Ryanair to roll out schemes to upgrade customer service
RYANAIR is to launch its first loyalty scheme in decades, introduce customer satisfaction surveys and allow "one-tap" upgrades using mobile phones as it extends its efforts to rid itself of a reputation for poor service.
The Irish low-cost airline, Europe's largest by passenger numbers, has seen profits and passenger numbers soar since chief executive Michael O'Leary announced in 2014 that he would stop "unnecessarily" frustrating his customers.
Since then, the airline has slashed punitive fees for checking in bags and rolled out pre-assigned seating, flexible business fares and freshly brewed coffee on board.
After decades of refusing to consider the kind of reward schemes offered by other airlines, Ryanair on Tuesday unveiled My Ryanair Club.
It will offer customers discounts and free flights depending on how often they use the airline.
The new scheme will offer customers a free return flight if they book 12 flights a year.
"We always said we would never have a scheme with cards and statements and all that administrative waste... But with big data, each passenger can have their own (personalised) loyalty scheme," Mr O'Leary told journalists.
He has transformed European aviation with his dedication to a no-frills service but denied that his hand was forced two years ago by investors and fellow executives.
Instead, he said a loss of customers to rivals such as Aer Lingus and easyJet made change inevitable. "We had locked ourselves into a position of, 'We're cheaper, nastier and we don't care'. But there were millions of passengers saying I don't care how cheap you are," he noted.
Once passengers agree to save their credit card data on their phone apps, Ryanair plans to launch "one-flick" purchases, mimicking the "one-click" purchases on Amazon.com.
Customers will be able to pay for priority boarding, express security checks and premium seats from their phones.
Mr O'Leary credits the company's Always Getting Better customer service drive with lifting annual passenger numbers to 106 million from 80 million.
It has also shrunk its average percentage of empty seats per flight to 8 per cent from 18 per cent.
He said he had learnt some humility.
"Customers demonstrated by moving in fairly small but significant amounts that we don't know it all - that I have still things to learn."