/ Travel & Leisure

Can Ryanair turn over a new leaf?

Ryanair plane

Is Ryanair turning nice? This autumn has brought the unprecedented spectacle of the airline’s famously unrepentant boss Michael O’Leary apologising and pledging to listen to customers.

There has also been a flurry of announcements about how the airline is making changes to make life easier for customers. Last week Ryanair unveiled a 50% cut in baggage fees, and a change in policy to allow passengers to have a second small piece of hand luggage.

So has the airline that once told passengers ‘we don’t want to hear your sob stories’ had an epiphany with customer service?

Ryanair’s customer service

Ryanair is also making changes to its website. From the start of November, you’ll no longer have to retype the distorted text displayed after a flight search to see flight details. The booking process is also being redesigned, to make it easier to navigate and quicker to get to price quotes. And if you want to use the Ryanair smartphone app, you no longer have to pay to do so.

But what about changes to customer service? Well, Ryanair now has a Twitter account, which it promises to use to deal with customer complaints. So if you’re on Twitter, you have a new way of contacting the airline. If not, it’s business as usual.

There is an acknowledgement from the airline’s boss that Ryanair needs to ‘soften some of the harder edges’ and to eliminate things that upset people unnecessarily. But why make any changes at all? The answer may lie in two sets of financial figures…

Ryanair vs EasyJet

In September, Ryanair announced it could fall short of its most pessimistic annual profit target. Two weeks later, EasyJet announced that its full-year results would be at the top of expectations.

EasyJet is outperforming Ryanair financially, and has been working for some time on improving the customer experience. This has been partly about attracting business travellers who want an inexpensive, but comfortable, experience.

Ryanair is after the same market, and many of the changes bring it into line with what EasyJet has already been doing for some time. It looks like the airline has become worried that it’s losing ground to its rival, and that part of the reason comes down to its attitude to customers.

Best and worst brands for customer satisfaction

This was only reinforced when our survey of best and worst brands for customer satisfaction placed Ryanair bottom of a list of 100 companies, with a customer score of just 54%. EasyJet did better, coming joint 68th with a score of 69%.

Brand loyalty matters, and eight out of 10 in our survey said customer service was an important deciding factor. Analysts believe Ryanair can afford to increase its spending on customer service and still compete on price – so perhaps we will see more concrete changes to come. But it could take a long time to win over the sceptics, and Ryanair isn’t going to be handing out free champagne any time soon.

Do you think Ryanair is changing for the better? Have you had an improved experience with the airline?

Comments
Guest
Ian01 says:
31 October 2013

Is scrapping the ridiculously expensive 0871 and 0900 booking and customer service phone lines and moving to cheaper 0371 and 0330/0333 numbers featured anywhere in this softening of approach?

Guest

If you want to complain about the cost of calling Ryanair’s 09 number (given as £1 per minute and probably higher from mobiles), the company has thoughtfully provided a number to let you have a whinge about it. I quote from their FAQ section:

“Do you have a complaint regarding our premium rate number – click here
Our customer service number for complaints regarding our Premium Rate number is as follows 0844 2098715, £0.05 per minute. Please note that booking requests, general enquiries or general complaints will not be handled on this line. This policy will be strictly adhered to.”

Guest
Ian01 says:
5 November 2013

While that 0844 number may cost 5p/min from a BT line, they forgot to mention the 15p connection fee that is added on top.

Virgin Media charge 12p/min plus a 16p connection fee to ring that 0844 number.

Mobile operators charge between 20p and 41p/min to call the 0844 number.

In all cases, the call price includes a hidden 7p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party.

Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” (details to be announced in the next few weeks) will require them to declare the level of Service Charge that applies to each of their numbers, every time it is advertised.

Guest

I’ve used both EasyJet and Ryanair and with everything running smoothly no real difference between them for the flight experience
Both now allow seat reservations for a reasonable fee.
However with limited hold luggage allowance Easyjet’s policy of permitting the allowance to be shared between people on one booking is a big plus.
Its bad enough carefully packing 2 cases to make sure both are under 15kg on the way out with easy access to bathroom scales , but far more of a hassle on the return journey.
And for booking Ryanair’s system is so stressful.

Guest

Making a Ryanair booking is far too stressful because the website is designed to maximise their profits and any error or typo made in the course of the booking costs us dearly when we have Ryanair amend it. The other area they should address if they wish to regain any respect from customers is to not charge a fee if for any reason we are unable to print our own boarding cards. We do not enjoy standing in line for someone else to do this and the majority of us will print our own cards in the comfort of our homes. All airlines used to print our boarding cards and check us in and we are doing then a huge favour by undertaking this task for them. It is insulting our goodwill when they charge us a huge fee if for whatever reason we do not have a boarding pass when we arrive at the airport.

Guest

Why should a boarding pass need to be printed at all? When I fly British Airways (and many other airlines), I get a mobile boarding pass on my iPhone. This is scanned just like any other form of boarding pass. Printing physical boarding passes is a waste of paper and the sooner all airlines issue paperless boarding passes, the better.

Guest

Okay if you have a smartphone and are happy to take the risk of nothing going wrong with it, I seem to remember that some train companies do paperless tickets.
However I suspect that a bit of paper with the booking details, flight times and luggage allowances on is what most people want and a lot quicker to process..
For those with hold luggage checking in online does not speed the system up for anyone; so the penalties imposed for not printing out your own boarding pass are completely disproportional.

Guest

I agree that the additional price of checked-in hold baggage should include the printing of a boarding pass. It defies common sense for it not to.

Guest