A Tale Of Two Airlines

The answer is probably not what you think but whose reputation is most negatively affected by their contrasting response to the same problem? A new media training reputation case study perhaps?

British Airways – I receive an email stating that my flight is cancelled due to Covid. I ring that day to claim a refund. The phone is answered within five minutes by a BA representative working from home. My claim is processed within seconds and the money is promised to arrive in my bank account within a couple of weeks.

Ryanair – I receive an email stating that my flight is cancelled due to Covid. I click the ‘apply for refund’ button and three weeks later am still waiting. No customer agent connects with me on their website chat; nobody responds to my phone calls; the company does not engage with customers on Twitter (although it tweets about now deals that are available). At every digital turn they try to get you to accept a voucher to set against future travel. I finally receive an email: “Customers who choose not to accept a voucher will receive their refund in due course once this crisis has passed”. Once this crisis has passed? When will that be defined as having come to pass? And by whom? Michael O’Leary?!

The point here is that, actually, nobody’s reputation is negatively impacted.

I expected nothing more of Ryanair and nothing less from British Airways. If Ryanair had behaved like British Airways and vice versa, the only loser would have been BA.

Ryanair may have forgone an opportunity to improve its corporate reputation but why would it do that? Ryanair is a successful business despite its appalling customer service. Therefore, its reputation must be about something else. And that – as we have written in past blog posts – is its reputation for offering the cheapest tickets. Which is why Ryanair is advertising them on Twitter even as some customers rant about them (see #ryanairrefund).

This is not a reputation crisis for Ryanair – and with £4 billion of cash and finance facilities, it isn’t a financial one either (yet!). Nor does it particularly have an issues management problem. An issue occurs when there is a gap between your policies, performance, products or public commitments and the expectations of your stakeholders which requires decisions or communications that close that gap. By dint of being a customer, I am a stakeholder. And because of their past and current behaviours, I have no expectations of them.

I contacted the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to ask about the legality of Ryanair’s actions. They told me in the first instance to make a formal complaint – to Ryanair 🤣🤣🤣.

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