BBC gets critique of Ryanair and its CEO all wrong

I have a confession to make. I like Ryanair.

Yes, sometimes you have to pay more than you were led to believe you would for your flight.

Sometimes the staff can be jobsworths regarding the luggage allowances.

But if you have an Electron card, pick the right days and the right flights in advance, don’t buy food on the flight and don’t mind sometimes being a bit further from your target destination than you might wish, Ryanair is a bargain.

That’s the reason why so many people use the airline.

I’ve booked trips to Dublin and Rome for later this year and a total 12 flights have cost me less than £70. You can’t get that anywhere else.

In fact, it can cost more to get to Manchester from London.

I ignore the sometimes stroppy cabin crew, the often indifferent landings or the cost of food and suchlike that I just don’t buy.

The old adage that you get what you pay for comes to mind.

Like any flier, when suggestions are made about charging for toilets, I consider them to be a step too far and thankfully, so does Ryanair when the dust settles.

If you want more courteous staff, more frills, compensation or understanding for missed flights and putting the customer first every time, Ryanair is probably not for you.

Last night, Panorama broadcast a report about the ‘hidden charges’ Ryanair supposedly charge and other issues with their level of service.

I’m a big fan of the BBC and despite all the criticism of it by other media organisations, I think it does a pretty decent job as a public service broadcaster.

But as far as last night’s report on Ryanair was concerned, it undermined its credibility in a number of ways.

Starting off with a rant about luggage check-in desks being understaffed, the fact that ‘ruthless’ Ryanair had paid compensation may not have been ideal for the family who ended up missing their flight and having to rebook, but it was hardly the absolutely unsympathetic response the programme seemed to want to portray.

Later, there was a clip showing Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary’s resistance to taking part in an edited or recorded interview rather than a live or uncut interview.

As a former journalist myself, I appreciate his anxiety to ensure the interview is not edited and I am surprised that the BBC, so keen as it appears to have been to have an interview with Mr O’Leary, chose not to agree to that.

Even notwithstanding the potential for a ‘hatchet job’ as Ryanair feared, all journalists can edit or cut quotes and, even without intention, portray responses in a manner which distorts the interviewee’s opinion.

I can fully appreciate that Ryanair, based on the wealth of criticism about their service, including on a number of different BBC platforms, wanted their interview to be live or uncut.

The irony is that the BBC even posted an uncut interview with Michael O’Leary, which deals mainly with the debate between both parties regarding a live or unedited interview for the programme.

It makes a mockery of the BBC’s refusal to include an uncut interview which would have been best spent dealing with their concerns or points of interest and doesn’t paint them in a particularly positive light. You can see the clip here.
Ryanair’s initial response to the BBC’s request for an interview, assuming a ‘hatchet job’ and refusing to co-operate, is not the way a big company should deal with potentially aggressive media inquiries.

When the media come knocking, to refuse to offer your voice is to give the impression that you have something to hide, not to mention give more airtime to potential critics and dissenting voices.

Being proactive is the key – the fact that the Panorama journalist complained about Mr O’Leary dominating their interview says much for the CEO’s competence.

When undertaking media training, taking control of the interview rather than being boxed in by the journalist is one of the key skills PR consultants try to teach.

Whether criticism of Ryanair is justified or not, it was imperative of Ryanair not to be defensive and assume the worst, but to be as co-operative as possible.

To be fair to Ryanair, it mellows during the as time goes on, providing responses to detailed questions and even being brave enough to post all correspondence between themselves and the BBC on their website (see here)

What Ryanair has to realise is that, regardless of its customer service standards or additional charges which inflate the headline prices of apparently bargain flights, it is a company which has enjoyed a dominant market share because of its offering.

Ask any company CEO, pop star, sportsman, politician or celebrity and they will testify that the media will build them up and just as happily knock them down.

That’s the nature and consequence of success.

Are any of the Dragons in the Den or other famously successful entrepreneurs ruthless or simply commercial? Finding ways to cut costs and make money is a businessman’s raison d'être.

And while Ryanair offer such cheap flights, even doing a new free promotion today in response to the Panaoram debacle, I won’t be complaining too much.

Just don’t start charging for using the toilet please Michael.