Can Ryanair change to be less macho?

Courtesy BBC

Courtesy BBC

Ryanair may not be that much loved by many travellers, but it sure keeps itself in the news. Chief executive of the Irish budget airline, Mr Michael O’Leary, understands only too well the importance of staying in the spotlight, that which advertisers generally refer to as the recall factor. Good or bad, it is better to be remembered than forgotten.

Only a few days more than a week ago, Ryanair warned that it might miss its profit forecast for the year, as earnings are expected to fall below 600 million euros (US$452 million). (See Ryanair and Cathay Pacific face common woe: Competition, Sep 11, 2013) Competition is the demon, that has led to fall in demand even as the prices fall.

Now Mr O’Leary is making no bones about a possible problem confronting the airline in his response to shareholders’ concern that customer service issues were hitting sales. Since its inception, Ryanair has been known for its cut and dry approach in handling customers driven by a preoccupation to make a penny wherever possible. It is almost Machiavellian. Yet despite complaints about rude staff, unfriendly service and high-handed methods of charging for deemed extras, Ryanair has been one of the most profitable airlines in the budget business. (See Why Ryanair succeeds, Jun 26, 2013)

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

It looks like the day of reckoning has arrived. Mr O’Leary promised to reform Ryanair’s “abrupt culture”. He said: “We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily annoy customers.” In fact, he admitted: “A lot of those customer services elements don’t cost a lot of money.” A new team will be set up to respond to complaint emails, and the Ryanair website will be revamped.

Ryanair apologized openly to a passenger who, in spite of his tearful plea for a change of flight because he had received news that his family had died in a fire, was charged 188 euros.

You just have to give Mr O’Leary for his honesty and braveness. It is no surprise that a company is a reflection of its leader’s personality – nothing wrong with that – but few chiefs would admit to being responsible of things had not turned up well. Mr O’Leary said: “I am very happy to take the blame or responsibility if we have a macho or abrupt culture. Some of that may well be my own personal character deformities.”

Some strong words there in self-criticism, and you cannot help but admire the man for daring to say so. Give him credit too for being a shrewd businessman. Having promised a change of culture in a year’s time, Mr O’Leary may have already earned a second chance for the airline. Whether Ryanair can change is a different story.


About Dingzi
Writer by passion, with professional expertise in aviation, customer service and creative writing. Aviation veteran, author, editor and management consultant. Besides commentary on business issues and life-interest topics, travel stories and book reviews, genres include fiction, poetry and plays. Nature lover who abhors cruelty of any form to animals, and a tireless traveler. Above all, a dreamer.

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