When ‘sorry’ isn’t enough

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - VOX POP - By Dave Jones

It’s hard to re­mem­ber a big­ger public re­la­tions cock up in re­cent his­tory than Ryanair’s stunt of can­celling 40 to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks. For a com­pany which has al­ways con­sid­ered it­self to be pub­lic­ity savvy, this was a mis­judge­ment of mon­u­men­tal pro­por­tions.

It seems that they thought they could get away with it by play­ing down the ef­fects. They claimed it was done to ‘ im­prove its sys­tem-wide punc­tu­al­ity which has fallen be­low 80% in the first two weeks of Septem­ber’ caused by ‘a back­log of crew leave which must be al­lo­cated be­fore De­cem­ber 31’. Amongst other things the low-cost op­er­a­tor had also been af­fected by ‘ad­verse weather (thun­der­storms)’ (!).

Ac­cord­ing to spokesman Robin Kiely, all they had to do was ‘can­cel less than 2% of our fly­ing pro­gramme over the next six weeks’.

This would ‘ im­prove the op­er­a­tional re­silience of our sched­ules and re­store punc­tu­al­ity to our an­nu­alised tar­get of 90%’.

It all seemed very sim­ple. A few can­cel­la­tions (2%) and punc­tu­al­ity goes up 10%. Ev­ery­body’s happy…… or not.

Mr Kiely’s glib ex­pla­na­tion did not set out in black and white what his com­pany was do­ing. And this was ru­in­ing peo­ple’s holidays and caus­ing un­told stress and ex­pense for its pay­ing cus­tomers. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were be­ing pun­ished sim­ply be­cause they had cho­sen to fly with Ryanair.

It is ob­vi­ous that last week when they went public with their ill-thought-out plan, they had not en­vis­aged the back­lash that would oc­cur. And that is the sur­pris­ing thing. How could they not fore­see the dam­age that this would do to their com­pany?

In the days of Face­book, so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net, it is im­pos­si­ble to pull a stunt like this with­out tak­ing a griev­ous body blow.

Pretty much ev­ery me­dia out­let going was re­port­ing the story and the head­lines were getting worse for Ryanair.

‘Dad’s birth­day hol­i­day ru­ined’; ‘Ryanair’s stock is tum­bling’; ‘Ryanair fac­ing 100 mil­lion bill over can­celled flights’; etc. And they were getting ham­mered across the board by the gen­eral public who were dis­gusted by the au­dac­ity and stu­pid­ity of this wealthy multi­na­tional com­pany and its un­car­ing ac­tions.

CBN is not a mas­sive me­dia out­let but in just a cou­ple of days more than 57,000 peo­ple had read a short re­port we car­ried on our Face­book page, with nearly 250 com­ment­ing on the ac­tions of the bud­get air­line. I haven’t checked the re­ac­tion on na­tional news­pa­per web­sites but it easy to image them getting 10 times more hits. And, of course, all the com­ments are neg­a­tive. Peo­ple are stat­ing that will never fly with Ryanair again be­cause ‘they can­not be trusted’. Whether the ca­sual com­men­ta­tor will re­mem­ber in six months’ time when the next sale is on re­mains to be seen. How­ever, Ryanair can be cer­tain that they will have lost the cus­tom of the tens of thou­sands of pas­sen­gers who have had their flights can­celled on a whim.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence peo­ple will refuse to use an air­line once they have had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with a com­pany. I have had a num­ber of th­ese since I’ve been liv­ing in Spain. There are two air­lines I will never fly with again and a third which I avoid like the plague. Ryanair isn’t one of them.

How­ever, I am one of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who have a flight booked with Ryanair in the next six weeks. I’m going on hol­i­day for a week to the UK. Strange choice for an au­tumn break I know - but there again I’m a bit of a strange per­son. I will be wait­ing anx­iously to see if I re­ceive an email from Mr O’Leary, telling me that I’m one of the 2%. If I am, then I will join all the oth­ers who have had ex­pen­sive holidays ru­ined. And Ryanair will go on my black­list and I will look for more re­li­able fly­ers to hand my ‘hard-earned’ cash to in the fu­ture.

Ryanair check-in desks at Ali­cante airport

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