On February 25th, 2009 wrote on the subject of Reputation Management,Social Media.

Ryanair – Their Attitude To Online PR Part Of A Bigger Reputation Problem.

A throwaway comment on a blog by a Ryanair staff member has led to an online storm that now threatens to spill over into the national press and potentially harm the already tarnished reputation of Ryanair even further.

It all started when a Dublin based web designer Jason Roe posted on his blog that he had found a potential bug on the Ryanair website which changed the displayed price of a ticket to €0.00 when he amended his flight times.

At this stage Ryanair had three options of how to deal with this,

  1. Post on Jasons blog thanking him for notifying them of the error, explaining the steps that they had taken to rectify the problem. Possibly even offering him a discount for bringing this to their attention may have turned this into a positive piece of PR.
  2. Fix the error and do nothing, solves the issue but not much else. The incident gets little attention and goes away.
  3. Post on Jasons blog anonymously insulting him and his website.

In the event they opted to go for #3.

you’re an idiot and a liar!! fact is!
you’ve opened one session then another and requested a page meant for a different session, you are so stupid you dont even know how you did it! you dont get a free flight, there is no dynamic data to render which is prob why you got 0.00. what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts they’re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!

Although this was done anonymously, the Ryanair staff member was easily identified through his IP address. At this point having their staff members abusing people online becomes far more of a news story than a bug on their website ever was, and starts to get coverage on the major social news sites popular with bloggers like Digg, Reddit and Twitter.

Although Ryanair are starting to look bad for not listening to their customers, an apology and explanation for the comments would probably have sufficed and the story would have died before it gained any more momentum.

Unbelievably Ryanair then released an official statement further insulting Jason and bloggers everywhere.

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel”.

This is now becoming a major story threatening to blow up in the faces of Ryanairs communications department. As well as national press coverage of the story this morning in The Times and The Telegraph people are now threatening boycotts of the airline over their treatment of customers, dragging up old grievances, and has sparked a raft of blog comments and even protest sites.

What Can We Learn From This?

  1. It just goes to show how failing to deal with, or worse, dealing badly with negative online reputation can blow up in your face.
  2. It shows how closely online and offline PR strategies are linked and should be treated as such.
  3. The importance of having an online strategy that ALL staff are aware of and adhere to.
  4. The power of an apology – it can turn negative PR into positive very quickly.

Is This Part Of A Wider Failing At Ryanair?

Managing the reputation of a budget airline such as Ryanair can never be an easy task at the best of times. Uphappy customers and poor press all take their toll. However, performing a quick audit of their online reputation throws up several areas for urgent attention and improvement.

Their search results, that threaten to take a battering after the latest round of blog posts and national media attention are already suffering. I have highlighted their own properties and positive results in green and negative results in red.

Worryingly for Ryanair, not only are they suffering from negative press in their search results, but there are also competitors and affiliate websites that are potentially stealing business from them, both in the natural results and though pay-per-click adverts.
Failure to respond to this is undoubtedly costing them business and keeps other Ryanair properties such as their hotels, magazine and insurance websites off of the first page. The PPC competition needs to be addressed though a campaign of their own.

In terms of their reputation on social media they fare even worse than in the search results. Searching Technorati for blog posts about them brings back an overwhelmingly negative sentiment, the same is replicated on Twitter, though Digg is more mixed however Michael O’Leary is named among the worst corporate leaders of 2006. Lots of negative sentiment to Ryanair in the comments though.

Ryanair protest sites such as Ryanair Campaign and a Ryanair Customers Google Group seem to be very busy with complaints from users and boast visitor numbers running into the hundreds of thousands.

5 Steps For Ryanair To Take To Fix Their Online Reputation

  1. Address the search results problems using SEO to boost their own properties onto the first page while pushing down negative results.
  2. Use press releases and rich media to take ownership of Google news, video and image search results.
  3. Use a PPC campaign to outbid competitors bidding on their own brand names.
  4. Instigate a blogger outreach programme to listen to and address peoples public concerns – turning negative PR into positive.
  5. Create a social aspect to their own website, bringing complaints and concerns in-house so they can be dealt with more quickly and effectively – firefighting negative PR and limiting it’s impact.

36 comments on Ryanair – Their Attitude To Online PR Part Of A Bigger Reputation Problem

  1. Alex says:

    What are they talking about!? WordPress is awesome! You wouldn’t use it to power a Ryanair website, but it’s fantastic for medium-sized concerns. They only expose their ignorance by belittling such worthy concerns such as WordPress and Blogging. I’m off to book a Virgin flight.

  2. Mike says:

    The problem is, Matt, that they don’t seem to care. That’s the part I find bizarre.

    Given the current climate, I would have thought they would be jumping through hoops to create and maintain a positive brand but this, combined with their decision last year to not honour tickets purchased through comparison sites, suggests that they don’t give one about either their reputation or their customers.


  3. Ciaran says:

    Mike’s right – they simply don’;t care. But we’re probably all fooling ourselves that they’re suddenly going to change. Unless people stop flying with them (unlikely), there’s no reason for them to.

  4. BrizoH says:

    Hi Ryanair,

    I’m an idiot blogger… but not a big enough idiot to give you any of my cash!

  5. Alx Klive says:

    This is priceless and calling a blogger an ‘idiot’ might have seemed like a clever Virginesque idea, but it couldn’t have been more idiotic if Michael O’Leary had actually swallowed his own plane in the photo above.

    I fly Ryancheese dozens of times a year (100 flights last year). I’m utterly ecstatic that Aer Lingus is resuming flights to Shannon and I for one will not be flying Ryancheese if it’s the last flight out of financial crisis induced anarchy. The £10 debit card (YES DEBIT CARD) fee was the penultimate straw. This is unquestionably the last.

  6. rich says:

    The attitude just boggles the mind.

    (BTW the first sentence confused me – it would be clearer as “A throwaway comment by a Ryanair staff member on a blog has…”)

  7. AndyW says:

    again and again and again these idiots put out statements like this – they are regulars in Private Eye.

    they think people are stupid and are not offended by their crass pr

    but for the rest of us… yet another reason not to use RyanAir…

  8. […] anything to do with ‘lunatic’ bloggers! (Travolution)Ryanair and the ‘idiot bloggers’ (The Times)Ryanair – Their Attitude To Online PR Part Of A Bigger Reputation Problem (datadial) Posted Under : Marketing Strategy Tags comcast twitter customer service social […]

  9. steve says:

    their cheap, thats what is important, that ‘s why I fly and continue to fly with them, that’s why they will continue, their cheap

  10. Jon Haywood says:

    *Grabs Popcorn*

    Yet another example that goes towards the argument that clients need to release control when it comes to the Internet and more importantly that your PR engine needs to be connected to the real world a bit better.

    Now Ryanair need to go sit on the norty step and get off it only when they’re ready to kiss, make up and tell us they’re sorry…

  11. James says:

    Ryanair do it because they can. They are massively successful, are deliberately confrontational and aggressive with detractors, because they (or more Specifically, O’leary) know that irrespective of what people say, they will choose Ryanair because more often than not, they are the cheapest. Plenty of people slag them off, but when they come to look at flights, they’ll use them.

    Secondly, I’d be surprised if this doesn’t work out for them. They’re still getting their name in the media, and it’s nothing to do with their service – there’s no customer complaint here, just them playing about with a blogger.

    Above all, the guy was trying to brag an exploit that was non-existent. If it was your work, you’d probably want to give him a slap too.

  12. Daan Jansonius says:

    They’ve grown to be one of the largest airliners out there in recent years. They offer cheap prices, no thrills. People don’t fly with them for their service, they fly with them because they are cheap as chips.

    I’ve flown with them. Was the experience below par? It certainly was. Would I fly with them again? Hell yeah, it’s dirt cheap!

    I’m not saying their approach is the right one, but they are doing something right if you look at their bottom line.

    Plus, Michael O’Leary loves the occasional PR shit storm – probaby believes in any press being good press. Bed and blowjobs anyone?

  13. Bill says:

    As has been noted, Ryanair can afford to abuse bloggers. Economics is on their side. They will continue to be successful as long as they offer rock-bottom prices. They’d have to do something much more serious than this before they were at risk of a major boycott.

    That’s not to say this is a smart move. In a market in which every adult is a potential customer, why alienate anyone? I do know for a fact that one of the reasons that they don’t handle PR very well is that they effectively don’t have a PR department (I think there’s a single communications manager) and all their ads are designed in-house by non specialists. In administrative terms they are a tiny organisation, which is why they manage to be so cheap.

    None of which stops them being a bunch of arseholes, of course.

  14. Liebe Billigflieger von Ryanair! | bluelectric.org says:

    […] “Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel via datadial.net […]

  15. tight fisted morons buy ryanair tickets so tight fisted morons get what they deserve… contempt by ryanair.

    Face it ryanair serve the mean scrooges who make up a significant proportion of society.

    Of course ryanair treat the world with contempt. It costs more to get a taxi for most people, to the airport, than it does to fly hundreds if not thousands of miles by ranair.

    You know what, in case you hadn’t guessed it. I despise mean tight fisted cretins.

    As daan says^^ “…People don’t fly with them for their service, they fly with them because they are cheap as chips….’

    They are in business, they treat mean gits as they should be treated and sometimes other people get into the firing line.

    Will this make any difference to Ryanair, doubt it, because yet again tomorrow the tight fisted morons who use this service, will be cattle herded into their seats and be happy.

    Sure the cry goes up, But I want to travel. Stop being such a selfish cretin, in third world countries people want to live, but can’t because the west is awash with cash for poor little mummys children who ‘want to travel’.

    Try paying your way, not getting the ‘bargain of the life time’ which always comes at someone elses expense.

    Cheap as chips flights, come at the expense of decent airlines sacrificing routes to compete with ryanair.

    I guess the passengers who fly ryanair are delighting in the recession, companies going bust and lots of bargains….. Sod the staff and families seing their life ambitions going up in smoke, ‘I got a bargain’.

    Britain is a dump which hopefully will come out of this recession as a third world country having lost its banking industry. A significant proportion of the British public deserve it.

    Then the great British public will get even more abuse from cheap as chips ryanair, along with contempt from the rest of the world and hopefully a decimated society. Fingers crossed.

    From a Brit ashamed of the meaness of this Country

  16. Ryanair's Cheap Shot - I'm Not Taking The Bait... | native says:

    […] lots of blog bustle about this Ryanair story. (In summary, a blogger wrote about a minor glitch he’d experienced in Ryanair’s online […]

  17. How the snowball rolls, a lesson in reputation management. says:

    […] The end result being some major PR damage for RyanAir online, which escalated into negative press across several high profile media outlets. The Guardian, CNN, The Telegraph, The Register, The Times Online and Sky News. Other’s suggested that RyanAir’s online PR is part of a bigger reputation problem. […]

  18. Darryl says:

    Wow, that having that kind of attitude towards members of the public is absolutely laughable! They really are digging their own grave PR wise, whoever issued the official statement certainly needs to be canned if they think that’s a suitable public facing attitude.

    Hopefully they’ll learn something from this, you’d think another tirade from angry customers and all the negative press will make them realise they are doing something wrong!

  19. Penny says:

    Wow – there PR is as bad as their customer service. I can’t believe how rude they were – what idiots!

  20. Nivell Rayda says:

    Wow, they should really just choose door number one. To engage and telling the blogger that he was right to point out the mistake and be thankful about it. It really does come a long way. They should have a company policy which banstrash talking on public discussions. Worse, they acknowledge that their employee trash talked and supports it.

  21. Really cool and complete analysis, congratulations!

  22. Ryanair's blogger reaction - why? | Online PR and social media consultancy - Liberate Media says:

    […] Travolution, The Times, Guardian, Economist and Telegraph, plus probably the best of the bunch at datadial. That little bunch of headlines should tell you in an instant how dramatically this story has […]

  23. They deserve everything they get. Talk about an unprofessional approach to fixing the situation.

  24. Through my job I’ve talked with several people with inadvertent PR issues due to online publications that they wanted to push out of the top 10 google results. But when someone as big as Ryanair does terrible PR things time and time again they continue to destroy any online credibility. I think one day will have to change their name, and 301 redirect their domain to their new branding as there will be way to much bad press when people search for their company by name…

  25. Cómo arruinar tu reputación online en 24 horas | Nico Roddz Blog Personal says:

    […] Datadial Compartir es bueno […]

  26. […] customers witnessed the rude abuse that the employee was ranting. This maybe acceptable if you are Ryanair and your brand is not built upon customer experience, but for BA it most certainly is […]

  27. […] Datadial blog is one of many offering free advice to Ryanair around the classic model of politeness to turn an issue into “positive PR” – whilst Alex Bainbridge offers a counter perspective with advice for bloggers on handling problems. […]

  28. silverdarling says:

    incredible – ryanarse website is crap (deliberately or just plain incompetence?), and they’re slagging off wordpress? Regardless of technical abilities (.net vs php is a long discussion) it ain’t what you do it with, it’s what you do with it. ryanarse usability, robustness and ‘information architecture’ is amateur in the extreme. but of course they must want it that way (website crashes – punters have to payphone, didn’t read the info – pay the extra charge)

    when sleazyjet can offer cheap prices and a decent web experience, then here’s hoping ryanarse lose the budget flight battle…

  29. Carolyn says:

    Ryan Air very much has the attitude that if you have a problem with its third-world business practices, you must be stupid. We followed all of their rules for online check-in and accessing boarding passes only to be told that we didn’t have a firm enough grasp of the English language to have done it correctly and therefore they were going to charge us 40 euros. Then they claimed our bags were overweight and charged us 15 euros per kilo. This turned out not to be accurate — at check-in for our Delta flight two hours later in Madrid we learned our bags were only 1 kilo over the limit. Given that even a bankrupt airline such as Delta prefers having customers as opposed to having no customers, pissing them off and treating them like idiots, Delta allowed us to shift out belongings from suitcase to suitcase so as not to be charged extra. We also were charged for two bags we didn’t have and were not allowed priority boarding, for which we had already paid. All in all, it was a disaster, and I will never fly Ryan Air again, nor allow anyone I care about to be their customer. That would include all people who believe in human dignity and decency. On the flight, it was freezing, and even with my daughter’s teeth chattering we were simply told in a cold, dispassionate voice that they had no blankets.

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    […] Twitter mentions/retweets – companies have been embracing Twitter in increasing numbers as it is simple to keep track about what people are saying about their brand although it is just as easy for negative views to be propagated as it is for positive views. Just ask Ryanair. […]

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    […] blog posts like this one, which outline in hushed tones how Ryanair’s approach to PR could be construed as unfriendly […]

  32. […] minor but nonetheless constructive, critical points about the online booking form on purveyor of cheap flights Ryanair would be the best way to represent the […]

  33. […] provided a great example of how not to respond to negative blog posts with their reaction to this […]

  34. Web and Social Media Metrics - 30 Easy to Measure Stats - Fluid Creativity says:

    […] Twitter mentions/retweets – companies have been embracing Twitter in increasing numbers as it is simple to keep track about what people are saying about their brand although it is just as easy for negative views to be propagated as it is for positive views.  Just ask Ryanair. […]

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