I like travelling. I like cheap fares. I’m also happy to make some sacrifices in terms of service if it means I can afford a few more trips. But for many years I deliberately avoided flying Ryanair because I couldn’t stand their attitude.
For a long time, the simple fact of Ryanair being almost always the cheapest meant it could hold on to profitability. The airline could cut corners to the bone, charge for every ounce and ignore the negative headlines. People would still buy their tickets.
In the last couple of years, things have changed. With profits being eroded by ‘nicer’ competition, Ryanair has finally woken up to the fact that people don’t like being treated like cattle. If you’re going on holiday, it’s a damn sight better to actually enjoy the flight than to endure the old Ryanair. Repacking your bag on the check-in floor because it’s one kilo over weight; worrying you won’t get through the boarding queue without being charged extra for some hand baggage misdemeanour; running for the aircraft to get a decent seat; putting up with the endless audio advertising; the scruffy yellow cabin. Business customers certainly wouldn’t put up with any of it.
Then a couple of years ago – coinciding with several profit warnings - it finally started to sound like Michael O’Leary was listening to his PR team. His acceptance that his airline had to stop “unnecessarily pissing people off” signalled a charm offensive focused on cutting out the irritations and making Ryanair a more enjoyable airline to be with.
Two years on and they’ve cut the punitive charges; introduced allocated seating; relaxed their attitude and smartened up the cabin with a calmer blue colour-way. It’s all a damn sight better than it used to be. Even I – their most vocal critic – have started flying with Ryanair again. And today – hey presto - profits are up.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just the oldest rule in the book. Be nice to people and they’ll be nice to you back.