Imagine going from London to Dublin in less than one hour on a flight that cost less than $100. The catch is you’re on a tiny plane with seats made of material you didn’t know existed and everything is plastic, you question if this is a toy plane or something that could actually do its job and fly.
The low budget Irish airline company Ryanair became infamous in 2010 for their poor ethical treatment of employees and customers. Ryanair is known throughout Europe and those traveling across Europe to be cheap, easy and average based on ticket price, checking in and quality of flight performance. Around the same time The CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary was known for his outrageous and unethical type behavior, which was not benefitting the company’s image. O’Leary was not a pleasant leader; company members were forbidden from using company pens and charging their cell phones with company electricity. A CEO who does not let employees charge their phones fearing a loss of electricity most likely has to ease up on saving costs. O’Leary also showed an unfortunate side when he fought with customers and yelled at them in public.
To make matters worse, customers started noticing the hidden fees and became outraged at the company who prides themselves on cheap flights without hassle. Well this was not totally true, yes ticket prices were cheap but that was just the seat alone. The hidden cost were online check-in fees, fees for those who forget their boarding pass, and fees to check-in a second bag. These are all things that customers who are flying usually don’t think about being charged for, that is where Ryanair was able to sneak in these other charges. The slogan “Economy class service for economy class price” was getting messy and became unethical due to drops in rates for the company mantra to use. Ryanair is a profit maximizer, which can be beneficial but when the problem of ignoring ethical behavior was put on the table the company was tested if they could balance both being a maximize and ethical. They then had limited choices to preparing to make sacrifices for ethical reasons, and this was just to keep the company afloat.
In the fall of 2015 Ryanair revamped their website and attempted to rebrand their image. Michael O’Leary had a change of heart when his company was not bringing in the profit he hoped for; there are claims that he is now pleasant to customers and employees. O’Leary has shown he cares by being “nicer” and apparently it has paid off after the first-half profit went up by more than a third last year. I myself was using the old website and then was directed to the new one, it is better and explains the cost of what a traveler is actually getting into in terms of how much everything will be at the end of their travels.
Applying Ryanair’s case in ethical terms of Consequentialism, knowing right from wrong and that there are consequences to actions could benefit Ryanair. It is not wrong to be a company based on affordability but they have to know consequences to badly treating employees and customers for the benefit of profit.
Ryanair is said to have transformed their image by scrapping irksome charges and restrictions such as now allowing a second carry on bag. Ryanair definitely worked on customer satisfaction but I had a harder time finding information on employ life improving. “The referendum is going to be very important for Ryanair as a business and Ireland generally. We very much want the UK to stay [in the EU] … When push comes to shove, when it comes to the Scottish referendum and in the general election, people will vote in the best interests of the economy and stay in Europe,” O’Leary said.
Ryanair still has big change to make but O’Leary must be aware of his ethical choices if he wants the company to be competitive and be long lasting and that means sacrificing profit.