‘Profit over people’ will ground Ryanair

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.

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?


Koray Camgoz

Public Relations Manager, CIPR

Posted in Marketing, Public Relations
One comment on “‘Profit over people’ will ground Ryanair
  1. Maths has never been my strong point but 2% plus 98% means all of Ryanair’s customers have been affected one way or the other … and many of the 98% have thoroughly enjoyed spending 13p a minute on the phone trying to sort things out.

    With “more chaos expected” and the possibility of “mass sick days” mooted this crisis is certainly far from over. Not all of us book Ryanair because it is ‘cheap’. Work schedules mean that Ryanair was our only option to fly next week if we wanted to fly from Scotland. And, our Edinburgh to Lanzarote flights have cost twice the price of a recent flight from Aberdeen to Palma.

    Mr O’Leary may have “some goodies” to discuss with pilots (or as he has described them before ‘glorified taxi drivers’) and has warned that “if pilots misbehave that will be the end of the goodies”. I feel heart sorry for Ryanair staff at the moment – but if Mr O’Leary continues his self proclaimed ‘clown’ act he may find that his customers stop spending their “goodies” with him if he continues to “misbehave”. His recent words “It’s not my biggest cock up” may come back to haunt him.

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