Nice guys, they say, come last. Or do they? Certainly not everyone would have agreed that Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair and legendarily successful businessman, was a nice guy. Yet his relatively recent promotion of a kinder, gentler type of budget air travel seems to have been paying some commercial dividends.
Unveiling the Ryanair “Always Getting Better” programme, last year Mr O’Leary was presented to the world embracing a puppy. Usually, his critics might argue, he was to be found threatening to shoot the puppy rather than smother it in cuddles. But, yes, the real changes in the Ryanair way of doing travel since that initiative do seem to have matched the initial hype. Passenger numbers and satisfaction are up; so are the shares.
Like most nice guys, Mr O’Leary understands little things can mean a lot. Allocated seating, for example, and a free second carry-on bag mean much more to passengers than may be rational, but Ryanair has responded to their desires, and been rewarded for its trouble.
What if everyone in business behaved like that? What if energy companies gave every customer their best tariff? What if the banks and building societies stopped exploiting the inertia of savers and offered all their account holders the best possible rates? What if train operators boasted affordable, comprehensible fares? And supermarkets were a little kinder to the farmers? And the oil giants cut the cost of petrol as quickly as they should? We might then hear a little less about predatory capitalism.
At any rate, there’s more of the milk of human kindness to come from Ryanair: we’re promised a new website, fresher-looking cabin interiors and in-flight menus. How nice is that?