Ryanair – the low-fares airlines

Case Study
By

Sid Hegde

Ryanair – the low-fares airline

Table of Contents Q1. Why has Ryanair been successful thus far?..................................................................3 Q2. Is Ryanair's strategy sustainable?..................................................................................4 Q3. Would you recommend any changes to Ryanair's approach?.......................................5 Q4. Should Ryanair continue to pursue the Aer Lingus bid?..............................................6 Q5. Evaluate the strategic leadership of Michael O'Leary..................................................7 Conclusion...........................................................................................................................8 Bibliography........................................................................................................................9 Appendix............................................................................................................................10
A1. PESTEL Analysis...............................................................................................................10 A2. 5-Forces Analysis...............................................................................................................11 A3. Ryanair SWOT Analysis.....................................................................................................12 A4. TOWS Matrix......................................................................................................................13 A5. Strategic Capability and Competitive Advantage...............................................................13 A6. Stakeholder analysis on Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus........................................................14 A7. Ansoff Matrix – Strategic Direction for Ryanair...................................................................14 A8. Growth/Share Matrix (BCG Matrix)....................................................................................15 A9. Strategy Clock – competitive strategy options....................................................................16 A10. VRIO Analysis..................................................................................................................17 A11. Evaluating Ryanair’s Business Strategy ..........................................................................17 A12. Cultural Web....................................................................................................................18 A13. Exercise of Effective Strategic Leadership [2]..................................................................19 A14. Risk Analysis....................................................................................................................20

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helping it to turn-around the planes quite quickly . contributing to innovations by the engineers to improve the efficiency of the planes. . Low cost operations Ryanair has the best run low cost operations helping it achieve the best operating margin in the industry. This has also contributed to Ryanair improving it’s organizational memory of it’s maintenance engineers. By flying to secondary airports.Flying to secondary cities and airports This is one of the founding cornerstone's of Ryanair’s strategy.Point-to-Point flights Flying point-to-point helps Ryanair eliminate a lot of additional operations like baggage transfers etc. Michael O’Leary’s leadership Michael O’Leary has been the key ingredient of success for Ryanair. It also avoids the congestion at the major airports helping it improve the turn-around time for the planes as well as setting the benchmark in on-time arrivals and take-off’s .Cost culture Ryanair’s low cost culture has permeated to all of it’s employees and is spread throughout the organization. All elements of it’s operations are geared towards reducing cost and improving efficiency. His understanding of the Southwest model and it’s successful adaptation has transformed Ryanair and has made it the leading low fares airlines in Europe. Ryanair avoids huge gate and landing charges charged by the major airports. First mover advantage Ryanair was the first airline in Europe to introduce low fares and it has successfully made use of first mover advantage by negotiating very good rates with secondary airports and locking in landing slots at these airports.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Q1.    3/20 . Why has Ryanair been successful thus far? Ryanair’s success can be attributed to quite a few factors  Successful adaptation of Southwest’s low cost model Michael O’Leary studied the low cost model of Southwest and successfully adapted the strategy to suit Ryanair . making this an integral part of the cultural web.Single type aircraft Ryanair’s decision to fly only a single type of aircraft has helped it lower it’s maintenance cost.

Is Ryanair's strategy sustainable? Yes.  Low Price Ryanair’s strategy is based upon this core competency. Using Rumelt’s [1] techniques (A11) to evaluate the Ryanair’s key business strategy of Low Price shows that this strategy does not have any critical flaw. ‘Cost conscious culture’ and ‘R&D on aircraft design’ (A5) gives it competitive advantage. Strategies based upon core competencies are usually successful as articulated by Prahalad and Hamel in their article on core competencies [4]. Cost conscious culture As we can see from the cultural web (A12). The structures and policies that Ryanair has in place will make this culture sustainable Size Ryanair’s market dominance gives it advantages of size that will help it sustain it’s low cost operations as it can use it’s size to dictate terms with it’s supplier Leadership Even excluding Michael O’Leary. the low cost culture has spread throughout Ryanair’s organization. Ryanair’s management from senior management down to front line managers is wed to the lost cost culture and they are geared towards maintaining and sustaining the low cost culture Experience Curve Ryanair has built up a huge low cost operations experience curve which will help it sustain going forwards     Analyzing these core competencies via the VRIO framework (A10) proves that the core competencies give Ryanair Sustained Competitive Advantage. 4/20 . Ryanair’s strategy is sustainable because it’s core competencies of ‘Low Price’.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Q2.

Ryanair should leverage it’s website to better sell ancillary products as well as looking into the possibility of gaining advertising revenue through it’s website. Ryanair has a substantial exposure to the vagaries of the currency market.  Succession planning The case study does not offer any insight into Ryanair’s succession planning after Michael O’Leary leaves the company. I would recommend some changes to Ryanair’s approach.  Marketing of ancillary products Ryanair’s approach of hard selling of ancillary products during flights seems to have had quite a push back from frequent fliers. Ryanair is probably better off trying to soft sell ancillary products during flights. Even a marginal improvement in Ryanair’s image could help it future proof against potential competitors. Would you recommend any changes to Ryanair's approach? Yes.  Improve Customer perception of Ryanair One of Ryanair’s key edicts is that as long as it has low prices customers will fly with them. Ryanair needs to improve it’s policy of buying US dollars to pay for aviation fuel. A Ryanair credit card could be a good addition to it’s portfolio of ancillary products. A leader who is not as polarizing and rebellious as Michael O’Leary could be a good replacement as Ryanair further expands. Some of the changes that I would recommend based on the TOWS (A4) analysis are  Improve it’s oil hedging & currency trading practices The international oil and currency market is a very volatile market and there could be huge spikes in oil prices in the event of a terrorist attack (or threat). As oil is traded in US dollars in the international market and Ryanair’s income is solely in Euros. A softer image projected by a new leader could help Ryanair mend it’s relationship with Irish and EU officials. Improving it’s hedging practices could cushion Ryanair against unforeseen increases in oil prices. But as the competition has increased customers could switch to another carrier which might be slightly more expensive than Ryanair because of Ryanair’s perceived poor customer service policies. This was a reasonable approach when Ryanair was the first mover. political struggles in the oil producing countries etc. 5/20 . It would be beneficial for Ryanair to hire a specialist company that specializes in the future’s markets to help it improve it’s hedging practices.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Q3.

If the financial struggles at Aer Lingus continues and it keeps loosing money then Ryanair can look into the possibility of making a bid for just the international operations of Aer Lingus. This would give it an opportunity to expand internationally and also give access to gates and landing slots at major airports. Should Ryanair continue to pursue the Aer Lingus bid? No. it is recommended that Ryanair hold on to it’s current shares in Aer Lingus as it would be a good buffer against a possible take over of Aer Lingus by one of it’s rivals like Easy Jet. Some of the key players like the Aer Lingus board will not accept the bid as they are intrinsically opposed to the bid. 6/20 .Ryanair – the low-fares airline Q4. But. As we can see from the stakeholder analysis (A6) every one of the key stakeholders are against the bid. in the present environment it’s not advisable for Ryanair to pursue the Aer Lingus bid. There is also considerable opposition from the Irish government as well as the EU as it might reduce competition.

Evaluate the strategic leadership of Michael O'Leary. This has been one of the key factors for Ryanair in keeping their cost down and offer low prices. if enough attention is not paid to develop and nurture employees. pilots. Bottom line The success of Michael O’Leary’s strategic leadership can be summed by looking at Ryanair’s bottom line.      7/20 . we can evaluate the strategic leadership of Michael O’Leary on the below points  Determining Strategic Direction O’Leary was instrumental in adapting Southwest’s low price model and set a low price long term strategic direction for Ryanair. eliminate non-value added operations and provide the lowest possible air fare to the customer. Sustaining an Effective Organizational Culture O’Leary has built and sustained a low cost organizational culture and this culture is the core of Ryanair and influences on how it operates and conducts it’s business. except state that they are one of the best paid in the low price airline industry. O’Leary probably needs to take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs [3] to help him improve the human capital at Ryanair. Ryanair could experience low morale in the work. this low cost culture embedded into everyone at Ryanair and has become one of the key competencies of the firm. Effectively Managing the Firm’s Resource Portfolio O’Leary was able to standardize on the aircraft used by Ryanair and ensuring a uniform resource for all engineers.  Attitude His brazen attitude has probably hurt Ryanair’s image in the political and legal circles in Europe. In the long run. Exploiting and Maintaining Core Competencies O’Leary (and his management team) had to build a low cost culture amongst Ryanair’s workforce. O’Leary does not seem to pay attention to the individual employee. This probably was suitable in the earlier days. He is the face of Ryanair and his attitude and actions tend to convey a confrontist image for Ryanair. but it’s probably time for him to tone down his approach. Other  Mastery of details O’Leary appears to have a mastery of all the details of Ryanair’s business. Using the model of ‘Exercise of Effective Strategic Leadership’ [2] (A18). This helps him to better lead Ryanair as it expands throughout Europe. This could be the weakest link in O’Leary’s strategic leadership.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Q5. Developing Human and Social Capital This is probably one area where O’Leary’s leadership could improve. cabin crew. His philosophy was (and is) to reduce cost in all operations. Over the years. They are the leading carrier in Europe with ever increasing profits.

But Ryanair needs to pay close attention to the risks highlighted in the Risk dashboard (A14) as it continues to grow. Southwest. A low price strategy is a sustainable strategy as we can see from other and similar organizations like Ikea. Aldi etc. 8/20 . The leadership at Ryanair practices what it preaches and it helps further reinforce the low cost message throughout the organization.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Conclusion Ryanair has built a low cost culture and it’s entire organization has bought into this philosophy. Ryanair’s low price strategy is a perfect fit for them and the future looks very rosy for Ryanair. Ryanair need to start planning for life after Michael O’Leary.

June 2007 – Roger Martin 9/20 .Ryanair – the low-fares airline References 1. 6th Edition – Hitt.H. Crafting Strategy. HBR. How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy. A Theory of Human Motivation. Porter 4. Porter 3. HBR. 2001 – Henry Mintzberg 5. 8th Edition – Gerry Johnson. HBR. HBR. HBR. Prahalad and Gary Hamel Bibliography 1. Rumelt 2.K. November–December 1996. March–April 1979 – Michael E. November 28. Maslow 4. Evaluating Business Strategy. The Core Competence of the Corporation. Strategic Management. What is Strategy. Ireland and Hoskisson 3. May–June 1990 – C. Michael E. Exploring Corporate Strategy. 1993 – Richard P. How Successful Leaders Think. Psychological Review 1943 – A. Kevan Scholes and Richard Whittington 2.

Regardless of whether Ryanair wins or losses the court battles it will still incur a lot of legal expenses and managements attention could get diverted from running the business to fighting in courts.Ryanair – the low-fares airline Appendix A1. Fuel prices going up. Few things that could hurt Ryanair (along with the entire Airline industry) would be a downturn in the European economic. Legal Ryanair is currently involved in quite a few legal battles with cases filed against it and cases filed by it. Ryanair’s only concern could be the local governments support for there own national carriers. There is a potential for Ryanair to leverage their website traffic to sell/promote ancillary products. This could be one of the USP’s for Ryanair in the future. Looking at the PESTEL analysis. Environment As Ryanair’s fleet is one of the youngest it’s producing less emissions and more environmentally friendly than other carriers. the cheap fares still make it attractive for the budget conscious customer. Terrorist attacks etc. Technological Ryanair has made use of the internet technology to provide online booking and checking making their website one of the most heavily used websites. Social Even though Ryanair is perceived to provide poor customer service. PESTEL Analysis Environmental influences on Ryanair Political Most of Ryanair’s routes are in Europe where the political environment is quite stable. 10/20 . especially the legacy carriers. the Key drivers of change for Ryanair are the Economic and the Legal factors. Economic Ryanair has been cautious in it’s outlook for 2007.

there have been a lot of new entrants in the market hoping to duplicate the success of the existing low price airlines But new entrants face significant challenges in acquiring landing slots and gates at both primary and secondary airports as the existing airlines have stranglehold on most of slots and gates This threat is quite low Rivalry Amongst Existing Competitors Rivalry amongst existing competitors is not high as existing competitors try to avoid a direct clash with each other and concentrate most of their effort in poaching customers from existing legacy carriers. flying is the most convenient option This threat is quite low Threat of New Entrants Even though the price barriers to entry are quite high.Ryanair – the low-fares airline A2. the airlines become dependent on the aircraft manufactures Bargaining power of aviation fuel suppliers is quite high as there are only a few major suppliers This threat is quite high Threat of Substitute Products or Services There is always a threat that the consumer might switch to alternate mode of transport like train or bus But at this moment for point to point transportation within Europe. 5-Forces Analysis Porter’s 5-Forces Analysis to determine whether the low price European airline industry is attractive or not  Bargaining Power of Buyers Bargaining power of buyers is high as buyers have a lot of choices as there are multiple low price airlines in the market This is threat is quite high as customers can change their minds on which airlines to fly Bargaining Power of Suppliers Bargaining power of Aircraft manufacturers is quite high as there are only two major suppliers in the market As a the low price airline industry converts to a single model (or very few models) of aircraft to reduce price. especially for island countries like Ireland & UK. The low price airlines is about 30% of the overall airline industry and there is quite a lot of opportunity to grow (at the expense of the legacy airlines) 11/20 . This threat is quite low     The overall industry is attractive for existing low price airlines.

The website’s popularity could also help Ryanair sell complete tour packages. for example car rental + flight + hotel. Threats I think the main threat for Ryanair could come from rapid expansion as it might over stretch management’s capabilities as well as adding a burden on cash flow The secondary threats (that are common to all airlines) would be a huge increase in fuel prices Any new terrorist attacks (or threats) would impact Ryanair (as well as the other low price airlines) as security would be increased leading to longer turnaround times    12/20 . This could make it attractive for consumers as it would mean a one stop destination for their holidays etc. If properly managed this could be very lucrative Ryanair’s website is very popular and this opens up new opportunities to leverage the web traffic into advertising revenue etc. Ryanair SWOT Analysis Strategic Analysis (Internal Analysis)  Strengths Brand – Ryanair name has become synonymous with the Low airfares Size – Ryanair has become the biggest low price airlines in Europe and it’s able to leverage it’s size to negotiate better agreements from it’s suppliers Low cost base – Well integrated strategy that takes advantage of it’s low cost operations offering low fares that’s driving up revenue New airplanes – leading to less cost in maintenance.Ryanair – the low-fares airline A3. War chest – Ryanair has a significant amount of cash on it’s books and this can be a major deterrent for any competition contemplating a price war with Ryanair Weakness Perceived to be an airline that does not care for the customer Perceived to be an airline that is obsessed on the bottom line at any cost Opportunities Ryanair has been selling ancillary products during the flight that has high margins. fuel efficiency etc.

cabin crew (employees) Finance resources Office equipment Unique resources Capabilities for Competitive Advantage . tasteful advertising through it’s website etc. TOWS Matrix Generating Strategic Options Strengths . frequent flyer programs.Low Price .Ryanair should use it’s new fleet Threats and try to project a ‘Green’ image.Ryanair can leverage it’s huge customer base and get better at selling ancillary products . This could help Ryanair take a lead over other competitors whenever stronger emission rules are passed in the EU .It can also get better at reacting to currency fluctuations as the oil industry primarily deals in US Dollars A5.Experience curve in R&D on aircraft design to improve performance & reduce fuel cost 13/20 .Ryanair credit cards.Management team .Michael O’Leary Competencies Threshold competencies Online booking / website Point-to-Point routing On time take-off and landing Low cost operations Core Competencies .Ryanair can probably overcome it’s perceived poor customer service by better training and motivating their employees Opportunities .Ryanair can better react to fuel prices by hedging for oil prices . has huge potential for additional earnings as well as increasing it’s customer base Weakness .Ryanair – the low-fares airline A4.Cost conscious culture . Strategic Capability and Competitive Advantage Resources Threshold resources Threshold capabilities Aircraft Pilots.

Ryanair’s expansion into Ancillary key strategic directions for Ryanair.Diversification into long haul flights or flying more than point-to-point flights would be a bad strategic choice for Ryanair 14/20 . Stakeholder analysis on Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus The stakeholder analysis clearly shows the opposition to Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus. The chances of the key stake-holders changing their mind agreeing to a merger are quite low.Developing new routes.Expansion outside of Europe might not be a strategic fit for Ryanair Diversification . flying to new destinations can be profitable strategy for Ryanair . Ansoff Matrix – Strategic Direction for Ryanair Products Existing Market Penetration & Consolidation Existing M A R K E T S New New Product Development products is a good strategic fit . A7. that is consolidating existing routes and increasing market share on existing routes Market Development .Ryanair – the low-fares airline A6.This should be (and is) one of the .

non-flight scheduled services etc. Growth/Share Matrix (BCG Matrix) Market Share M A R K E T G R O W T H Stars .g.Lucrative short hop routes (e.Ancillary products like in flight shopping.Ryanair’s investment in Aer Lingus stock could loose money for it. as Aer Lingus has all the problems of a legacy carrier with very less benefits of a large legacy carrier (e.Ryanair – the low-fares airline A8.g. offers a very high margin Question Marks . economics of scale) Dogs Cash Cows . DublinLondon) .At present it seems that Ryanair does not have any dogs 15/20 .

Strategy Clock – competitive strategy options Ryanair is a textbook example of a ‘No Frills’ competitive strategy 16/20 .Ryanair – the low-fares airline A9.

VRIO Analysis Value No frills strategy New Fleet Low cost culture Leadership War Chest Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Ryanair’s VRIO Framework Rarity Inimitability Organizatio n No No Yes No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Competitive Implications Temporary Competitive Advantage Temporary Competitive Advantage Competitive Advantage Sustained Competitive Advantage Sustained Competitive Advantage A11. Evaluating Ryanair’s Business Strategy Strategy Test Consistency Conclusion Pass: This is consistent with Ryanair’s procedures and policies of low costs with an aim of providing the customer with low prices Pass: When Ryanair embarked on providing customers with a low fare option to fly pointto-point. it was a breakthrough offer in the air transport environment Pass: The Low price strategy enabled Ryanair to take advantage of a gap in the air transport industry and capture a significant portion of the cost conscious customer base Pass: A low cost culture was created at Ryanair that the management and employees bought into Consonance Low Price Advantage Feasibility Conclusion: The Low price strategy at Ryanair does not have any critical flaws 17/20 .Ryanair – the low-fares airline A10.

Ryanair – the low-fares airline A12. Cultural Web  Stories – Stories are told in the organization about Michael O’Leary’s thriftiness and this helps promote the low cost culture within the organization  Symbols – The Ryanair brand symbolizes low cost  Power Structures – Michael O’Leary is the boss and there is no doubt about it in the organization  Organizational structures – It’s a top down structure. but employees are encouraged and empowered to take their own initiatives to reduce cost  Control – All control derives from Michael O’Leary  Rituals and Routines – Routine is get everything done fast The paradigm: A low cost culture has permeated throughout Ryanair through it’s history and culture and it has become a self enforcing and self sustaining culture. 18/20 .

Ryanair – the low-fares airline A13. Exercise of Effective Strategic Leadership [2] 19/20 .

Ryanair – the low-fares airline A14. Risk Analysis Risk Matrix Risk Dashboard 20/20 .

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