Profits at the budget airline were up 66% to £614m for the year to the end of March, with outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary claiming its ‘Always Getting Better’ customer experience programme had attracted “millions of new customers to Ryanair.”
However, the impact of falling oil prices and the subsequent reduction in operating costs also greatly improved profitability.
Over the period, Ryanair’s marketing spend increased by 21% to £166m – with spend expected to remain flat in the year ahead – and Jacobs believes the brand is winning customers back not just from rivals, such as EastJet, but premium airlines as well.
He told Marketing Week: “In the UK market we have shifted the focus to communicate how Ryanair is getting better and on our quality. I think price is a secondary element within our messaging now.
“There’s a long way to go, but we are seeing an improvement in our brand perception. In the UK we are alongside Aldi and Lidl as the most improved brands cited among consumers over the last 12 months.”
Ryanair has looked to improve its customer service by boosting personalisation features for its online bookings, updating in-flight logos and uniforms, adding healthy in-flight meal options and allowing customers to travel with two items of carry-on luggage.
Improvements to its service have been communicated through the ‘Always Getting Better’ TV campaign – something that will continue for the foreseeable future.
Repairing brand perception
But despite Jacobs’ confidence, the latest brand health data from YouGov’s BrandIndex shows Ryanair still has a lot of work to do.
It remains bottom of the 26 biggest airline carriers on its index score, which comprises consumer perception of quality, value, satisfaction, reputation and recommendation.
However, Ryanair has shown slight growth over the last 90 days, the period in which the ‘Always Getting Better’ ads have started to air, with its score up 7.4 percentage points to -43.7.
Jacobs added: “Always Getting Better isn’t an empty slogan, it is a mentality we have implemented across the whole business and customers are enjoying it.”
For its latest financial year, passenger traffic at Ryanair was up 11% to 90.6 million customers while the average load factor grew by 5% and Jacobs expects both numbers to continue to grow.
“We are stealing customers from every major airline and we are seeing ABC1 customers – whether that’s affluent people from West London or businessmen – now prepared to fly with us for the first time.
“There’s a diverse mix of people using Ryanair nowadays and that’s because we’re addressing our issues with customer service and communicating those changes properly.”
Later this summer, Jacobs revealed there will be a “significant” campaign to celebrate Ryanair’s 30 year anniversary, which will communicate how its services have evolved. In October, it will also re-launch its website to improve personalisation features and try to boost the conversion rate for bookings
He concluded: ”I’m broadly happy where we are and the progress we have made. I think there is another 18 months of work with ‘Always Getting Better’ and then we will reach a new level of brand health.
“We are committed to ensuring that our customers raise their expectations for digital and in flight experiences with Ryanair.”