Bottom Line: Cuddly airline doing more to entice flyers

Marion Dakers

MICHAEL O’Leary’s new, customer-friendly persona was out in force yesterday when he was asked about his response to his rivals’ ticket prices. “I don’t give a toss… in a warm and cuddly sort of way,” he told reporters.

And when asked about whether Ryanair’s profit warning spelled the end of the no-frills experience, he pondered: “What frills do BA give you besides delays and lost bags?”

But while O’Leary was holding court with reporters, CFO Howard Millar had a tougher time with sceptical analysts, who were struggling to pin down why Ryanair’s average fares were falling.

Scribblers at Deutsche pointed out that Ryanair enjoys a lack of competition on routes accounting for half of its seats – so the firm can’t really claim to be engulfed in a price war, particularly when in the same results presentation it lampooned the likes of EasyJet and Lufthansa for increasing fares.

A poll for the World Travel Market, which is taking place in London this week, found that no-frills business trips are soaring in popularity, particularly in the Middle East. Ryanair’s move into fully allocated seating, a fleet of new planes on the way in late 2014 and O’Leary’s new desire for “my customers to love me as much as I love them” could tap into this booming market.

But before that, the firm needs to ensure its (relatively) nice new look attracts passengers in the growing economies of Europe for more than just rock-bottom prices, before two profit warnings turn into three.