Ryanair has never wanted to be loved. Since its inception over 33 years ago, the focus has been on low cost, no frills air travel.
This comes from the belief that customers simply want the cheapest prices. And, if you treat them badly enough, they will always assume you are the cheapest. Even when you’re not.
At least this seemed to be the plan until 2014 when, as the budget airline market grew more crowded, and the availability of flight price comparison sites grew, simply behaving the way they did wasn’t enough.
So emerged a new marketing tactic. Being “nice, but only nice enough”. Backed up by a campaign called “Always getting better”, which focused on a model of adding new things to the stripped back flight experiences, rather than, like the higher end airlines, taking things away.
And it seemed to be working. In June 2016, Ryanair became the world’s most visited airline website. Cheap prices, small sweeteners, and some form of customer relationship management.
These past few weeks, things have come crashing down for them. With the news that they are cancelling 18,000 flights due to an error made with pilot holidays, and no real plan to remedy this, they have taken “no frills travel” to a new low. That’s hundreds of thousands of passengers without flights to their destinations, some cancelled as late as 45 minutes before they were due to board.
The cynic in me wonders if this is a return to their old ways. Yes, the mistake is real – the cost to the company will be huge, with the flight changes and compensation required - but this isn’t something they’ve just discovered, and it won’t have been the only solution. To cancel so many flights is a calculated decision, putting the customers last.
Maybe, this time, customers will have had enough. But, perhaps not. After all, with flights costing an average of £35 to Europe, who really cares about the way they're treated?
Watch this space.