Ryanair drops out of top Google flight search results after website overhaul

While Ryanair continues its makeover from brash and uncompromising to focused on customer service, including a more appealing and user-friendly online booking system, it appears a botched overhaul of its website could be losing the Irish airline custom.

Since the full relaunch of its website earlier this month, Ryanair has all but vanished from country destination flight searches on Google.

According to data from web search analytics firm Intelligent Positioning, on millions of searches made each month for flights to European destinations where Ryanair was the first airline to appear, such as Romania and Belgium, it is no longer in the top 100 results.

The Ryanair website, once found, now allows users to book using as few as five clicks – a major departure from the old site where customers had to negotiate security checks and opt out of buying extras before booking a flight – but the airline appears to have omitted some basic precautions in the relaunch.

Sam Silverwood-Cope, director of Intelligent Positioning, said: “They’ve ignored the legacy of the old Ryanair.com. It’s quite startling. They are doing it just before their busiest time of the year.”
A change in web addresses without proper redirects means many results found by Google now simply return error pages, he added. “Unless redirects get put in pretty soon, the position is going to get worse and worse.”

Ryanair said it was confident that it was a temporary blip and the brand would sustain bookings. A spokesman said: “As part of our evolving digital plans, we will have more helpful content for customers on the website and this will sustain first-page rankings on key search terms going forward.

“Various Ryanair.com internal and external linked pages are migrating to the new site. Until the site settles down there will be a temporary drop in organic search positions on certain key search terms.”

He said the update had been well received by customers. “We are very pleased with the level of bookings since the new site went live. We anticipate that it will take a week or so for things to bed down properly.”

Ryanair’s new chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, will have some knowledge of the negative effects of even a small shift in Google rankings. At Moneysupermarket.com, his previous employer, shares dropped 15% last July when the firm fell a few places in the results for car insurance.

While Ryanair was one of the first websites to only take online bookings, it has had an ambivalent relationship with the web. In January, it finally agreed to sign up to Google’s developing flight search tool, with chief executive Michael O’Leary admitting: “If you need information, your first port of call is Google.”

Having long derided users of social media, O’Leary recently became an enthusiastic convert to Twitter as a way to chat with customers.

The airline is engaged in another step of its court battle against European travel websites On the Beach and Billigfluege over their use of screenscraping technology to access information on flights from Ryanair. The websites are appealing against rulings in Ryanair’s favour.

Silverwood-Cope pointed out that comfort for Ryanair could come from the experience of the Guardian which briefly saw traffic dip and its search ranking drop after changing its website domain from guardian.co.uk to theguardian.com last year.

theguardian.com

Ryanair posts first third quarter loss in three years

Ryanair has reported its first third quarter loss since 2010 as it cut fares to boost demand over winter.

The low cost carrier made a loss after tax of €35.2m (£29m) for the three months to December 31 compared to a €18.1m post-tax profit during the same period in 2012.

Although airlines usually make losses over the winter, it is the first time Ryanair has made a third quarter loss since 2010.

Passenger numbers during the period increased 6pc to 18.3 million but revenue dipped to €964m from €969m previously as revenue per passenger fell 6pc.

The carrier, which issued two shock profit warnings in the autumn, grew ancillary charges – which include food and drink onboard – but fares declined 9pc.

Ryanair is facing growing competition from expanding low cost rivals such as Vueling and Norwegian and has also admitted easyJet “wiped the floor with us” by introducing customer service improvements much earlier.

The airline is still guiding towards full year profits of around €510m – a figure which was revised down twice following profit warnings in September and November.

Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the third quarter loss was “in line” with previous guidance.

Mr O’Leary, who is known for his colourful outbursts, is taking a step back from the public spotlight as Ryanair introduces a more corporate image. It has rolled out a raft of customer service improvements including, most recently, the introduction of fully allocated seating across all of its flights.

Michael Cawley, deputy chief executive, admitted that Ryanair had been “beaten by the competition”, speaking to Radio Four’s Today Programme on Monday morning.

Daily Telegraph

Cash-strapped airline Alitalia rejects Ryanair’s collaboration offer

Alitalia has rebuffed an offer from Ryanair to feed passengers into its long-haul routes and help boost the Italian carrier’s profitability.

“Alitalia … has its own strategy, an industrial plan, a fleet and its own crew that allow it to have the necessary passenger traffic to feed its international and intercontinental connections leaving from the hub at Fiumicino airport,” Alitalia said in a statement.

Budget airlines are usually based further from city centers, and Ryanair wanted to leverage the new routes it has secured from Rome’s Fiumicino, which is also Alitalia’s hub.

“Ryanair believes that its offer to feed Alitalia’s international hub at Fiumicino, and seek opportunities to work together and help Alitalia to recover, can help new investors and Alitalia’s management in returning to profitability and reliability,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Alitalia, the target of a government-engineered €500m rescue plan, said it had its own restructuring plan in place and offered similar prices to Ryanair, suggesting the two firms were not natural partners.

“At hub airports in all developed countries, cooperation is avoided between hub carriers and low-cost airlines. It is not by chance that low-cost airlines find space and operate in small airports dozens of kilometers from the cities,” it said.

Italy’s flag carrier has made a profit only a few times in its 67-year history and is running out of cash again.

The deadline for shareholders to subscribe to a 300 million euro capital increase, intended to buy the airline time as it looks for a cash-rich foreign partner, expires on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Alitalia’s board approved a revised business plan, promising deep cost cuts to make the struggling airline more competitive.

Reuters

Ryanair blames lower fares for latest profit warning

Ryanair is on course for its first fall in profits in five years, saying that increased competition and a weak economic backdrop will force it to cut fares by up to 10% for the winter months.

The budget airline issued its second profit warning in recent months after average fares fell 2% during the first half of the financial year. It said fares were likely to fall by up to 10% by the end of the financial year to 31 March 2014, despite slightly higher forward bookings.

The Irish budget airline cut its full-year profit guidance to around €510m (£432m) from €570m, “due entirely to this lower fare environment”. It would be Ryanair’s first fall in profit since 2009.

“People have less money to spend,” the airline’s chief financial officer, Howard Millar, told Bloomberg. “We had a strong August, since then we’ve started to see a weakening environment.”

The bad news sent its shares down 10% and hit the wider airline sector, with easyJet and British Airways group IAG shares both sharply lower.

Ryanair had already hit investors with a surprise profits warning in September, cautioning at that time that profits might fall at the lower end or below its previous range.

Ryanir’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in the same month that he recognised the need to address the “abrupt culture” at the airline, known for its no-frills service and additional charges.

“We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily [annoy customers]. I am very happy to take the blame or responsibility if we have a macho or abrupt culture. Some of that may well be my own personal character deformities,” he said at the time.

O’Leary said on Monday that the airline had responded to the dip in forward fares and yields by lowering it full year traffic target to just under 81 million from over 81.5 million.

“We also released a range of lower fares and aggressive seat sales to stimulate traffic, load factors and bookings across all markets,” he added.

“Market pricing remains weak, so we will continue to promote low fare seat sales throughout the remainder of both Q3 and Q4.

“Forward bookings are running slightly ahead of last year, but the softness in fares and yields continues.”

Profit after tax rose 1% to €602m in the first six months of the year to 30 September, with passenger numbers up 2% at 49m.

Revenue increased 5% to €3.25m.

Ryanair completed €177m of share buy-backs in the first half, and said it would press ahead with its plan to return up to €600m to shareholders through buy-backs and special dividends before the end of the 2015 financial year.

Alitalia Bankruptcy Risk If No Capital Injection

Alitalia risks having to file for bankruptcy if no deal on a proposed capital increase is reached in a couple of weeks, a government source said on Tuesday.

Alitalia’s shareholders will vote on a capital increase of at least EUR€100 million (USD$136 million) on October 14 to help keep the company afloat.

“Alitalia risks filing for bankruptcy if no solution on the capital increase is found in a couple of weeks,” the government source told Reuters news agency.

Alitalia needs around EUR€500 million to keep going and to be able to invest in a new turnaround strategy, analysts have said, after accumulating losses of over EUR€1 billion since being privatized in 2009.

Air France-KLM owns a 25 percent stake in the carrier.

(Reuters)

Flybe dismisses three directors amid operations overhaul

Flybe, Europe’s largest independent regional airline, has shown three directors the door and merged its divisions as part of the struggling group’s drive to cut costs and stem losses.

New chief executive Saad Hammad, who announced a full review of Exeter-based Flybe’s operations when he took over in August, has moved quickly to restructure the business ahead of his own three-month schedule.

The airline group’s divisional structure, comprising the passenger airline Flybe UK and its leasing operation Flybe Outsourcing Solutions, will be disbanded, with all the operating units integrated.

Three directors running the two divisions and corporate strategy – Andrew Strong, Mike Rutter and Mark Chown – have left Flybe. Paul Simmons will join the company from easyJet as chief commercial officer next month.

Hammad commented: “It has quickly become clear to me that Flybe’s prospects will be significantly enhanced by disbanding the existing divisional structure and integrating all operations into a single, simpler and lower cost operating unit. Today’s announcement facilitates that move and will form an important part of the strategic review of the business which I expect to conclude in November. I look forward to sharing its full conclusions.”

Since the appointment of Hammad, a former director of Air Berlin and easyJet, Flybe shares have crept back up to over 87p, almost double the summer low. The airline has struggled since the economic downturn hit regional businesses hard, while UK aviation taxes have compounded its woes. Pre-tax losses reached £40.7m last year. An existing turnaround plan already aimed to slash £50m a year in costs, including laying off around 500 staff.

Norwegian Air Plans Expansion In US Market

Budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle plans to set up bases in New York and Fort Lauderdale next year and will significantly increase services between the Nordics and the US as it receives more Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Norwegian, the first budget airline in recent years to offer transatlantic services, will fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando in addition to its routes to Fort Lauderdale and New York, chief executive Bjoern Kjos told a news conference on Tuesday.

Norwegian placed Europe’s biggest aircraft order last year, 222 planes from Boeing and Airbus. It has been one of Europe’s most successful carriers, taking market share from SAS and also moving outside its traditional Nordic market with bases in London and Spain.

It is also one of the most successful stocks on the Oslo bourse with its shares up 105 percent over the past 12 months.

Still, many analysts consider the stock undervalued as it is trading at 7.8 times its expected 2014 earnings, well below an average of around 10 for European peers.

Norwegian launched long-haul services earlier this year when it received the first of eight 787s, and it has recorded a 96 percent load factor on those flights.

The firm says it can operate long-haul flights 30 percent cheaper than traditional airlines, primarily because of the 787′s lower operating cost.

Alitalia Hires Bankers To Tackle Cash Crisis

Struggling Italian airline Alitalia has hired boutique investment bank Leonardo to help tackle a liquidity crisis that may see it running out of cash before year’s end.

The move is aimed at finding ways to raise more than EUR€400 million (USD$527 million) to keep the loss-making carrier afloat, a source familiar with the situation said.

Alitalia has struggled to make a profit throughout its life and has been bailed out repeatedly by the Italian state.

It agreed salary cuts with unions in June and its chief executive and board members reduced their pay by 20 percent ahead of the drawing up of a new strategic plan.

The airline, which quadrupled its net loss to EUR€280 million in 2012 compared with the year before, said in July it needed EUR€300 million this year to keep running but expected to break even by 2015.

The airline, which is 25 percent owned by Air France-KLM, was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008 and bought by a consortium of Italian companies including bank Intesa Sanpaolo, road operator Atlantia and holding company IMMSI, the owner of scooter-maker Piaggio.

The investors might sell out after the expiry in mid-October of a lock-up period, paving the way for new shareholders.

Alitalia said in a statement it had hired the bankers to “assist the company in its relationships with the banks.”

Italian newspapers said last month Alitalia was in talks with Etihad Airways on a commercial deal that might lead to the Abu Dhabi carrier taking a stake.

Alitalia and Etihad were also mentioned in the context of a possible tie-up earlier this year, but Etihad said at the time there were no talks between the two firms beyond those on code sharing.

Etihad was not available for comment but a source at Etihad said that, with a stake in Air Berlin and a commercial partnership with Air France-KLM, Etihad was not keen on another investment in a European carrier.

Alitalia earlier this year hired turnaround specialist Gabriele del Torchio to lead it back to profit.

The airline has pushed back to the end of September the approval of its mid-year financial statement, that was due to be approved by the board, mainly to address a tax dispute.

(Reuters)

Ryanair required to sell down shareholding in Aer Lingus to 5%

The UK Competition Commission (UKCC) has told Ryanair to reduce its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus to 5%.

This will be accompanied by obligations on Ryanair not to seek or accept board representation or acquire further shares.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said he expected a negative result from the commission.

Before the UKCC formally released its report this morning, Mr O’Leary prepared a statement saying he would challenge a negative result which said that his 29.8% minority shareholding in Aer Lingus “had led or may be expected to lead to a substantial lessening of competition between the airlines on routes between Great Britain and Ireland”.

The no-frills airline said the claim was baseless and was “manifestly disproven by seven years of evidence”.

In their criticism of the UK’s regulatory body, Ryanair cited a recent European Commission ruling that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has “intensified” since 2007.

Describing the UKCC’s ruling as manifestly unjust, Ryanair said it will appeal the commission’s decision to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Aer Lingus has welcomed this morning’s ruling by the UK Competition Commission. Colm Barrington, Chairman of Aer Lingus, said:

“Today’s final report by the UK Competition Commission confirms that the minority shareholding in Aer Lingus held by our closest competitor, is anti-competitive and contrary to the interests of the approximately 14 million passengers who fly on routes between the island of Ireland and Great Britain. The Competition Commission should be commended on its thorough investigation and we look forward to the implementation of its findings.

It was unacceptable that our principal competitor was allowed to remain on our share register with a shareholding of 29.82% and interfere with our business despite the European Commission blocking both Ryanair’s first hostile takeover attempt six years ago and its most recent hostile takeover attempt earlier this year.

Aer Lingus remains focussed on financial and operational performance and our recent results for the first half of 2013 demonstrate that Aer Lingus continues to deliver an excellent overall performance to the benefit of its shareholders. The implementation of the Competition Commission’s decision that Ryanair must reduce its anti-competitive shareholding will position Aer Lingus for future growth and opportunities which will make it an even stronger competitor in the market.”

Alitalia In Talks With Etihad

Alitalia is in talks with Etihad Airways on a commercial deal that may lead to the Abu Dhabi-based carrier taking a stake in the money-losing Italian company, daily il Sole 24 Ore reported.

Neither Alitalia nor Etihad could be reached for comment.

Citing unnamed sources, the paper said there had been several meetings in recent weeks between managers at both companies, including recently appointed Alitalia chief executive Gabriele del Torchio.

Del Torchio, who is known as a turnaround specialist, was recruited earlier this year to lead the struggling Italian airline back to profitability.

Alitalia, which is 25 percent owned by Air France-KLM, was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008, when it was bought by a consortium of Italian companies including bank Intesa Sanpaolo, road operator Atlantia and holding company IMMSI.

In its industrial plan presented in July, the new CEO said the company planned to increase its financial resources by EUR€300 million (USD$400 million) by the end of this year.

Alitalia and Etihad were mentioned in the context of a possible tie-up earlier this year, but Etihad said at the time there were no talks between the two firms beyond those on code sharing.

(Reuters)