Should Ryanair be worried about the most recent string of negative media stories or do cheap flights reign supreme in the court of public opinion?
- Racist incident filmed on Ryanair flight – Ryanair criticised for inaction
- Portugal-based Ryanair staff face Dublin disciplinary meeting over photo
- Italy fines Ryanair for mass flight cancellations
These are just a selection of headlines Ryanair has captured in the last couple of months. This is not just a ‘bad period’ for the airline – do a news search for Ryanair and you will see a consistent flow of negative news stories discussing strikes, cancellations and staff misconduct.
Reputation issues haunt the firm, and yet, from the outside, they seem to be not so concerned. Ryanair do not follow any of the typical responses that you would expect to see from an organisation of their size, who are worried about their reputation and potential ramifications negative public opinion will have on their business.
Take their response to the racism incident this week as an example – a tweet which says “We are aware of this video and have reported this matter to Essex Police.” A response, which takes no responsibility for the incident, nor shows any concern for their passengers. Further, they fail to recognise that the nature of our media landscape, with the video of the incident being shared hundreds of thousands of times, means that the incident has the potential to insult many more people than those just on the plane.
Compare this with other big brands which have had PR ‘nightmares’ this year – H&M were “deeply sorry” and Dove said it “missed the mark” after launching campaigns which were accused of racism, and Virgin Trains gave their “sincere apologies” to Olympian Louis Smith following a racist incident in June. All statements showed concern and vowed that lessons would be learned. Reputation management 101.
Supporters will point to the fact that despite these reputation issues, revenue and passenger numbers continue to increase for the airline. So should Ryanair not be concerned as long as they keep providing the public with cheap flights?
Finances are certainly a motivator when booking flights and Ryanair know this. They regularly juxtapose the negative media attention they receive with huge sales, which grab media headlines.
However, with Brexit bringing uncertainty and a likely price war threatening to drag down prices of the whole sector, Ryanair should tread with caution.
Ryanair, along with the rest of Europe’s airline sector are operating in a tough environment. Perhaps consumers will choose to continue to fly with the airline now, but with every bad story, they will lose some customers who will vow to never fly with the airline again and they fall down in the estimations of many others.
Businesses can weather tough economic climates with customer loyalty. Without this, Ryanair are at a significant disadvantage. When a competitor offers a viable alternative or when the price war threatens the viability of the airline, Ryanair will have already been found guilty in the court of public opinion without ever having put a case forward.