Are customers being unfair on Ryanair?

It’s been difficult to miss the recent trauma caused to the Ryanair brand following its announcement that its pilots are off on holiday for the rest of the year. An estimated 2% of flights were to be cancelled, meaning very few ‘customers’ are impacted (according to them).

‘Have your say’ poll below

I’m one of the 98%, whose flights went ahead, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t aware or affected by the situation. I have still seen all the news and abuse they been getting in the press and social media. It’s also crashed into my customer journey when I flew because I had to put more effort in to remove the anxiety involved with sticking with Ryanair.

When I saw the initial announcement, I had flights booked to Copenhagen for business. I didn’t know if they intended to publish a cancellation but heard stories of passengers being told two hours beforehand that their flight had been cancelled. I was due to run two days of customer journey mapping workshops, so couldn’t take the risk.

I booked the flights originally because of the convenience factor of them. I’d be departing from an airport close to me and at a time that suited. The cost of the flights matters less to me. a lot less than an airline honouring a flight where there are dependencies at the other end.

So, I booked back-up flights in case the Ryanair flights were cancelled and I didn’t know whether they’d tell passengers about cancellations. The back-up flights were from an airport 90 mins further away from me than the Ryanair flights, so a lot less convenient, but at least I knew I’d get there if mine were cancelled which had now become a more important criteria than convenience.

When the cancellation list was published my flight was not on it. But as a colleague said, ‘when you buy cheap, you end up buying twice’. Ryanair positions itself at the cheap end of the cheap brand spectrum, so the old advertiser’s wife’s tale certainly came true for me. In fact, I’ve ended up lining the pockets of two other airlines they compete with just so I can use Ryanair.

Is Ryanair being unfair to me as a customer? 

I don’t think it is. I understand I am a transaction to Ryanair and not a customer. It’s always been that way. I accept that to afford the price of their ticket I need to lower my expectations. I need to sacrifice quality and a lot more besides because we enter into a transaction, not a customer relationship. That’s the trade. If I want to be treated like a customer, I should choose an alternative carrier. I get that.

So it’s my choice and they don’t try and present themselves as anything more than that, so we get along just fine. In fact, I’ve booked over twenty trips so far this and a noticeable proportion of those have been with Ryanair so I hop it’s commercially viable for them too.

But will everyone feel the same?

From a share price perspective, they are 25pts up on where they were this time last year. But what’s your view? Complete the survey below and see what others think too.

Will passengers change their airline?

Perhaps those who have lost hundreds on hotels and car hire will be less likely to consider Ryanair, especially as they cant get refunds from their travel insurers for which Ryanair state legally isn’t their problem.

People who had events and activities planned like visiting family abroad for key birthdays, weddings organised or taking friends and loved ones away for much anticipated trips might hold a long term resentment if they can reschedule at no extra cost.

I know they have slim margins and are looking for me to demonstrate my fallible human side and make a mistake (e.g. I forget to check in 2 hours before hand or I need a drink of water and pay €3 on board when it costs 69p if i’d remembered to get it before I flew, or if show weakness and exercise my right to sit with my wife and young sons on the flight and pay for seats to do so). Those extras are part of their business model, they need to protect them.

But in return, they don’t expect me to be ‘very satisfied’ with the experience. they don’t expect me to tell others to use their airline, they don’t expect me to be loyal to them and they don’t expect me to enjoy using Ryanair. It’s a transaction. We both know where we stand and I think it works pretty well.

Can I remember when I travelled with Ryanair and where to? No, it’s a pretty forgettable experience.

Can I tell you how good the experience was? I didn’t notice anything, but I didn’t expect to.

Can I recall a positive memorable moment from dealing with them? They are not creating happy memories. That’s not what cheap brands do. 

Would I tell others to choose them? No, but that’s not important to them. They aren’t looking to give me any reason to do so and I have no reason to tell anyone else to use them.

If I want a memorable flight I should choose another airline. Ryanair do not have the margins or the brand to satisfy customers, so why would they focus on it?

Does this episode reaffirm Ryanair’s brand, rather than damage it?

I’ve also found the Ryanair cancellation was a hot topic amongst the Swiss, German, Danish and Belgium attendees at the workshop. It seems others are not so accommodating. Listening to the discussion amongst the international group of business travellers, I hadn’t appreciated how wide reaching this incident had become.

Some decided to use a different airline to get to the workshop to previously used Ryanair. They said it was a nice experience so they would carry on now they’d realised the flight experience was important to them.

But we shouldn’t be disappointed in Ryanair. The incident itself and how they have conducted themselves throughout the flight cancellation saga has been true to their brand. Whether it’s not publishing the cancellation list early enough, putting pilots holidays before passengers holidays, sitting in front of an advertising poster of smiling actors posing on a beach as the CEO says sorry we can’t fly some of you to the beach or not sharing compensation information legally obliged to until the regulator barks, they been consistent.

All these have been executed perfectly in line with the values of Ryanair. Few other companies could turn a crisis in to such as demonstration of unwavering alignment to their brand.

Posted by Chistopher Brooks, Customer Consultant, Lexden (London)

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Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience insight, strategy, content and creative activation clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

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1 thought on “Are customers being unfair on Ryanair?

  1. Dennis Haggerty

    Brand alignment with Ryan Air of 2012. However they have since moved the dial and people (like me) risked dipping their toe back in the Ryanair pool and found the flying experience perfectly acceptable. Indeed, before they withdrew the hand luggage plus handbag offer to passengers, Mrs H was preferring them ahead of EasyJet.

    I agree the realationship with customers is transactional, however reliability becomes core to the transactional offering. Would I risk Mrs H annual holiday by booking Ryanair – no chance. Would I still be tempted by a bargain priced flight where the dependencies were minimal? Of course.

    Hence the damage is to the pricing model and the willingness to pay for extras. Handled in a less precipitous way I’m sure Ryanair could have managed their way out of this issue without the publicity or damage this will cause them for many many months ahead.

    Reply

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