Ryanair expects to start selling tickets through “one or more” global distribution system (GDS) providers by the middle of this year, but will likely ensure that its lowest fares are available solely through its own website or via price comparison sites such as Google’s Flight Search tool.
As revealed by Runway Girl Network in December 2013, Ryanair is in discussions with a number of GDSs in a bid to capture more business traffic.
Speaking to analysts on 3 February to discuss the carrier’s fiscal third-quarter earnings, chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Most of the discussion at the moment is around whether we’re going to let them have access to all of our fare inventory and we’re disinclined to give them access to our very lowest prices, which we think we should continue to distribute through the Ryanair.com website and across price comparison websites like Google Flight Search.”
Ryanair recently partnered with Google to make its fares available on the search engine’s new Flight Search tool, the latest example in a string of initiatives aimed at broadening its customer base and attracting new market segments.
“We think the Google web search function will become the comparison website of choice for customers all over Europe,” says O’Leary, adding that he expects Ryanair’s fares “to rank at the top of the page on 99.9% of all searches”.
O’Leary is also hoping that Ryanair’s “all-singing, all-dancing” new website, due to be launched in April, together with its “state-of-the-art” mobile app, which will be ready by the end of June, will provide “a gateway to significant growth over the next two to three years”.
Ryanair has staunchly opposed GDS providers in the past and it is clear from O’Leary’s comments that he is still treading carefully, particularly when it comes to opening its inventory up to travel agents. “It’s going to be very cheap distribution if we decide to proceed with it but clearly there are certain risks to opening up to travel agents,” he says. “But if we’re going to go after that business market, which we are,…we do need to have some GDS distribution there.
“I don’t think we’ll be on all the GDS systems but we’ll certainly be on one or two by mid-year and then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Ryanair recently rolled out allocated seating, a move it had previously held out on due to concerns that it would impact the carrier’s fast turnaround times. Things have gone well so far, according to chief commercial officer David O’Brien: “There has been no identifiable effect on punctuality. We’re satisfied it should have no material effect on our operational performance.”
The carrier’s recent focus on improving its image when it comes to customer service has been headline news across the UK and Irish consumer press. O’Leary acknowledges that “there may be some skepticism over whether it’s real or just a publicity stunt on our part” and is keen to point out that it is genuine.
“This is not some sort of warm, cultural rebranding exercise – there are very real and very meaningful changes…that customers are seeing on a daily basis,” he says. “Sometimes we may be a little bit slow to change but once we get the message nobody changes faster or quicker than we do.”
And in case any customer service improvement stone has been left unturned, O’Leary invites people in his own special way to bring it to his attention: “If there’s something we should be doing that we’re not doing, tell us and we’ll bend over double and do that as well.”