Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Cheap Flights or Decent Service? - Low-Cost Airlines Have Had Their Honeymoon and People Are Beginning to Notice the Service. How Will Budget Carriers Respond? Daniel Rogers Reports

Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Cheap Flights or Decent Service? - Low-Cost Airlines Have Had Their Honeymoon and People Are Beginning to Notice the Service. How Will Budget Carriers Respond? Daniel Rogers Reports

Article excerpt

In these difficult economic times, the low-cost airline sector is a breath of fresh air.

While most sectors are talking of retrenchment, the budget carriers talk only of expansion.

The two biggest players easyJet and Ryanair are finalising consignments of around 100 new aircraft each and passenger traffic looks like growing at more than 30% per year for the next two years.

But while these two brands continue to add a welcome splash of good news in the city pages of newspapers, they are increasingly attacked in the travel and consumer sections of the same journals.

There have been question marks raised over the customer service and even the safety of the budget airline model.

So are we seeing a backlash against what are often perceived as 'the people's brands' of the transport sector?

It began with a trickle of bad news in the spring with a very public spat between easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Iaonnou and Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary. O'Leary believed Stelios had implied that EasyJet's younger fleet was safer than Ryanair's.

Although the issue died down and Ryanair assured consumers that safety was an absolute priority, a seed of doubt was left in the public psyche.

A torrent of negative coverage followed in July. The Observer devoted its entire travel supplement to giving 'The lowdown on the 'low cost' airlines'. 'No-frills flights may not seem such a good deal when they leave you stranded overseas or when a beer on board costs pounds 7.50,' it wrote.

This was followed by the high-profile story of passengers on an easyJet flight who held a sit-in when asked to leave the plane for a last-minute schedule change, fuelling stories of over-stretched operations. And, last week, Ryanair was named and shamed as giving passengers the worst customer service in a report from the Air Transport User Council. …

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