Ryanair boss rules out frequent-flyer perks with airline: ‘Buy a dog if you want some loyalty’

Exclusive: ‘You’re already getting the lowest fares in Europe,’ says airline boss

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 27 April 2024 07:12 BST
Michael O'Leary of Ryanair defends no-compromise airport policies

Europe’s biggest budget airline will remain apart from its two main rivals by shunning any kind of loyalty or frequent-flyer scheme, the boss has said.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, told The Independent that travellers seeking a loyalty benefit should instead “buy a dog”.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, at a media event in London on 27 September 2023. The sign behind him reads “UK ATC: Inefficicent shambles”
Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, at a media event in London on 27 September 2023. The sign behind him reads “UK ATC: Inefficicent shambles” (Simon Calder)

Both easyJet and Wizz Air operate paid loyalty schemes that offer benefits for frequent flyers in return for a subscription. The former offers annual easyJet Plus membership for £170, providing benefits including a free large cabin bag and the ability to choose the best seats on the aircraft at no additional charge.

Wizz Air has a similar option, known as Privilege Pass, for which the annual subscription is €249 (£214) – as well as a paid-for Discount Club.

The aim of these schemes is to reward frequent flyers and entice travellers to book repeatedly with the preferred airline rather than rivals.

But Ryanair is known to have a disdain for such schemes – partly because of the added complexity, but also due to a sense that many easyJet and Wizz Air passengers extract much more value from the loyalty programmes than the cost of the subscription.

Regular passengers who fly once a fortnight with easyJet, for example, are paying only £7 for each trip for easyJet Plus membership – yet deriving benefits that may amount to £50 or more per flight.

Mr O’Leary insisted his airline has a different approach. When speaking to The Independent, he claimed that Ryanair fares are so low that the more passengers fly, the more they save.

He said: “I don’t understand why, if you’re already getting the lowest fares in Europe and therefore you’re already benefiting, saving money every time you fly with us, why do we need loyalty scheme?

“If you want something loyal, buy a dog. If you want the lowest air fares in Europe, fly Ryanair.”

Ten years ago, the airline’s chief executive embarked on a canine charm offensive when he launched Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” plan. To promote the notion that he was “fixing the things our customers don’t like”, a photograph of Mr O’Leary cuddling a puppy was shown at a press conference.

Despite the prominence of the puppy, Ryanair rejected the prospect of carrying pets at the time. Mr O’Leary said: “We tried it, but we lost a snake in Sicily and a cat at Milan Bergamo.”

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