Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s No. 1 discount carrier, is targeting a surge in corporate sales from bookings made via American Express Co. as it responds to competitor EasyJet Plc’s success in luring business flyers.
Ryanair today announced an acceptance agreement with Amex following a “soft launch” of the service last week. Other business-friendly measures such as issuing boarding passes via mobile phones and fast-track security clearance are being assessed, Chief Financial Officer Howard Millar said today.
Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said last week Ryanair must boost service standards to help lure travelers put off by the Dublin-based company’s notoriously abrasive approach to its own clientele. While Luton, England-based EasyJet has gained credibility among business passengers, flying 10 million in 2012, Ryanair was the lowest scoring brand out of 100 in a customer survey by consumer magazine Which? this month.
“EasyJet have stolen a significant march on us,” Millar said at a press conference in London. “They’re probably two years ahead of where we are in terms of their product development and website.”
Between 20 and 25 percent of passengers travelling with Ryanair today are on business, drawn by services like reserved seating and priority boarding, he said. Improvements over the next 12 months -- a de-cluttered website, online chat, an improved mobile app, twitter feed and real-time updates during disruptions -- are all aimed at enhancing customer relations.
“We’ve recognized that while we’ve won the fares war, we haven’t invested enough in terms of our website technology or digital marking or facilitating business passengers,” Millar said, while adding that business passengers looking to move swiftly through airports may not always favor EasyJet and full-service carriers like British Airways and Air France-KLM Group.
Though Ryanair has a reputation for focusing on secondary airports, it does fly to central locations in various cities, including Madrid, Barcelona and Rome, the executive added.
A Ryanair team that’s evaluating Boeing Co.’s 737 Max model will complete a report on the jet by the end of next month, Millar said. The airline is still interested in buying a plane with 200 seats, compared with 189 in the current -800 variant.
The Irish company is looking to seal terms on a Max order by the end of this year after concluding a deal for 175 current-model 737-800s at the Paris Air Show in June. The deals could swell the fleet to more than 500 jets from just over 300 today.
The Max offers fuel savings close to 13 percent, though the plane is heavier, which could result in higher navigation and landing charges, according to Millar, who added that Ryanair has a “quite positive” view of the plane overall.
“We’ve also started to look at design features and certain things we want onboard,” he said. “We expect to meet Boeing shortly to discuss the next phase of this.”