O’Leary to the fore as Ryanair ramps up its marketing machine

With several countries opening, the airline wants to sell as many seats as possible

 Ryanair boss  Michael O’Leary: “Once we start flying in July we will sell at whatever price we can to fill as many of those seats as we can”

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary: “Once we start flying in July we will sell at whatever price we can to fill as many of those seats as we can”

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Airlines have been cleared for take off in July. After a three-month lockdown they are hoping that people will have had more than enough of local pleasures and will be willing to risk a trip to the sun – at the right price

It has been a particularly trying time for the sector. A number of airlines have already succumbed, and others are severely weakened by the experience of the Covid pandemic.

Among those that remain, all are manoeuvring for position. For some, especially in Europe, that has involved getting their financial house in order, largely with access to various forms of extraordinary state aid.

For others, notably Ryanair, it has meant ramping up the marketing machine, with long-time boss Michael O’Leary front and centre.

O’Leary and the airline have reprised the David and Goliath routine that sees it as the plucky underdog pitched against “state aid junkie” rivals. Yet given Ryanair’s longtime status as an industry heavyweight it’s a line that increasingly struggles for traction.

More typically, the Ryanair boss has returned to the “pile them high, sell them cheap” playbook. With Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal among others opening their borders to holidaymakers, Ryanair is determined to sell as many seats as it can.

“We will dump prices to get people moving again. Once we start flying in July we will sell at whatever price we can to fill as many of those seats as we can,” O’Leary said in a UK media interview.

He said the average fare was likely to be between €25 and €30 – well shy of its average return fare of €74 last year. And there are certainly some good offers to be had.

Yet while Ryanair touts its bargains, figures from Swiss bank UBS derived from an analysis of screen-scraped fares suggest the company has the greatest scope to put the squeeze on rivals.

Its prices are up around 20 per cent overall for July and August versus last year, according to the UBS data. That compares with decreases across most other airlines.

The power of marketing.

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