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Ryanair Retools Website in Digital Revamp to Combat EasyJet

Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA) will overhaul its website, introduce a Twitter page and offer a free mobile phone app as Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier updates digital marketing technology that Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary says has fallen behind discount rival EasyJet Plc. (EZJ)

From Oct. 30, Ryanair will drop Recaptcha security software that’s become a barrier to ticket sales, it said in a statement today. The function, which requires people to type words seen in distorted text images, will remain for high-volume bookers, the Dublin-based company told shareholders at their annual meeting.

A mobile phone app will be downloadable free of charge from Oct. 1 having previously cost 3 euros, and a booking flow redesign will go live in December. Ryanair will also introduce a passenger registration service next summer that will cut the time taken to make bookings, it said at the AGM.

“Our primary focus this winter will be to significantly invest in, and improve, the Ryanair.com website, our mobile platform and our interaction with passengers using social media,” O’Leary said. The Recaptcha feature will remain “to deter larger travel agents, screenscrapers and others who flood our website seeking fare quotes,” he said.

Marketing Rethink

The booking system redesign will make it easier to navigate and quicker to locate price quotes, the CEO said, adding that the carrier will also divert more of its marketing budget away from “old media” and into mobile and social media platforms.

Ryanair is under pressure to review prices and operations after saying Sept. 4 that annual profit may miss targets. The carrier’s web portal fails to lock in ticket sales early enough in the procedure and compares poorly to EasyJet’s, O’Leary said in a Sept. 16 interview.

Discount operators may face a tougher winter, with intra-Europe capacity forecast to increase as much as 7 percent after two years of flat or negative growth, Deutsche Bank analysts including Geof Collyer and Anand Date said in Sept. 18 note.

O’Leary has said he’s also prepared to sell tickets via agents rather than solely through Ryanair’s own mechanisms, targeting another area where EasyJet has made the running by linking with corporate buyers to add business fliers.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net; Dara Doyle in Dublin at ddoyle1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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