BEING nice to customers can boost a company’s coffers. Even the infamously penny-pinching boss of Ryanair was forced to admit that was true when this year’s annual results showed profits had soared to a company record £1.1bn.

In 2013 the airline was considered to have the worst customer service of Britain’s 100 biggest brands in a survey by Which? magazine. At the same time Ryanair issued profit warnings as it struggled to match rivals, such as easyJet, whose friendlier image attracted flyers.

At that point Michael O’Leary, who’d previously outlined the firm’s customer service policy as: “We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”, had a change of heart.
The budget airline boss introduced customer-friendly features, such as allowing passengers to take a second bag without incurring a fine, sleeker cabins and online booking which meant the dreaded scramble for a seat became a thing of the past.

Loading article content

Profits rose and as the company’s image improved (somewhat) it began to woo more lucrative business passengers.

Nice, however, appears to have been a temporary destination on the Ryanair itinerary. It is now in the process of cancelling up to 50 flights a day, after admitting it “messed up” the planning of staff holidays. It has also been losing pilots to rival operators who pay better wages.

The upshot is that almost 8,500 people risk having their travel plans ruined each day over the next six weeks. Or put another way, a bid to let Ryanair staff take a break means many of the airline's customers have to forgoe their holidays. 

Ryanair’s softer approach was part of a campaign called “Always Getting Better” but the way it has kept customers in the dark about cancellations has been disgraceful.

We can only hope the ‘getting better’ slogan doesn’t apply to its profits. Ryanair may ignore customer woes but it cares deeply about the amount of cash it earns. A sharp drop in profits may jolt some sense into the ‘no-frills’ airline.