically through developing an understanding of what is required of such a carrier by passenger and shareholder alike, embracing the strict management disciplines needed to make Ryanair the benchmark for other LCC’s throughout the world. Such experience is unique and valuable.
As Director of Ground Operations and In-flight a position held from 1997 to 2002, Charlie held a wide brief, reporting directly to Michael O Leary, the CEO. Almost half the Ryanair staff reported through deputies directly to him. He worked closely with O’Leary on all company matters and was a trusted deputy. Along with operational matters he had direct responsibility for dealing and negotiating with all the major airport and handling agencies. Before leaving he led the project team on the second Independent Terminal project at Dublin airport, for Ryanair. In addition, he had responsibility for many of Ryanair’s ancillary sales activities; this area generated in excess of 20% of the airlines revenue and was critical to the profitability of the carrier. Charlie left Ryanair in December 2002 having decided to broaden his industry experience outside the airline. Having benefitted from the company flotation in 1997 and thru subsequent share option grants, Charlie left Ryanair on excellent terms, and remains close to the key individuals to this day.
In October 2003 Declan Ryan (son of the founder of Ryanair) asked Charlie to set up Tiger Airways, a low-cost airline based on the Ryanair model, based in Singapore. He started the airline, employed the core team and became operational by September 2004. Apart from getting the airline operational on time and within budget, he was also able to persuade the Singapore government to build a low-cost terminal at Changi Airport delivering a cost base 30% > 50% lower than existed at the main terminal. This was critically important in an environment where secondary airports, and the lower costs that go with them, are scarce.
In January 2005 Charlie set up his own company, Whitby Consulting Ltd., and began a number of consulting posts both in aviation and non-aviation projects. He also invested in some non-aviation projects. In 2007 he was invited to become a partner in Irelandia Aviation, a private equity investment company (owned by the Ryan family) the company is involved in identifying potential low-cost airline investment opportunities throughout the world. Irelandia has invested in numerous airline start-ups including, Tiger Airways, Allegiant Airlines and Viva Aerobus in Mexico. He was closely involved in Tiger having set the company up but was also an equity stakeholder and co-owner in the airline.
In November 2009 Charlie was introduced (through Irelandia) to Webjet, a family owned Brazilian airline attempting to transition from a heavily loss-making full-service carrier to becoming a “Ryanair” type LCC. Webjet approached him to join the company and become a full-time advisor and Board member. The successful turnaround of Webjet allowed the airline to file for an IPO in March 2010. At exactly this time the “Arab Spring” began, and oil reached 2.5 year highs ( $120 per barrel ) resulting in a management decision to postpone the IPO. Instead they began to look at an alternative exit strategy – a sale to GOL. The Company was sold to GOL in July 2011.
At the end 2017 Charlie was approached by Ryanair to help them with the purchase and transition of LaudaMotion in Vienna. This was the first successful purchase of an airline by Ryanair outside of the UK, he agreed to work on the project for the initial 3 months (from March - May 2018).
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