The move comes as the airline signs a deal with global distribution service Travelport to allow its flights to be sold via third parties for the first time in 10 years in the firm’s latest u-turn. The tie-up means passengers across Europe will now be able to book Ryanair flights both online and offline via travel agents affiliated with Travelport, which accounts for around a third of the European market.
Ryanair has previously been a vocal opponent of such services, preferring to send customers to its own websites to make bookings directly. Speaking on a call with press, recently appointed chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs says Ryanair walked away from such services 10 years ago because it didn’t suit the business, choosing instead to “put its weight” behind Ryanair.com
However, he says it is now the “right decision” as Ryanair looks to make it easier for customers to choose to fly with the airline, particularly business customers. Rivals including easyJet already use such services.
Currently 22 per cent of Ryanair’s passengers are business customers, equal to around 19 million, and Jacobs says the airline is aiming to double that figure to around 38 million, although he wouldn’t say over what time period. In total, Ryanair has set a target of carrying 110 million passengers by 2019, up from 81 million this year.
Jacobs says there are further changes planned to appeal to business customers. These include the introductions of flexible bookings that will enable passengers to catch an earlier flight if, for example, a meeting finished early, as well as fast tracking through airports.
He adds that these improvements will be supported by a “data-driven marketing approach” aimed at targeting customers with more relevant messages.
The deal is the latest in a series of u-turns by Ryanair as it struggles to compete against rivals in the increasingly competitive short-haul flight market. The budget airline has recently signed up with Google’s Flight Search service, suggesting it is no longer a fierce opponent of price comparison sites after years of suing flight information tools to get its data removed.
Ryanair has also changed strategy by embarking on a charm offensive aimed at addressing its reputation for poor customer service. It has made improvements including cutting baggage fees, allowing a second item of hand baggage and introducing allocated seating.