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.


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.


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.

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.”

Italy Fines Ryanair Over Online Booking

Italy’s competition watchdog fined Irish budget airline Ryanair EUR€400,000 (USD$522,500) for falling down on commitments to simplify online ticket sales.

The regulator said the airline failed to provide an overall clear price at the very outset of the online booking procedure.

In the period December 1-February 7, Ryanair introduced at the end of the online booking process a 2 percent processing fee on a series of credit cards, the antitrust body said.

It said ticket prices should be “clearly and fully indicated from the very first contact with the consumer in such a way as to make the final price immediately clear,” it said.

Consumer association Codacons said all commissions on online air tickets should be eliminated.

“The commission costs for buying with credit cards are very high and are kept hidden by some airlines until the last moment,” Codacons president Carlo Rienzi said in a statement.

The fine follows a similar reprimand by the Netherlands Consumer Authority last month which fined Ryanair EUR€370,000 for hidden costs associated with tickets purchased online by Dutch travellers.

Ryanair rejected the accusation.

“Ryanair will appeal the unfounded decision by the Italian competition authority,” a spokesman for the airline said.


Ryanair’s Aer Lingus bid blocked

Ryanair has been notified that the EU Commission intends to reject the low-cost carrier’s attempt to takeover Aer Lingus.

The airline says it will appeal the decision in the European courts, as it is “being held to a much higher standard than any other EU airline” and described the decision as political and unfair. However the European Commission said a final decision had not yet been taken.

Ryanair added it had “met every competition concern raised” by the EU during the process and provided “irrevocable commitments from not one, but two, upfront buyers to eliminate all competitive overlaps” between the airlines, as IAG and Flybe stepped in to take over a number of routes.

The airline’s head of communications Robin Kiely said, “It appears clear from this morning’s meeting, that no matter what remedies Ryanair offered, we were not going to get a fair hearing and were going to be prohibited regardless of competition rules.”

Ryanair, which has indicated that this third bid for Aer Lingus would be its last, said it would launch an appeal in European courts against the decision by the Commission, which acts as the European Union’s competition authority.

“This decision is clearly a political one to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish government and is not based on competition law,” Keily added.
The government, which has said it is against the merger, declined to comment, as did an Aer Lingus spokesman.


Ryanair agreement with Flybe confirmed

British airline Flybe has agreed with Ryanair to create an Irish carrier known as Flybe Ireland in the event of a successful bid by Ryanair for rival Aer Lingus.

Flybe said on Wednesday it has reached agreement over the possible transfer of some aircraft and routes with Ryanair as part of the Irish airline’s attempts to win approval from the European Commission for its bid for domestic rival Aer Lingus.

Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, is making its third takeover attempt of Aer Lingus and needs to make concessions that would retain competition in air transport to and from Ireland.

Flybe said it would pay Ryanair EUR€1 million (USD$1.35 million) for the newly created airline.

The deal would see Ryanair transfer to Flybe Ireland 43 European routes, at least nine Airbus A320 aircraft and an undisclosed number of flight crew, engineers, management and facilities to operate the business.

Ryanair will also provide Flybe Ireland with a cash injection of EUR€100 million and forward sales cash and liabilities worth around EUR€50 million.

Flybe, which is a low-cost regional airline group operating over 180 routes to 65 European airports, is looking to reduce its reliance on revenues from Britain.

“The terms of the deal negotiated ensure that Flybe Ireland will be a well-capitalised, well-funded company, enabling us to deliver upon that strategic aim,” said Flybe chief executive Jim French.

“However, before Flybe Ireland can come into being there are many hurdles to overcome, not least the EC accepting the remedies offered by Ryanair in its offer to take over Aer Lingus, and then the shareholders of Aer Lingus accepting an offer from Ryanair.


Ryanair reports 503 M Euro Profit

Ryanair has reported record profit of 503 M Euro , up 25% on last year and evenue rose by 19% to 4.3bn euros. Breaking that down, traffic increased by 5% and average revenue per passenger went up sharply by 16%, which helped offset the 30% rise in fuel costs.

“Recession, austerity, currency concerns and lower fares at new and growing bases in Hungary, Poland, provincial UK and Spain will make it difficult to repeat this year’s record results,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Michael O’Leary said this morning that his airline could benefit in some respects from the gloomy economic outlook.”People don’t stop going on holiday. They just switch to lower cost carriers,” he said.

However, it warned profits in the current financial year could be lower.It forecast annual profits of between 400m euros and 440m euros for the year to the end of March 2013.