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There’s getting it wrong – and there’s being downright obnoxious

ryanair by jayfreshuk @ flickr

Someone was very nice to me this week, and said they like the occasional dip into the world of aviation that I indulge in. So here’s a short one, linked to last week’s blog on a major international airline brand that appears to have snafu’ed their engagement in social networking.

No sooner had I committed that to teh Interwebs, than another not-major-international-brand but nonetheless well known airline was similar managing to spectacularly mis-engage with the on-line world. Step forth Ryanair.

The major-international-airline was trying to be good but got it wrong, largely through over-enthusiasm and mis-understanding. They’ll survive, apologise in a way, and ultimately probably won’t damage any perceptions of their otherwise immaculate, excellent and courteous service. One cock-up won’t damage the reputation that all their employees uphold with admirable consistency.

The problem with Ryanair is that they know they’ve behaved badly, they don’t care, and their opportunity to put their hands up and apologise appears to have been turned into an obnoxious rant.

And that’s the Ryanair brand in a nutshell.

Ryanair specialises in being obnoxious. It’s not clear who from Ryanair provided the official response:

Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”

however those words could have sprung lightly from the lips of Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO. Indeed, just the following day, something almost as amazing did spring from his lips:

One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future.

We are always looking at ways of constantly lowering the cost of air travel and making it affordable and easier for all passengers to fly with us. I don’t think there is anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair craft with less than a pound. What do you do at Liverpool Street station at the moment [when] you need to spend a penny? I think you have to spend 20p to go to the toilets.

or, indeed, the delightfully customer focused opinion of:

I have no patience with the Luddite approach that says people don’t want to use their mobile phones in-flight. You don’t take a flight to contemplate your life in silence. Our services are not cathedral-like sanctuaries. Anyone who looks like sleeping, we wake them up to sell them things.

If you make obnoxiousness one of your brand attributes, if you make it a core emotion of the business, then it’s not much of a surprise that the employees radiate it so readily too.

Ryanair have prospered by being cheap. They drive volumes of traffic through low-costs, and persuading people that flying to anywhere, no matter how ridiculous or remote, is “a good thing”. They benefit from smaller airports offering them good commercial terms, in order to bring incoming passengers to their particular region of Europe (and it usually is EU States, you’ll notice). The majority of people who step onto a Ryanair plane have low-expectations, and often they’re not disappointed.

But do they have to be obnoxious too?

Easyjet seem to do well, and are viewed far more positively than Ryanair. I don’t like the LOCO model (for various reasons) but I’ll fly Easyjet (and AirAsia and VirginBlue and JetStar and South West and TED etc.). I won’t fly Ryanair – I won’t reward obnoxiousness. (#)

As we hit an economic downturn, aviation is bleeding to death. If you think last year’s roll-call of airlines going under was bad, this year’s could be even more dramatic. Last year was knocking out the weaklings and the also-rans – this year, someone big is going to go down.

I feverently hope that Ryanair get punished for being obnoxious. It would be a real justification of the value of the soft-elements of brand for Easyjet to make it through because they’re generally pretty good guys, and for people to turn their backs on Ryanair and their atrocious attitude to their customers (actual and potential).

Bootnote: Someone else has applied Ryanair’s unique approach to revenue generation to the obligatory safety card, to humorous (but possibly also clairvoyant) effect.

(#) I have one exception. I will fly FR on the BRS-DUB route, because it’s neither time nor cost efficient for me to get over to LHR, and it’s not very environmentally sound to do so either. FR use a relatively modern, efficient 737-8 on that route, and loadings are naturally high. It’s a legacy route that has pre-dated O’Leary’s tenure at FR, and so whilst it’s a nasty, demeaning and irrating experience, it’s only so since FR went LOCO. Added to that, I make dammned sure that I get their “1p” flights, pay with a debit card, and don’t spend a penny with them anywhere else, thus ensuring that by the time they’ve paid APD and PSC in the UK and Ireland, they’re losing about £35 of real money on me, which makes me feel much better.

Photo: ryanair by jayfreshuk @ flickr – who’s clearly experienced once of their flights before