FTE Exclusive: Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary – “Who needs self-service when you’ve got the Internet?”


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FTE Exclusive: Why Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary hates kiosks, bag drop and mobile boarding passes
FTE correspondent Ralph Anker interviewed Michael O’Leary in Budapest this week.

As low-cost carriers continue to explore every possible avenue to reduce costs, a number of them are starting to think radically to make savings, with self-service emerging as a common theme. However, one person who clearly isn’t a fan is Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. FTE correspondent Ralph Anker, Editor of our sister publication anna.aero, made the most of a rare opportunity to ask the typically opinionated O’Leary for his views on self-service, mobile boarding and IATA’s Checkpoint of the Future…

FTE: Ryanair previously invested heavily in kiosks before moving check-in completely online. Do you regret this investment in kiosks?
MOL: Not at all. We bought a total of 80 kiosks for a 300-fleet airline. We put the kiosks into Stansted originally, where they were very successful for a period of time. The issue for us was that Dublin Airport turned around and wanted to charge us for space to put the kiosks in there when we’ve already paid for the terminal through the passenger charges, so why are we paying again? So, we then refused to buy any more kiosks, which was the sensible thing to do, and instead we moved check-in back onto the Internet, because what the hell does a kiosk do that you can’t do on the Internet? We were the first to move all of the check-in back onto the Internet because now 99% of passengers check-in online, but we still have some kiosks in Stansted. We spent very little on kiosks, less than €100,000.

FTE Exclusive: Why Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary hates kiosks, bag drop and mobile boarding passes
Ryanair invested in 80 kiosks at Stansted Airport before adopting online check-in instead. “What the hell does a kiosk do that you can’t do on the internet?”, O’Leary asks.

FTE: Even when passengers check-in online, if they have baggage to check-in, they still have to queue up at bag drop counters. What are your plans to combat this with self-service bag drop?
MOL: None. There’s no way we’d ever let passengers loose on a self-service bag drop. They’d be losing the bags themselves. The key thing with us is only 25% of passengers are now checking-in a bag. We’ve actually got rid of the queues for checked-in bags and even at bag drop they’re tiny.

FTE: Have you heard of IATA’s Checkpoint of the Future? Does it represent a step forward?
MOL: No, I haven’t heard of it, but if it’s been developed by IATA I’m not too excited about it.

FTE: What are Ryanair’s plans regarding mobile boarding passes?
MOL: None, because again it does nothing. If you’ve printed out your piece of paper from the website, what does the mobile phone do for you? Nothing.

While self-service and utilising mobile technology might not be a priority for Ryanair, a number of other airlines are exploring the benefits in order to satisfy their growth projections. At FTE Asia 2012, February 8-10, more than 20 speakers from the likes of AirAsia, Emirates, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Air France KLM and Virgin Australia will address delegates on a range of themes including self-service, innovative baggage and passenger processing initiatives, mobile technology and NFC, and the airport of 2025.

>> View the full FTE Asia 2012 conference programme

>> Register for FTE Asia 2012

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4 Comments

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  1. Anthony Smith-Chaigneau

    I love the phrase – ‘When you have the Internet’ – I was cut off from Internet recently for 22 days at home because of a computer error. I ran around like a proverbial blue-ar**d fly trying to print out boarding passes in a small cyber-cafe a friends house and they were not exactly set-up so that it was successful. I didn’t have the access to the email from Ryan Air either to do said transaction. There is no guaranteed INTERNET and if Michael was to understand that most of his destinations are to places Internet has not actually reached…OK exaggerating there a bit on those destinations but so is Michael when it comes to this point about Internet. What if you didnt have access at a crucial moment? What then? Relying on technology is a fatal flaw of this industry.

  2. Gert Meijer

    O’Leary is wrong about the use of mobile phone. Printing a boarding pass is indeed simple, at home and for the outbound flight. But for the return flight, with often no easy access to a printer, mobile technology comes in very handy, adding value to the passenger.

    • Rainer Uphoff

      Gert, sure it adds value, so take for granted that when O’Leary discovers that he will charge you for using the service. I guess that’s OK as long as the sum of all charges is lower than the price of a ticket with their closest competitor…

      • Miro

        “If you’ve printed out your piece of paper from the website, what does the mobile phone do for you?”

        HAHAHA, he clearly has no idea, does he… Michael, if there is mobile checkin, people will not print the paper.

        “I guess that’s OK as long as the sum of all charges is lower than the price of a ticket with their closest competitor…”

        If the ticket is lower than £20, i would still fly with their competitor.

        “…comes in very handy, adding value to the passenger.”

        If it has no value to Ryanair, it has no value… this is their motto. Why would they invest money in app development, scanners at airports etc if it only adds value to customer? Ryanair’s aim is not to add value to the customer, it’s to reduce costs, increase ticket prices and pass on every fee they don’t agree with to the passenger.

        Of course it adds value and convenience, but if that’s what you’re after, you are looking at the wrong airline. In all fairness, if they don’t adopt mobile technology, they will fall behind, fast.