Ryanair chief commercial officer David O’Brien readily admits that the carrier views air travel as a commodity, but says he will “shamelessly steal” passenger service ideas as the airline continues to smooth out the rough edges of its customer experience reputation.
The Irish budget carrier has recently rolled out a number of new initiatives aimed at improving its customer service offering and appealing to business travellers, including the introduction of assigned seating and entering discussions with global distribution service (GDS) providers.
Speaking yesterday at the Future Travel Experience (FTE) Europe conference in London, O’Brien said: “We treat travel as a commodity and that’s why we have 81 million passengers. Thereafter you can start polishing it up.”
While some may accuse Ryanair of following a ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen with low fares’ philosophy in the past, O’Brien believes the carrier’s no-nonsense tactics deserve credit for changing passenger behaviour in a positive way. “We’ve done all the heavy lifting in reshaping how passengers approach travel,” he says. “Passengers avail of self-service now largely because we forced them to.”
As Ryanair pushes ahead with its customer service improvement strategy, it will poach ideas from other airlines and other industries – in much the same way as it saw rival EasyJet’s success with offering allocated seating and working with GDSs, and copied it. “We will shamelessly steal good passenger ideas,” says O’Brien.
Looking further into the future, O’Brien says the carrier is “looking very closely” at the way in which online retail giant Amazon profiles and targets its customers.