Has Ryanair made a strategic error in sacrificing “good customer management” for “customer goodwill” in abandoning its strict rules on carry-on baggage and the pre-printing of boarding passes?

The “Always Getting Better” programme concession on baggage of 2014 is now backfiring on the airline, once regarded as the champion of “service customer management”. Ryanair (Irish Times 07/02/2017) acknowledges that “as the airline relaxed its “rules are rules” approach to cabin bags and other issues – some passengers have apparently begun turning up at boarding gates with two standard-sized cases, rather than one standard and on smaller bag. This is causing problems, particularly as many of the flights are almost full, so cabin storage space often cannot accommodate the bags the passengers are bringing on board. The main problem is that it can lead to delays at boarding gates, which in turn leads to increased costs.

“The Service Model” works most effectively for provider and customer when customer involvement is managed. Good customer management allows operating costs to be kept low and overall customer service delivered. Quite simply if a dentist allows his first patient of the day to consistently turn up late, then the rest of his patients have their treatments delayed. Very soon appointments scheduling discipline breaks down as patients anticipate that they will not be seen promptly at their allotted appointment time! The dentist is clearly not practicing “good customer management” to the detriment of his time-compliant patients and ultimately to the practice!

Ryanair understood this from the outset and was to be admired and applauded for not only bringing passengers to all parts of Europe at low cost but also on time. Part of the success of the model was that passengers accepted (albeit grudgingly) that the deal on low fares meant carrying one’s own baggage, limited to 10kg and dimension, plus a pre-printed and legible boarding pass to the flight gate. This allowed Ryanair to quickly load pax and on arrival at the destination to offload and get the next load up equally swiftly. Ryanair customers had become accustomed to this. In truth a 10kg baggage allowance was enough for the vast bulk of short breaks-just how many pairs of socks does one need for a romantic weekend in Paris anyway?

So in seeking to be more customer-friendly Ryanair may have let the “genie out of the bottle” and cannot now row back on its 2014 baggage concession!