A few years ago I was asked who in the business world I most admired. My reply, to the slight surprise of my questioner, was Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.
My reasoning was that he had a built a very successful brand with only one real benefit, that of perceived low cost. Yes, your £25 flight to Venice will cost you over £75 once you’ve added the extras. Yes, you won’t actually land anywhere near Venice, incurring additional costs to get you to your final destination. And yes, your walk to the Ryanair gate at Stansted takes 15 minutes and passes through 3 postcodes.
But still, we came. Most Ryanair flights I’ve experienced have been full, and that’s not counting the poor guys who have been ‘bumped’ due to overbooking. O’Leary has proved that you can treat customers like shit and still retain and attract customers, and that’s one hell of an achievement.
I seriously believe that after the current crisis, and despite all of the inconvenience and total disregard for their current customers and target market, that Ryanair will remain a successful airline.
However. Does anyone really believe the reason given for the substantial number of flight cancellations? Pilot shortage due to poor annual leave planning? Surely what’s really behind the disruption is the rationale behind all of Ryanair’s actions. Profit. Maybe their loss-leading routes are becoming too costly. Maybe the forecast for the next financial period was looking a bit low.
Or – and I’m not really qualified to comment on this but I will anyway – maybe there’s a more serious underlying issue. The prospect of dangerously reduced profits? Cashflow problems? Time will tell.
Ask me again who in the business world I most admire and the answer will not be Michael O’Leary. Not with Sir Philip Green around…..