Brand audit: Ryanair

All aboard...
All aboard...

There are not too many successful chief executives who can claim to have a plethora of newspaper and online articles listing the most offensive things they have ever said to their customers.
Michael O’Leary, boss of budget airline Ryanair, is, however, a little bit different.

How about these on the record quotes?
“If drink sales are falling off, we get the pilots to engineer a bit of turbulence. That usually spikes sales."

Or...

“We don't want to hear your sob stories. What part of 'no refund' don't you understand?"

O’Leary’s missives went against every grain of thinking and every piece of conventional wisdom when it comes to customer service.

Indeed, it usually only takes one word against a customer for a chief executive to be shown the door.
But Ryanair thrived. It seemed people warmed to its edgy, rebellious image, the un-PC bravado of O’Leary as well as, of course, its basic competitive advantage of low fares.

Turning tides

But times changed. In 2013, the Irish carrier posted two profit warnings. Amid talk of currency exchange woes also came an almost semi-confession from O’Leary that passengers had begun to get tired of its rudeness and high fees for simple and sometimes unavoidable issues such as extra baggage and cancellations.

“We have to stop unnecessarily p****ng people off,” O’Leary said in his own inimitable style.
It meant him taking more of a back seat when dealing with the media and the appointment of a new chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, formerly of Moneysupermarket.com and Tesco.

Tomorrow find out how Ryanair sought to win back its customers...