Ryanair hasn't had the best year. Its reputation took a hit recently when it was forced to cancel thousands of flights because of pilot scheduling issues. But the customers have come back. Why? Cheap fares. It's the secret sauce.
Ryanair sells roughly 94 percent of its tickets through its own channels, an advantage for the discount carrier as it seeks to package more ancillary products for its passengers, including hotels, the airline’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said in April at Skift Forum Europe in Berlin.
“We have done a pretty good job of protecting our product,” he said. “Other airlines have about 50 percent of their product sales coming from GDS, coming from travel agents, coming from outside their own platform. But everybody is coming in our front door. That’s a big, big asset. That’s what’s driving 2.5 to 3 million web visits a day.”
It’s a favorite talking point for Jacobs, who arrived at Ryanair in February 2014 and found that, while the discounter offered low fares than the competition, it hadn’t leveraged that advantage to create a cohesive digital strategy. When he started, he joked, the airline’s website looked like it belong to Hooters, the restaurant chain where waitresses wear skimpy outfits.
Still, Jacobs said Ryanair’s pre-2014 approach worked to his benefit. Because the airline didn’t have much digital infrastructure, it could start from scratch. Rather than updating a clunky mobile app, Ryanair started fresh, with an app that now has 32 million users, he said.
“We didn’t have these big investments in digital,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t have to knock anything down. We are not fighting legacy systems. We just didn’t have the old plumbing. We are able to build very quickly.”
Ryanair builds just about everything itself, declining to use consultants that also perform work for other low-cost carriers. “We don’t want to work with partners because that could slow us down,” he said. “And also, we’re not saying, ‘we want what JetBlue has or what Southwest has.’ … We want to create something unique.”
Ryanair is also contrarian in another way. It refuses to advertise with Google.
“We don’t spend a cent with Google and we don’t intend to,” Jacob said. “We don’t want anybody to sell our product other than ourselves.
You can watch the entire interview above, or consider reading more coverage of Skift Forum Europe.
At Skift Forum Europe in Berlin, Europe’s travel leaders gathered for a day of inspiration, information, and conversation.
Photo credit: Chief Marketing Kenny Jacobs said Ryanair doesn't spend any money with Google and doesn't intend to. He spoke at Skift Forum Europe in Berlin. Skift