If you went back in time to about four years ago, you’d remember that Ryanair, the Irish low-cost airline that dominates intra-European aviation fondly thought of itself as the ‘nasty’ airline. The rules were harsh and the charges steep – but customers didn’t seem to mind. The nastier Ryanair got, the more passengers seemed to flock to the airline.
Then everything began to change. Ryanair introduced it’s ‘Always Getting Better’ initiative. The idea was simple – treat customers nicer, build a better reputation and encourage even more passengers to book their next flight with Ryanair.
The beauty of it was that most of the changes wouldn’t even cost Ryanair that much to implement. First came an increase in the cabin bag allowance to 2 bags per customer as well as pre-allocated seating. The airline even lowered some bag fees and allowed a 24hour grace period for minor booking errors.
Sure there were some costs involved but the gamble paid off. Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer says the campaign has led to “ever increasing load factors and record passenger numbers.” After the last four years, Ryanair has seen its traffic increase by a massive 50%.
Since the launch of ‘Always Getting Better’, the airline has gone on to launch a brand new website, introduce new cabin crew uniforms and connecting flight options. But it looks like Ryanair might be tiring of its new nice guy approach to customer relations. Not that the airline thinks it’s the problem – rather, it blames the customers.
In an announcement made on Friday, Ryanair said its cabin bag rules were being “repeatedly flouted” by customers and this was resulting in delays to flights. Jacobs explained: “Many customers are repeatedly exceeding our cabin baggage allowance and we will be left with no choice but to review our policy should this practice continue.” Charming.
In Ryanair’s defence, it did point out that 97% of their flights are full over this busy summer period so trying to squeeze everyone’s hand luggage into the overhead bins on its fleet of Boeing 737’s is quite a challenge. Now, most airline’s simply put extra bags into the hold when space in the cabin fills up but remember, Ryanair tries to keeps its costs as low as possible so this solution isn’t always available.
In the past, Ryanair used to heavily police passengers bringing carry-ons onto their aircraft. With the maximum permitted size coming in at 55 x 40 x 20 cm, Ryanair’s cabin bag policy is on the smaller side. Nearly everyone was forced to place their bag in the measuring device to make sure it complied but these rules were relaxed under ‘Always Getting Better’.
Not so anymore, however. Jacobs said the airline’s “gate agents are rigorously enforcing our carry-on policy to avoid flight delays.” And if you do want to take more – well, you can always pay for a checked bag.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.