When Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary told investors last month that the company planned to take steps to "try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off" it came as a welcome surprise to budget travelers, but one met with skepticism for a company that was voted as having the worst customer service of major brands in the U.K.
Now it seems like O'Leary wasn't kidding. Those customer-friendly measures are really happening. Among the initiatives: cutting the bag fee by 10 euros or pounds (depending on whether you board in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe); significantly dropping the fee for reissuing a boarding pass at the airport for customers who check-in online from 70 euros or pounds to 15; allowing a second small personal item; and giving customers who book online a 24 hour grace period to correct errors made in the original booking (e.g. misspelled names, wrong dates). The initiatives will be rolled out over the next six months with many starting on November 1.
“We are very excited at these significant improvements in what is already Europe’s number one customer service airline. As we implement our plans to grow from 80 million to over 110 million customer p.a. over the next 5 years, we are actively listening and responding to our customers so that they can continue to expect low fares and on-time flights on Ryanair."
That's a complete 180 for a CEO who doesn't exactly live by the "customer is always right" motto.
So what's with the change? Bloomberg Businessweek speculates:
Of course, these kinds of efforts are not solely the creation of a marketing team alarmed by unpleasant press—Ryanair has managed that for years—it’s mainly about bottom-line business. The airline has gotten to 80 million annual passengers and wants to boost that to 110 million by 2019. What worked to get this far, the airline has likely concluded, will not attract another 30 million customers on a continent where low-cost airlines have proliferated like rabbits.
What do you think? Will the changes draw you to Ryanair (if you aren't a customer already)?
Photo: Flickr/Javier Pedreira