Ryanair, the Irish budget airline, is launching a mobile booking app for Apple devices. Great I thought! Anything which makes it quicker and easier for customers to purchase services is good for the business and for the customer. I already have the British Airways app and I use it all the time. It is so effective that I regularly don’t bother to even look elsewhere or check if the price is the best possible…that is the power an app can have.
However, unlike British Airways, or even Easyjet, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, has decided that making it easier to buy Ryanair flights is not the priority. It would appear O’Leary’s priority is squeezing another three Euros out of you before you even know whether or not you want to book a flight. Yes, that’s right, if you would like to search for, book and manage flights through the app, you will first have to shell out three Euros for the privilege.
Customers can use the service to add priority boarding and check-in bag services to their bookings, access timetables and the latest news on seat sales, view promotions and new routes and even book car rentals with Hertz…all services you can do for free online.
Announcing the app, O’Leary said: “Ryanair is pleased to launch our latest passenger initiative, the iPhone and iPad app, which will allow passengers to book Europe’s lowest fares, manage their booking, and keep up-to-date with Ryanair news, directly from their iPhone or iPad. Our new app is available today from the iTunes store for just €3.”
Before I go any further, I should say that I both understand and have admired Ryanair’s marketing strategies in the past. I appreciate the comic and sometimes controversial ad campaigns and I believe the company had a strong brand and a reputation for value not that long ago. However, at what point does its attention-grabbing ads, offering non-existent flights for a penny, lose its shine? At what point do you say hang on, stop lying to me?
I decided to check, very unscientifically, how Ryanair compared to my beloved BA in terms of price. The purpose was to understand whether Ryanair’s “bare-bones pricing” means it simply can not afford to develop a free app. I went on both sites and priced up a weekend in Berlin. It did not surprise me that BA came out on top and that was before Ryanair added on £50 for one piece of luggage, £12 to check-in, £20 to reserve a seat and…my favourite…£1.50 to text me my flight details!! I didn’t get to the credit card charges but I have no doubt they are ridiculous, if not illegal. Add all that together and BA was almost £100 cheaper than Ryanair.
So, although my ‘test’ was as scientific as predicting the winner of a ferret race, it does demonstrate how Ryanair’s reputation is still working hard for the brand. Is it the cheapest? I am sure it is sometimes, just as Easyjet, BA or any of the others would also come out victorious on some routes. But, for me at least, cheapest or not, I will never fly with Ryanair ever again. I am tired of the company treating its customers like an ATM, where any slight error on the customer’s behalf is grounds to charge double and provide a level of flexibility and empathy that would have made Kim Jong Il applaud in appreciation. The airline’s latest initiative is just one more example of the company making customers think they are getting the best deal when actually, in many cases, they are not.
There will always be customers who would prefer to save £50 than take hold luggage or those who don’t mind the race to find a seat, or even those who would rather not have complimentary beverages whilst in the air if it saved them a pound from their ticket price. I am not one of those people but I do want value. The difference is how you judge what value means to you. To me, value is being valued as a customer and three Euros for an app is, quite simply, the antithesis of that.
And, I am not alone. Frances Tuke, a spokesman for ABTA, which represents tour operators and travel agents, said “They (Ryanair) treat their customers with contempt. We know that the airline doesn’t put any store on customer relations. This is the way Ryanair conducts its business. Their goal is to appear to be providing cheap flights but we don’t believe this is the way to provide customer satisfaction. Our members don’t do this — their customers expect a high level of service.”
I hope the day will come when honesty, transparency, and simplicity will be synonymous with Ryanair, and all airlines for that matter. But, for now, at least, it seems O’Leary will continue to presume his customers have ‘mug’ written firmly across their foreheads and if anyone should try to stand up, he will happily deride them as ‘idiots’, ‘crazy’ or ‘lunatics’ to reference three recent quotes. The only way to change that is to vote with your passport so before you pay your three Euros, spend five minutes looking online and conduct your own test!