The budget airline has previously been reluctant to expand its online proposition from anything more than a basic booking site, but is now investigating engagement opportunities for the first time.
However, Ryanair said it wouldn’t engage with consumers on third-party social sites like Facebook and Twitter. All activity will be hosted on ryanair.com. Plans include a flight comparison engine and a tie-up with travel specialist Frommer’s.
Aileen O’Mahony, Ryanair’s online manager, said, “We’re still mainly a booking site but this will give passengers more useful information. We’re flying to more places so this a way to entice local businesses to come onto the site and grow online with us.”
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said that given the size of the airline, which is on course to fly 73m passengers this year, he didn’t believe it was appropriate to engage in social media on third-party sites.
“Smaller airlines trying to gain market share may engage with it, but from our point of view, being so big, it would take a lot of resource,” he said. “We don’t have people sitting around to answer questions. With social media you get any and every query and a lot of rubbish, like people asking if they can bring a 10kg bag, which of course you can. The information is there on our site.”
Last year Ryanair had its first brush with social media when it responded to a blogger’s highlighting of an apparent site flow with the statement: “It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers.”
Brand analysts said Ryanair’s move was a slight shift from the airline’s usual approach to customer interaction.
Jim Clark, senior technology analyst at Mintel, said, “It’s opening itself up and taking a chance to engage with its customers and listen to the views of its community.”
Stephen Cheliotis, CEO of The Centre for Brand Analysis and chairman of the UK Superbrands and Coolbrands Councils, said, “This is a departure from its usual approach as it embraces consumer input, which it’s not necessarily known for.”
Ryanair’s destinations section will provide five pages of information on local attractions and nightlife for 100 of the cities Ryanair flies to, such as Berlin, Budapest and Krakow.
A proposed online travel community will sit within the revamped section. This would give Ryanair passengers a platform to offer recommendations and comment on attractions.
A number of airlines, including BA, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, have developed communities to help users organise and share their travel plans.
The new content, set to be introduced within the next four weeks, is also another way for the airline to build incremental revenues.
Ryanair’s online ad sales house Ad2One is to begin selling ad space across the content to local businesses, following Ryanair’s recent move to bring in third-party advertising on boarding passes. It will also offer advertising on its confirmation pages for the first time.
The airline is investigating launching a flight comparison site to show consumers how its low fares compare to other airlines and to help tackle screenscrapers. These sites take content, including prices and flight information, from airline sites, then add their own charges before selling flights on to consumers.
McNamara said, “We’re exploring the idea of a Ryanair comparison site as in the past we’ve had issues with screenscraper sites.”
This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk