Last year, Michael O’Leary and his merry men decided to go on what was billed by the press as a “charm offensive”: they would rid Ryanair of its reputation as the Millwall of air carriers (everyone hates us, we don’t care). Booking would be easier and more transparent. Some charges would be reduced. A second bag could be carried on to flights. The initial feedback was positive.
Charm offensive? What could possibly go wrong?
“Ryanair cuts fees and gives customers a 'grace period' on bookings in unprecedented charm offensive” told the Telegraph, many of whose readers hate the EU but love cheap flights to those parts of France, Spain and Italy where they have exercised the right to own property given them by, er, the EU. O’Leary said “Ryanair had listened to passengers and was responding to their needs”.
Marketing Week checked out the airline’s new advertising campaign: “Ryanair is ramping up its charm offensive with a new marketing campaign detailing the changes it has made to its services ... A UK outdoor campaign has launched declaring ‘we are changing’ with a list of some of changes it has made and will make in 2014”. Had someone been on the Power’s, or was this for real?
It was indeed for real, as the deeply subversive Guardian noted only today: O’Leary’s commitment to “stop unnecessarily pissing people off” was having an effect. Or so it seemed until the winds blew a few days ago: aircraft could not land at their intended destination airports, delays built up, and before you could say “Vagina Monologue”, Ryanair was on the front page of the Daily Mail.
Er, this could. Oh dear!
And it was for all the wrong reasons: “Mutiny At The Airport” thundered today’s front page, as readers are told of the delay to flight FR8347 that eventually totalled eleven hours. The flight was scheduled to depart Stansted for Porto at 2030 hours on February 14. Delays meant that the unfortunate punters were not called for boarding until after midnight. Then the fun started as take-off was delayed.
After waiting for over three hours, the Police arrived. And at this point we find that it may not have been all Ryanair’s fault: airport staff from Swissport had also been overstretched by the bad weather, and there was no-one available to let passengers back into the terminal building. It seems the Police had to break in (probably as well they turned up, then). An all round foul-up.
No doubt all manner of things could have been done differently, and hopefully will be in the future. But what the incident shows is that the best-intentioned charm offensive can have its effect wiped out by one decision from the Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor. After all, those Daily Mail readers with whom Paul Dacre has his “conversation” also have holiday homes in mainland Europe.
So it’s back to the drawing board for O’Leary. You know when you’ve been Dacred!