Whilst making my way through my Feedly* newsfeed the other day, I noticed a story about Ryanair and the fact that their profits have dropped for the first time in five years.
Now, I’ve always been quite interested in Ryanair as a business, as I’m consistently amazed by how Michael O’Leary can be such a terrible chief executive, and yet people are still flocking to snap up Ryanair flights to Alicante because they’re £20 cheaper than the nearest competitor, subsequently lining his pockets so he can buy a taxi plate for his car, meaning he can drive in bus and taxi lanes because traffic is a pain in the arse (totally with him on that one).
From my point of view, it’s not just leg-room and an in-flight meal that you’re sacrificing due to the low cost of flying with Ryanair, it’s decent customer service and the effort that’s usually put in to try and make sure you’re experience is enjoyable. Sure, being asked if you want to buy Britney Spears’ latest perfume or a hot drink three times on the outbound flight is annoying when you’re trying to watch a movie, but it’s nice to know that you have the option.
I’m always amazed when people complain to Ryanair that they’ve been charged for failing to print off their boarding card, or that the piece of hold luggage that they’ve paid £30 for has to be the size and weight of a postage stamp. Your flight cost you £23.99, what the hell did you expect?! Also, they stipulate that you have to print of your boarding pass or you’ll be charged, so, you know, it’s your own fault.
It just goes to show, that if you offer people something at a cheap enough price, it doesn’t really matter if a handful of them have a really terrible experience, it’s never going to put other people off booking, especially if they’re making a saving.
I am no longer surprised if I see a complaint about Ryanair, and I doubt anyone else is either, so (and bear with me here) it makes me think that they actually have got a reasonably clever marketing strategy. Despicable, but clever. All you’ve got to do is take standards as low as possible, and then no-one will really give a shit as to whether someone else has had a bad experience, if you’re prices are cheap enough, they’ll crack on and book using your services anyway because they know what they’re getting will be shit, and they’re not expecting anything better.
Ryanair don’t have a Facebook page (probably a wise move, it would just be filled with complaints), but if you take a look at their Twitter account, it is just a poor customer services drone replying to people who have had issues with their flights.
So why have Ryanair’s profits fallen? Are people finally fed up with flying with an airline that is beyond crap, with terrible customer service, or is it (as they claim) that the market has become more competitive. These profit decreases have come despite the fact that they have actually put in increased efforts to improve customer service (lol) and hang on to existing customers, as well as introducing allocated seating and cuts to baggage fees.
This could be quite a controversial view, but I’ve always quite liked Michael O’Leary. Sure, he’s made some idiotic, sexist comments in the past, but at least he’s not dressing it up and pretending to be some super serious CEO. He says things that, I imagine, almost all CEO’s say, but at least he does it in public. Some may disagree with this, but I’m a big fan of being upfront. Not so much of the publicly perving on hot women, but you can’t have it all.
Again, similar to the ‘I know this service is crap, but it’s cheap’ mentality of their customers, having a CEO who everyone already knows is rude and arrogant means that it’s already out there, so it’s not going to come as a surprise when you find out that he has described Ryanair’s planned business travel as featuring “whores and rum”.
No matter how you feel about Ryanair and MOL, the last laugh’s on him anyway, as he probably has more money than all of us put together. So is being absolutely despicable actually a really honest way of treating your customers, or do you prefer being told by a machine that “your call is important to us”, when you know it’s anything but?
*Sidebar: If you’re looking for a handy news aggregator, I can’t recommend Feedly highly enough
PR exec who likes finding funnies and cool stuff online. Print journalism graduate.