So Ryanair claims it’s now officially the worlds favourite airline after carrying the highest number of passengers in one year, over 100 million according to the IATA global aviation body, thrashing nearest competitor EasyJet by almost 40 million.
The Irish airline thanks its transformation programme for helping the business shift from being the budget butt of jokes to laughing all the way to the top spot through end-to-end digital integration, opening up its service to new routes and reimagining the cabin experience.
But do people even know about this? Or care? Isn’t Ryanair’s success simply down to the cheapo fares?
Having recently paid an eye-watering amount of money to fly long haul with a major carrier that prides itself on service, and having had in reality much the same experience as I did flying Ryanair 10 years ago, I don't think it’s the prices that has led to their recent boost in image.
Instead it’s about changing the focus to what’s actually important to people and building services around that. In contrast, on my flight, the fact that I didn’t have to pay for a meal didn’t make me happy, because the food was so dreadful I would never in a million years have paid for it. The ‘hundreds’ of inflight entertainment options weren’t options at all, since the crappy old monitor could have been in an ‘I love the 80’s’ nostalgia show. So what was I getting exactly, by choosing an expensive airline that is supposed to offer a superior experience?
Yes, the airline’s app saved me having to look up at the board. Well worth downloading. And I had a ‘generous’ luggage allowance (which I didn’t need or use). I still had to queue with the hoards even though I had my digital boarding card, and I still had to pay (hundreds) on top to reserve seats. So what ‘frills’ was I actually paying for?
Granted, this was economy class, and there are those that would argue that this is just part of the airlines’ strategy of ‘calculated misery’; the basic service having been degraded so much that people want to pay for an upgrade to avoid it. You get what you pay for, and all that.
I admire Ryanair for turning that infamous mindset around – recognising the changing expectations of travel customers and attempting the type of change that penetrates the whole business – service, operations, culture, the lot – despite the undisputed truth that a cheap-but-not-cheerful business model still turns a tidy profit.
They’ve managed to go from being named second worst brand in the world (bit harsh!) just 2 years ago, to pursuing their ambition to be a ‘digital travel leader’ focused on customer experience, and it seems to be working for them.