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Ryanair Be Fair?
on 26 January 2013
Ryanair is a flying McDonalds. Its purpose is to provide cheap flights to various European destinations. That's it. That's all it is. This is why some of the criticism directed towards Ryanair is a little unfair. They do not market themselves as anything other than a cheap, no-frills airline and their service reflects the price paid. I for one believe that is fair. On the other hand, by all accounts their treatment of employees leaves something to be desired. It's one thing to focus on costs, it's another to treat badly those who give the best part of their time to working for your airline.
In this book, Siobhán Creaton charts the history of Ryanair from its struggling beginnings as an overly-ambitious provincial operation to becoming Europe's leading low-cost carrier. It's an amazing story. The factor that seems to underpin Ryanair's success is a relentless focus on costs. Michael O'Leary, the airline's aggressive CEO and an accountant, developed a singular obsession with cutting costs here, there and everywhere, but it's important to realise that this was not just a narrow financial strategy. In improving the bottom-line by saving money, O'Leary was really signalling a general vision for the airline: Ryanair would become not just a low-cost carrier, but a no-frills airline driving a revolution in the way that people travel internationally, even the way we as a society think about travel. After all, if you can fly with Ryanair from, say, Heathrow to an airport near, say, Rome for a fraction of what it would cost with an airline like BA, then what was once a niche pursuit known as 'international travel' suddenly has the potential to become commonplace, almost like taking a coach or train. Ryanair's point is: this being the case, why should flying be such a fuss? As Michael O'Leary himself once aptly remarked: "Now anyone can afford to fly." Although I sympathise radically with Ryanair's critics, I cannot help but wonder whether they are really understanding this vision. We all resist change at some level, and with good reason: not all advancement is progress. But in the case of Ryanair, I think some critics are missing the big picture.