I’m excited. Not a Christmas Eve type of excitement, but more the kind of hopeful anticipation you experience when going to the dentist to have a filling to stop a nagging pain. You see I’m about to take my first Ryanair flight. Yes you heard me correctly. And it’s not because of Ryanair’s new customer charter (launched in March this year there’s now hot food, more legroom, breakfasts…) but because I want, for the first time in months, to take-off and land on time and be within at least a half-marathon distance of the terminal when the plane comes to a standstill.
Lately I’ve been flying FlyBe, Aer Lingus and Loganair. Flying is of course not a term I’d use to describe what these airlines do. Sitting on the tarmac, travelling in a bus, or waiting in a queue would be more their modus operandi. These guys are not winning my little share of market loyalty. For example last week when travelling home from the Shetland Islands I got to the airport a bit early. Five hours before my flight. But I was also 45 mins before the earlier flight. So I asked to be put on the 4pm.
The response I got was akin to ‘computer says no’, which was strange because no computers were checked during the conversation. I could have understood If I was in Paris Charles De Gaulle and I was a 20 minute walk from the flight, but the distance from the check in desk at Sumburgh to the departure lounge is similar to the expanse of ground you’d have to cover if you decided to get up from your lounge sofa to take your empty coffee cup back to the dishwasher (which incidentally Denise suggests must be huge because I can never seem to make the journey).
I watched woefully as the plane left. And I knew it had to go to Edinburgh and come back before I had any hope of getting home. It arrived back at 9.45pm. I heard an airport manager comment that ‘we’d better get our act together or that flight won’t be leaving tonight’.
Imagine if you will a formula one pit stop, with everything synchronised to the second. Now imagine the same stop but where the mechanics have had a hefty dose of tramadol and Jenson Button decides to get out of the car and make himself a leisurely cappuccino and you’re on the money. The plane didn’t leave that night…or the next morning. In fact we arrived into Glasgow at 1pm the next day. FlyMayBe then forgot to order the taxis. I got home at 5pm – twenty four hours after I started my journey. It would have taken less time to travel to Edmonton than Edinburgh.
According to the regulars on the flight, this experience is normal. And if FlyBe were human then it would not be distinguishable from its twin brothers Loganair and Aer Lingus – both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of travelling (I use this term loosely) with lately. But do these problems have to come with the territory?
I was discussing this with a Vanguard client, Brona Kernan, lately. The Director of IT at Zurich Ireland laughed as she explained that she’d been one of the original team at Ryanair and that my experience would not have been tolerated at the airline. And whilst not always renowned for being ‘nice’ the Irish Airline is known as a master of problem solving. For the next half hour I would not have swapped Brona’s tales of innovation in the air for a front row seat at Spectre. Her insights into problem solving are simply amazing.
I wanted to get this information to you so I set up an interview. During our discussion Brona explains:
- How they grabbed the marketplace and what they did to grow them from tiny newcomer to the 2nd largest airline in the European market.
- The three core measures driving innovation in the business.
- How Ryanair reshaped their airline and their industry
- Some cool and some huge problems that they solved – what they did with the plane doors is amazing.
You probably won’t agree with everything she says, especially how the staff are paid, but I’m sure you’ll love the interview.