By Koray Camgoz
This week Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary admitted the airline “had messed it up” after announcing the cancellation of flights affecting more than 400,000 people. O’Leary’s initial response drew a mixed reaction from commentators but it was his comments days after at a shareholder meeting which reveal the depths of incompetence prevalent at ‘Europe’s favourite airline’.
I found out my flight to Madrid was cancelled via text just before midnight on the day the news broke. I’m not entitled to compensation because I was due to fly out in three weeks’ time and only those booked to fly within a fortnight are eligible for remuneration.
Frustrating though that was, the reasons behind the cancellations cause the greatest angst and drive to the heart of the issues facing Ryanair. At yesterday’s AGM in Dublin, O’Leary pointed the blame towards a “significant management failure”, which led to the misallocation pilots’ annual leave.
His plans to tackle the crisis included instructing pilots who had booked four-week holidays to take three weeks off instead. He added that the airline had “some goodies” to propose to pilots, but revealed: “If pilots misbehave, that will be the end of the goodies”. He also called into question the difficulty of a pilot’s job “I’d challenge pilot to explain how this is a difficult job”.
If you were mapping Ryanair’s key stakeholders, you’d no doubt afford a degree of attention and respect to the individuals ultimately responsible for fulfilling your organisation’s most basic duty. ‘Instructing’ pilots to reduce annual leave and publicly painting them as mischievous toddlers is unlikely to bear fruit. It’s little surprise pilots are in no rush to come to the table.
Ryanair pilots reject £12,000 cash offer to work overtime https://t.co/x0cVM2eSdc
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 21, 2017
In recent years Ryanair have made concerted efforts to distance themselves from their reputation for poor customer service. A renewed focus on customer experience had been credited with saving the business and senior communications folk from Ryanair can be spotted on the conference circuit sharing the airline’s comeback narrative.
But what this crisis reveals is that things never really changed at Ryanair.
Whether it’s pilots or customers, prioritising profit over people will come back to bite you. As a business model, it’s unsustainable.
O’Leary confirmed the cancellations had cost the airline about 25m euros (£22m) but that’s small change weighed up alongside the reputational cost Ryanair will incur.
This is not a PR disaster – this is a business disaster. For a company purporting to be Europe’s largest airline, cancelling up to 50 flights a day for 6 weeks is a dereliction of duty on a staggering scale.
I’m off to watch Spurs play Real Madrid (with another airline) and there’s more chance of Spurs winning the game 5-0 than there is of me flying with Ryanair again.
With nearing half a million people encountering the same service, how can Ryanair expect to retain the business of its customers?
In the past, Ryanair prices didn't include your luggage or a meal. Now, it doesn't appear to include your flight. https://t.co/07t32dOfjJ
— Stansaid Airport (@StansaidAirport) September 20, 2017