(AIROBSERVER Blog) 23 de septiembre de 2013.– Hooray! At long last, Ryanair yields. Or admits it's time for a few adjustments. Earlier this week at WLCA, Michael O'Leary advocated a change of tunes: time to pamper (a little) the customer, go on social media, and do what normal airlines too. A providential change of mind… though a little too late?
Ryanair seems to have discovered integrity. Sending roses to easyJet, praising Vueling, glorifying customer-friendly websites… One may wonder what's bitten Michael O'Leary to witness such a complete change of mind.
Well, the answer lies in two words: profit warning. As the airline experiences the first genuine net-profit warning in a decade, MOL is under pressure from investors which start doubting the airline's policy – and the personality of its leader.
The CEO, who became famous for its flowery quotes on customers («You're not getting a refund so **** off» is a PR pearl which will forever have my liking), mellowed and became all milk and honey. This seduction operation, albeit welcome as it was necessary, contrasts starkly with Ryanair's original DNA and one might wonder if it isn't too late for a change of heart.
Building a good reputation from scratches isn't magic trick
For years, decades now, Ryanair has been playing with fire when it comes to reputation and communication. Daring to do what no one would ever try, mouthing up, being aggressive, provocative and relying on the flamboyant personality of its CEO. In the meantime, the airline did little to nothing to control what the negative aspects of its reputation: unfathomable working conditions, state aids, safety, customer services…
Too long had it been elected worst airline ever by consumer associations: Which? showed that half of the customers had a grudge against the airline.
So yeah, one Ryanair's spokesman may support they only get 1 complaint per 1,000 passengers. But when you know that you must either post a letter or pay up to £10 per hour to complain, there are valid reasons to contest these figures.
Long story short, Ryanair has a long, long way to go, and white promises won't cut it.
Besides, there's another side of the matter MOL didn't comment on: Ryanair is not adapted to a virtuous communication.
Controversial practices and business ethics: what Ryanair must do to win its customers back
Ryanair's will to change everything proves that they're not half-wit. However, as for now, their practices are viewed as immoral by politicians, journalists, citizens… «Slave contracts«, «culture of fear«, «staff exploitation«… Those are the usual epithets which marked Ryanair like a. With a reason.
Its working conditions, its open-war against Internet forums users, its lack of consideration for its pilots, let go the allegations of tax evasion… Ryanair cannot just pretend to revamp its website and expect to be through.
At the core of the airline's business model, there's the will to slash costs at the maximum, believing that low fares alone will lure the customer to them. News check, the customers like integrity too.
Update: Life events have underlined, in a tragic and regrettable way, what I tried to explain in this article.
A surgeon, who had just lost his entire family in a fire, sought to change flights to go and mourn his dead. Ryanair charged him £160. Although the airline said it would refund, what is done cannot be undone and bad press has already stained Ryanair's handling of the crisis. Yet, at the source of this event, you can find Ryanair's cost-control and «abrupt culture» when it comes to customer services. As I said, white promises won't cut it, the airline will have to start from scratches…