Irish airline RyanAir runs a painfully clever business plan. No frills, low fares, Internet sales, single model aircrafts with easy upkeep, and an excellent record for leaving on time. Passengers are directed to check-in online only, maintain a certain luggage weight, board their own luggage, and be ready for no in-flight service. For roughly 36 million passengers a year, RyanAir appears to be a cost affective program, pending they abide by the airline’s elementary school motto: read and follow directions.
I flew RyanAir recently and nearly had a costly experience. My transgression was not printing my boarding pass, which was a penalty fee of $60. My friend didn’t check her bag online in advance and was charged $120, plus another $180 for going over the 15 kilo maximum. Apparently all of this was detailed clearly on RyanAir.com, if only we had read the instructions.
“It took a few years for Europeans to learn how to fly RyanAir,” admitted a RyanAir sales manager. “Now most know and don’t make those costly mistakes. The first few years we made a lot of money on their errors. Now it looks like it’s Americans who have problems following the directions.” The staggering cost for not following directions makes for an incredible learning curve on the return flight.
RyanAir also prides itself on being punctual. “We have the best record for leaving on time and almost never lose bags,” adds the manager.
My flight from Krakow to Milan was proof. “Please hurry and sit down,” a voice came over the intercom as we were seating our selves. “We can leave in two minutes or we can leave in over an hour.” Amazingly everyone was seated within a minute. The flight took off the next, and our flight landed 20 minutes early. A week earlier I’d flown Delta and waited on the tarmac for a costly two hours before departing.
On RyanAir, Everything is for sale. The overhead compartments are flanked with advertisements. There are rumors of a charge for toilet use. Food averages $6 an item, and they’re considering nixing window blinds and seat pockets to cut costs. In-flight gambling machines may join the lottery tickets that flight attendants sell alongside duty-free.
For those who listen and follow directions, the option for low cost goods at the expense of a high penalty charge can benefit both consumers and businesses. We’ve seen this in the banking world with instant credit, and now in airlines like RyanAir. A profitable and sustainable low cost business isn’t an easy feat in this economy. Perhaps more companies should steal a chapter from the Irish airline.