Ryanair and the Ratner effect

You may recall back in the early 90's Gerald Ratner famously commented on the quality of his companies wares. At that point the cut price jewellery company was posting record profits; within a few hours of his speech he had lost the shareholders somewhere in the region of 500 million pounds.

He was quoted as saying;

'We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap."

He went on, in case anyone had missed the point "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long."

That was certainly the quote that I remember. The press had a field day and eighteen months later he resigned.

I can't help but make this comparison following Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's comments to a passenger who was charged hundreds of Euros to have her boarding passes printed out at the check-in desk as she claimed she was unable to do it prior to arrival at the airport.

"idiot' customers who don’t like paying for boarding passes should ‘b***** off’." was his characteristic response. Not satisfied he continued in full prawn sandwich mode;

'Thank you Mrs McLeod, but it was your f*** up and if you screw up, you compensate us and you send us a gesture of goodwill.’

So is this new age savvy marketing or is he 'Doing a Ratner'?

Celeste, I fly Aer lingus, always, never been ripped off yet. Never had an unexpected boarding or check in problem with baggage, I pay for what I get, and I get what I pay for, but honestly, I prefer to pay 35 euro a flight than 15 with the fear that my laptop might actually cost me 100. (has happened with Ryanair.

Lol, didn't know about this till now. I'm personally glad that O'Leary finally came out as being the slug that he is, haha.

When you get cheap fares on Ryanair, other people's mistakes (or stupidity, as he puts it), are paying for your flight.

You've got 15 days to print off the boarding pass. The "small print" is not small print, its clearly stated you have to print it off before arriving. My 90 year old mum can't print off a boarding pass but its no problem for me to print it off and send it thro snail mail from France to UK to her. I have no sympathy with Mrs McLeod - you pay for what you get =- cheap and cheerful service.

Well yes - but no other airline in Europe carries 8 million passengers in a month. It is a good bus service - and why not? James - I promised you some copy in the WoW news - please take me up on the offer - I did mean it

LOL...thanks Chris, I doubt it too. No matter, unless it's an emergency I prefer to meander across France in my van, sleep in the back if necessary, a pint and fish and chips on the ferry and watch the white cliffs coming into view. Flying means hiring a car and even with the flight at the price of the prawn sandwich, in the end it costs about the same. I don't complain about Mr. O'Leary's organization because it's practical for my kids and friends to come for a long weekend.

Sorry, it might be that I changed the direction of the conversation...to the convenience/existence of Ryanair as opposed to merely the strategy & wisdom of its mouthpiece in his latest rush for column inches. Those of us who buy in Brittany & Normandy and who must commute to renovate (as though it was a passion) most often take Brittany Ferries...Over 150 voyages (it's always on justifiable expenses - I'm not barmy - or made of money) and never once an upgrade to Commodore!... It wouldn't happen on a channel hopper airline and only perhaps on the big guns. Even if we did decide to fly the logistics of getting to and from airports at each end would defeat the object! What say any of you ferry lagged commuters?

Yes, of course Brian your choice.

But classes...

This surely no longer exsists. The definition...working class...middle class..upper class...

labelling which surely has been lost in the muddle of life.

I think O'Leary is a genius. He has built one of the most successful European Companies out of virtually nothing and brought cheap air travel to millions. He doesn't denigrate his product as Ratner did. His outbursts gain him column inches for free and judging by the blogs I read as many people love his straight talking as dislike it. I have to contrast him with the ever polite bankers and politicians that have ruined many lives over the last four years.

I totally agree with Timothy. It's made very clear that there is a penalty if you do not have your boarding card, the lady concerned knew this because she'd printed her outbound ones. She then had two weeks to do the same in Portugal and didn't bother. What did she expect?

Quite right Peter. Money makes choice possible. At present I can't even really afford Ryanair, so I am choosing not to go. Barbara, there have been several occasions when I might well have gone to Stansted, indeed one that cost a tear or two to decide against, but I would have gone Bordeaux - Luton with easyjet despite the inconvenience of a two hour journey to catch the flight. My choice.

Brian, if you exchanged the word choice by money then you have hit the nail on the had. If you have the money to buy a schedule ticket, or the train or the car then you have the choice, if you can't then you don't. Without Ryanair Southern France would be for the retired middle classes of the South East of England, not northern bone heads like me. Or is that your point?

Always another angel from you Brian.

Perhaps you have no need for flights to Stanstead or Liverpool

from Bergerac...WHICH makes your decision much easier.

Well if you pay for a kilo of tomatos in waitrose you do not expect another 2oz free of

charge...UNLESS there is a special offer on.


It all comes back to choice. If you can afford another flight then do it, if the train is interesting then do it, if driving is interesting then do it but preaching the gospel of or against O'Leary has nothing do with any of that. The UK press probably does do him some favours in the way they report his antics rather than any damage, but if somebody finds a regulation Ryanair breaks in any country then that will explode. He could so easily offend the French authorities or EU competition regulators and then what? If people want to use Ryanair then do it but be prepared for something happening at point X in time that O'Leary must answer for. It may never happen too. I'll stick to my choice not to use Ryanair because it is a free choice to do so. If O'Leary blows it, then I lose nothing.

Well if that's not worth a free ticket, Timothy, nothing is. But somehow I doubt you'll be getting one...

Don’t know why people crab about Ryan Air, life would be very different living in SW France without it. Play their game and you get to where you want, their rules are quite explicit. You pay much less than any other airline, and for me, a choice of convenient airports, Carcassonne, Beziers, Perpignan or Girona.
Some people seem to think THEY will be the exception for some reason. A classic happened last week. Someone came to visit me for a few days and crammed their bag full of souveniers. We weighed it….two kilos over. I warned her, they will charge you for it. ‘Surely not….just two kilos.’ Sure enough they wanted X euros and I found myself with a kilo of garlic and another kilo of assorted brocante and an angry lady railing against Ryan Air……me….a gallic shrug!

If the train works for you...Take the train.

Change here...change there...and change again...8 hours to London.

Easy jet is fine...if it goes to the part of France you wish to go to.

If not fly Ryanair.

Unfortunately many of us do not have a viable choice. The Euro Tunnel is too far from us and nowhere near our destination in the U.K.

Yep. Shooting himself in both feet and leaving himself wide open for all of the detractors to gloat; and there are quite a few... Rats... and maybe a soon to be sinking ship. The way forward is sure...and downward. Pride comes before a dum-de-dum... Yeh - and those of us old enough have seen it all before in slightly different guises. And you can add Azil Nadir to the pile too. With Michael Ryan it's arrogance mistaken for marketing nouse, PR and a sprinkling cognitive dissonance. Someone else timely and with a slightly changed 'model' can, no doubt, benefit from his gaffe.

It opens that other debate though...about how those in France, who want to come back on a budget, do so in the interregnum.

Couldn't agree more! OK flying QueasyJet can be a joyless experience, but it knocks Ryanair into a cocked hat... I don't agree that there's no such thing as bad publicity - if enough people are incensed and vote with their feet, maybe O'Leary will live to rue his 'frankness'