Ryan Air

I was watching the interview by Tony Fernandes (the founder of AirAsia) and was surprised that even though he has recently launched a very successful low cost airline, he claimed that his inspiration was EasyJet (a small European low cost airline). It was odd for me because his previous employer was Richard Branson (of Virgin Airline) and the most successful European low cost airline was RyanAir.
In India also we have a couple of low cost airline. Some are doing well, some were earlier low cost, but now they have abandoned this business plan. Hence I booked a return ticket with RyanAir to see firsthand how they operate and how they are so successful in cutting costs. Here are few of my observations (the list is not exhaustive)
a. They fly not from main airports, but from small airports at the fringes of the important city. This is important because this means that RyanAir becomes an exclusive airline at these airports. This helps it schedule landing and takeoff priorities better, faster turnaround time. Most important that not only do airports charge a lower taxiway, parking, passenger handling charges (sometimes as low as 50% or the international norms) but Charleroi airport even paid a six figured sum to sign a contract with ryan air.
b. Being a remote airport outside the city, ryan air also gets a share of the profits from the transport operators (busses, car rentals), restaurants and motels that owe their fortunes to the airline.
c. Passengers are supposed to print their own boarding pass.(15 euros if you don’t) If they are carrying a big bag or it weighs more than 10kg, then they have to pay 15 euros (35 euros if you don’t book in advance) As my frustrated friend once said, it costs me more to check in my 10kg bag than what I paid to carry a 70kg human being.
At Barcelona and Belgium there was a RyanAir flight every 5 min, yet it was hard to see any of the RyanAir staff and this saving is passed on to the passengers.
d. Inside the aircraft, they have even removed the trays or the personal basket. Hence the airhostess doesn’t have to spend time cleaning up. Even the seats don’t have a reclining button. So no need to waste time telling the customers not to recline etc. Not to mention every service inside the aircraft is charged and for the 2 hour flight you are constantly bombarded with advertisements and promotional schemes.
e. The airline does not give seat numbers to the passengers. There are no busses to transport them to the aircraft hence in a way there is a mad rush to race to the aircraft and occupy the window seats. The airline also charges 3 euros for priority boarding. All this gives RyanAir best turnaround time in the industry.
f. Bulk of the fleet purchases were done at the time of the SARS scare when airline gave substantial discounts and concessions to anybody who could keep the manufacturers in business. Also unlike other European airlines Ryan has a fleet exclusively of Boeing 737 and the Americans were just happy to sell to the Europe for the first time that they forget to even bill them properly.
No wonder their future vision is to ferry the passengers for free and charge only for the services.