Friday, 28 September 2012

A message to our customers

I've never understood people who say they love travel (I met someone this month who more specifically told me he loves air travel); I love visiting new places; I adore foreign holidays; but travel is just the painful process to be endured to get there - and home again. I find flying the worst kind of travel, as we are herded around, told where to sit, penned in, strapped in, and generally inconvenienced while held in the smallest possible space. I especially hate flying Ryanair, as they maximise the inconvenience to the customer, in return for the lowest prices (a Faustian bargain I now try to avoid).
I admit, therefore, prejudice against Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary, but I approached his Q&A-style profile in thismonth's Management Today in the spirit of being willing to be persuaded otherwise. Unfortunately, he confirmed all my prejudice.

O'Leary is paid 20 times more than the average Ryanair employee - fair enough, in my view, but O'Leary says the gap should be wider, as he claims to "probably work 50 times harder"! Is he serious? 50 times harder than the average employee? What a message to send to your staff! (I wouldn't be surprised if a CEO adds 50 times as much value as their average employee; at least that would be a more credible claim, but greater industry?)

Yet not so surprising when you go on to read the message O'Leary sends to customers. He tells the story of a family who turned up at Alicante airport without their boarding passes, and were charged €60 for each replacement. That strikes me as an excessive penalty for a minor administrative task, but O'Leary not only refused compensation, he told the (female) customer "it was your fuck-up".

The corporate ethos of Ryanair may be damaging the image of the airline industry (a deliberate choice, doubtless judged a sacrifice worth making for capturing the budget end of the market), but O'Leary seems to be on a one-man crusade to destroy his business - remember Gerald Ratner's gaffe?


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