In a bid to show how Ryanair is undergoing “revolutionary” change, the boss of Europe’s biggest low-cost airline has been presented to the world cuddling a puppy. Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, revealed his new image at an event to launch the airline’s new website and app. He conceded, though, that it was not his pet, and indeed that he had not met the animal prior to the photo shoot.
Mr O’Leary said the airline had an “Always Getting Better” plan, starting with “fixing the things our customers don’t like”. In recent months it has relaxed its hard-line cabin baggage allowance, reduced penalties for failing to print out boarding passes and introduced allocated seating.
“There’s no more conflict,” he said. “This will be a revolutionary change.”
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said the aim was to: “Become as liked as we are useful.”
The new website drastically reduces the number of steps required to book a flight, and allows regular travellers to store information about their travel documents and payment card.
The moves come as easyJet thrives, filling its planes more successfully than any other European airline and making healthy profits. Ryanair is following its arch-rival into primary hubs such as Rome Fiumicino and Brussels, and moving away from “secondary” airports.
A much-anticipated cut-price transatlantic sister airline is still “four or five years” away, said Mr O’Leary, because Middle East carriers are currently buying up long-haul aircraft in such quantities. He said the offshoot would launch only if it could acquire 20 or 30 aircraft to be used on a range of routes between Europe and North America. “We would like to fly to the US, with fares of €10 going and $10 coming back,” he said – though a range of charges would raise the actual fares to significantly higher levels.
Despite the prominence of the puppy, Ryanair will not allow pets to be carried as cabin baggage – or in cages in the hold. “We tried it, but we lost a snake in Sicily and a cat at Milan Bergamo,” said Mr O’Leary.