Flyers have frequently made the trade-off between a low price or customer service and basic amenities when choosing an airline, but increased competition could force low-cost carriers to improve.
Ryanair has this week cancelled hundreds of flights and delayed revealing exactly which of its customers will be affected. All for a reason which probably left many a bit confused: how have employee holidays caused such disruption?
However, this blunder is unlikely to impact Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, in the long-term. Like other low-cost carriers, Ryanair is no stranger to bad press for its lack of customer service.
The company’s CEO became infamous for some of his quotes regarding the way the airline operates and its customers: when discussing passengers who forget to print their boarding pass he reportedly said: “We think [they] they should pay 60 euros for being so stupid” and has similar view of refunds:
You’re not getting a refund…We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of no refund do you not understand.
But, travellers continue to fly with Ryanair and other low-cost airlines irrespective of how they treat their customers – even United Airlines has said it expects no lasting financial damage after dragging a bleeding customer off a plane against his will in April.
Yet consumers desire to fly with these airlines again is understandable.
Low-cost carriers have made travel accessible to a larger share of the global population; airlines have reduced the price of air fares by close to 40% since 2000.
It seems to be a trade-off the majority are willing to make; sacrificing customer service for low fares.
However, competition in the budget airline industry is increasing, and Ryanair’s recent mishap shows just how cost-efficient LCC’s are trying to be in order to stay in business.
Investors are currently worried about Ryanair’s competitor Norwegian Air being stretched too thin after it revealed expansion plans.
Indeed, airlines are continually expanding their LCC businesses: Air France-KLM is set to launch new LCC airline Joon, despite already operating two budget carriers, while Lufthansa recently launched Level despite already owning Eurowings and IAG.
Increased competition could mean good news for flyers; the trade-off between price and customer service may not be so stark for much longer.
It was, after all, increased competition from Easyjet which made Ryanair a bit more customer friendly.
As customers have an increased choice between low-cost carriers, prices can only go so low before companies are forced to compete on non-pricing factors – primarily customer service and amenities.
It seems the days of upsetting customers may soon be behind Ryanair, as the budget airline industry becomes ever more competitive, customer service is likely to be the deciding factor when winning over flyers.