Friday 28 October 2016

Ryanair: Three-click bookings, designer uniforms and a price war on the way this autumn

What next for Europe's biggest airline?

Published 11/08/2015 | 07:29

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary. Photo: Mark Condren
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary. Photo: Mark Condren
2010: A Ryanair airplane flies behind a statue of the Archangel Gabriel in Budapest's Heroes' square. Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/GettyImages
An artist's impression of Ryanair's new Boeing 'Sky' interiors.
Interior of Ryanair Boeintg 737-800. "The yellow will change," Kenny Jacobs says.
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary speaks at a press conference in Copenhagen on July 3, 2015. Photo: BAX LINDHARDT/AFP/Getty Images
Michael O'Leary of Ryanair
2010:, as it used to be. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/GettyImages
Ryanair, 3D imagery, 737 MAX,

As Ryanair prepares to carry over 100 million passengers this year, we look at the changes still to come for the airline.

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What’s all the fuss about?

Ryanair has become the first European airline to carry over 10 million passengers in a single month. It hit the mark this July.

Big numbers. But what’s the big deal?

The latest results only tell half the story – or a quarter of it, as the case may be. If Ryanair continues at this rate, it is on course to carry over 100 million passengers and make almost a billion euro profit this financial year.

So what's new for the customer?

The latest iteration of Ryanair's website is due in October.

Robin Kiely, the airline's Head of Communications, describes it as "probably the biggest change we will introduce" this year, mainly due to the promise of a new, "personalised" experience.

Customers will sign up using My Ryanair accounts, and the "smarter" website will recognise their preferences (in terms of destinations, as well as promotions and sales), while allowing bookings in as little as three clicks.

A "price comparison" feature is also in the works.

Ryanair's website... as it used to be.

What about the 'Don't Insure Me' drop down?

Its days are numbered, thankfully.

‘There will be a new insurance option," Kiely confirms. "That little ‘Don’t Insure Me’ country will no longer be there. We are also working on a new insurance product, and a new car hire partner will probably be announced in October."

What's all this about a price war?

Lower fuel costs and IAG's impending takeover of Aer Lingus have led to predictions of an airline 'price war' this winter.

"That could actually happen," says Robin Kiely, Head of Communications.

"Other airlines might take advantage of lower oil prices and drop fares because they have made some savings there...  if they do that, we will do exactly the same. Nobody will offer lower fares than Ryanair."

Any new routes on the way?

Ryanair continues to be “inundated” with growth offers from primary and secondary airports, it says. It plans to open its sixth German base in Berlin this September, as well as a second Swedish base in Gothenburg.

In November, it will begin flights to Israel’s Eilat Ovda Airport (its 31st country) from Budapest, Kaunas and Krakow.

For Irish passengers, the main developments are new winter routes from Dublin to Copenhagen and Lublin, Poland - but expect further destinations when it announces its summer 2016 schedule this autumn.

"Let’s just say Copenhagen won’t be the last primary airport we will connect with Ireland," Kiely says.

What about those transatlantic flights?

There was confusion this year when Ryanair appeared to change course on its transatlantic flight plan. The plans still exist, however - it's just that any future flights between Europe and North America will be operated by a different company with a new brand set up for that purpose.

"The plan is still there," Kiely confirms.

"It all comes down to aircraft – if we can buy viable aircraft to do it, then we would... Technically, the 737-800s we have at the moment could reach the east coast of North America, and WestJet are doing Dublin to Newfoundland on similar aircraft, but we don’t want to do things piecemeal."

"When you go into a market like that it’s an entirely separate beast… you would want 30-40 long-haul aircraft to do it, to connect 12 major US cities with 12 major US cities and go and do it properly."

Will Dublin be one of those airports?

"That’s speculation, but I think it would be important to do it at that kind of scale, because otherwise the established airlines that are doing it at the moment would just simply undercut you."

New Boeing Sky Interiors_Mar15.jpg
Ryanair's new-look interiors

What about those new planes?

Ryanair currently has 183 Boeing 737 NGs on order, in addition to 200 "gamechanger" Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, which it says will allow it grow traffic to 160 million customers a year by 2024.

From January, aircraft deliveries will feature new Boeing Sky interiors with LED lighting, slimline seats and greater headroom. "In the coming months, that will be one of the biggest changes from a consumer point of view," Kiely says.

Read more: First Look: Ryanair's new aircraft interiors  

What will the new uniforms look like?

The airline has been working with "a young Irish designer" on new look uniforms, which will tone down the famous Ryanair yellow.

"They are smart, modern, very comfortable, and I think they encapsulate the new Ryanair in-flight experience," Kiely says.

The new designs will be revealed this autumn.

When will we get Wi-Fi on Ryanair?

The airline is looking at trials this year, but its size (Ryanair operates some 315 aircraft) - combined with the variety of air spaces it flies through on a daily basis - means any changes will be expensive and logistically challenging.

Any Wi-Fi service will involve satellite with receivers mounted on aircraft - adding to drag, and hence, to fuel costs.

Nevertheless it hopes to have trials complete "this year," Kiely says, and any future service will be free to passengers, with costs covered by advertising.

"It's definitely on our wishlist."

What’s it up to on social media?

Since joining Twitter in 2013, Ryanair has gone on to launch a blog, open an Instagram account and join Facebook (this July). As we publish, it has rocketed to over 200,000 Facebook fans, with a #30Names30Planes competition offering 30 people the chance to have their face on the side of a Ryanair plane.

VIDEO: Ryanair 'axes cabin crew calendar' (Generated thumbnail)
The Ryanair calender - a thing of the past

Read more: 10 changes that rebooted Ryanair

What’s all this about a billion euro profit?

Ryanair expects costs to drop, traffic and ancillary revenue (baggage, seating and other optional charges) to rise and low fuel prices to boost its net profits this year.

While stopping short of altering its full-year profit guidance of €940-€970 million, it now expects to come in towards the “upper end” of that range.

Of course, lots could change in the next nine months. Competitor prices, fuel costs, government actions, weather events, labour relations and the economic climate can make a huge difference, so it’s all to play for.

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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