After staying in for a nuclear winter hibernation after it’s final failed attempt to takeover Aer Lingus, the recession bruised Blue and Yellow beast has woken and kickstarted it’ 2009 PR offensive with triad of publicity grabbing happenings. Now let’s go through the Ryanair publicity rulebook and see how they performed this week:
- Michael O’Leary dresses up in camp costume to launch new product – Tick
- Spokesperson comes out ridiculing critics in the name of driving down lower fares – Tick
- Public outrage at latest Ryanair tactic of charging for something that used to be free – Tick
First up we had their new mobile phone offering. There will now be a small window, when twenty minutes after takeoff and twenty minutes before landing where you can use your mobile for the princely some of 2 to 3 euros a minute. While the technology is quite nifty, I can just picture the scene on a 50 minutes flight to London, where for the middle ten minutes when the plane is level, as trolleys whiz up and down the aisle, the whole plane erupts into conversation on their mobiles. The critics expressed their concerns to O’Leary as he stood holding court wearing a mobile phone costume. So he thought deeply for a split-second, and then just proclaimed “Nobody is flying on Ryanair because it is a bastion of solitude where you can contemplate life.” Never truer words spoken.
Next up was the case of an Internet blogger and web developer who found a glitch on the Ryanair web page that removed some of the fees listed on the purchase page, even though his transaction would not complete. His posting quickly caught the attention of the Ryanair nerve-center, and some pretty vicious comments were volleyed out onto his web page from the web developers. The blogger listed his cell phone number on his web page, which led to a member of Ryanair staff posting the following comment: “what self respecting developer puts they’re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening” . Ouch, that’s quite rough. This tirade of personal attacks brought the media to the rescue of the beleaguered blogger with stories along the lines of “Ryanair disrespects customer”. Real shocker lads, I’m sure there is a Pulitzer there somewhere for you. And meanwhile, Ryanair got acres of publicity. Naturally, the official, smirking, spokesman, in classic Ryanair style, did not admit the comments might have been too personal or a bad idea. Instead, his main concern was that staff were wasting their time communicating with a “lunatic blogger” when they could have been “driving down the cost of fares even further”.
And the round out the weeks barrage of coverage in the media, bold Michael hinted on Friday that they might install a coin slot on the toilet doors and start charging a pound for a visit. Sometimes it is hard to know whether the guy is serious or whether he is just playing the troll, but I have a strong feeling this one will come true. And too be honest, it wouldn’t bother me either way. I don’t think I can ever remember actually using a toilet on a Ryanair flight. I’m sure I would remember if I did, because it is probably a squatter with yellow tiles.
Because of all this Ryanair news, I did have to talk to a few Ryanair whingers over the past week. The people who constantly moan how awful Ryanair is, giving out about every new trick up O’Leary’s sleeve and constantly retell the sheer misery of their last flight. And yet despite their whinging, they keep going back and using them. And not because Ryanair has a monopoly, but because, in general, they still are the cheapest. While I would gladly take a competitor whose price is a few shekels above Ryanair’s, I decided a while back not to moan about Ryanair. The very reason I can get the slightly better quieter service with free toilet at a relatively cheap price is because Ryanair is probably down the bottom right now installing slot machines inside the toilets.
You see, Ryanair are exactly like nuclear weapons. Both are the best things ever invented in their own spheres, provided you never actually have to use them. And that is why I have stopped worrying and learnt to love them. Well that and all the endless humour Michael O’Leary and his gang of pit bull spokesmen provide.