Airline Spotlight: Ryanair Revolutionizes the Airline Industry

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Photo credit: Entropia
Photo credit: Entropia

Ryanair Ltd., is Europe’s only ultra low cost air carrier. It’s an airline that has been helping travelers get from A to B without breaking the bank since 1985, and they’ve stood by their unique business model the entire time. The company prides itself on offering no-frills, reliable flights that keep costs low and have ultimately revolutionized the entire airline industry.

Ryanair is headquartered in Swords, Dublin, Ireland. The company was founded in the mid-1980s by Christopher Ryan, Tony Ryan and Liam Lonergan . The airline started by offering the short flight from Waterford to London with a 15-seat Embraer Bandeirante turboprop aircraft. The founders’ goal was to offer an affordable option for travelers, because the Waterford to London flight was only flown by British Airways and Aer Lingus at the time.

Just a year later, Ryanair took on its second route, from Dublin to London Luton Airport. Ryanair’s number of passengers continued to grow over the next few years, but the company continued to run at a loss. The company hired their new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael O’Leary in 1991 to turn the business around. He suggested that Ryanair needed to keep fares low, offer fewer amenities, do away with business class and consistently pursue this new low-cost business model.

Photo credit: Juanedc
Photo credit: Juanedc

After 10 years in the airline business and years of strict dedication to their business model, Ryanair celebrated its 10th year as a company by flying 2.25 million passengers. The company continued to grow, and in 1998, Ryanair placed an unbelievable $2 billion order for 45 new Boeing aircraft.

The 2000s kicked off with a bang as Ryanair launched their website and began cutting costs even more by handling a majority of their bookings online. The airline continued to order more aircraft, and in 2003, Ryanair carried 21.4 million passengers — a stunning increase from the 5,000 passengers the airline carried in 1985.

The company continued to use the increase in internet use among its customers to its advantage. Ryanair began charging customers to check in at the airport in 2006, encouraging passengers to check in at home, so the company could reduce overhead costs. In 2009, Ryanair did away with airport check-in desks entirely. Passengers began checking it at home and leaving their luggage at a baggage drop.

Photo credit: Stròlic Furlàn - Davide Gabino
Photo credit: Stròlic Furlàn – Davide Gabino

Following a week of flight disruption in Europe caused by the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in April of 2010, Ryanair decided to end refusals to comply with EU regulations that stated they were obliged to reimburse stranded passengers. In a company statement released on April, 22, 2010, Ryanair described the regulations as “unfair.”  The span between November of 2011 and April of 2012 brought even more difficulty as Ryanair grounded 80 aircraft due to the high cost of fuel and a weak economy.

The company didn’t stay defeated for long. In 2013, Ryanair announced a number of new customer service improvements due to high demand. They reduced their fees for reprinting boarding passes, allowed changes in booking errors for 24 hours after booking and allowed a second small carry-on bag.

Currently, Ryanair operates more than 1,600 flights each day from 72 bases to 189 destinations in 30 countries. They’re now operating a fleet of more than 300 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The company expects to lower fares even further in coming years and up their annual traffic from 90 million passengers in 2014 to 150 million in 2024. For now, Ryanair continues to stand by their word that if you’re shopping for flights, their prices will be lower than everyone else’s.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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