September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
No-frills airline Ryanair has confirmed it is in discussions with the major GDS companies as a way to strengthen its position in the corporate market.
Newly appointed head of groups and corporate travel, Lesley Kane, told BBT that Ryanair has already met with Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport, but no decision has been reached yet. She said she expects “some progress” to be made in the “next couple of weeks”.
Earlier this week Ryanair said it planned to target business travellers in 2014, with services such as flexible tickets, reserved seating and fast-track through selected airports.
This change in direction coincides with the airline introducing a range of different services to try and become more “traveller friendly”. These include an improved website, mobile app, free second carry-on bag, and a cut in standard airport bag fees.
In a TV ad aired in Ireland, chief executive Michael O’Leary promised to make flights “more affordable, enjoyable and much more fun in 2014”.
Kane, who was previously Ryanair’s head of sales and marketing for Europe, told BBT: “We are actively engaging with GDSs to find out if this is the way we want go forward in corporate travel. Is going with one or a few GDSs a way to get into the market? We don’t know yet. No decision has been made, but we are in discussion stages. We have already met with Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport, and I expect some progress to be made in the next couple of weeks”
In an interview in 2005, O’Leary aired his dislike for travel agents, saying they should all “be taken out and shot”. But that view appears to be changing as Kane admitted Ryanair was entering a “period of reflection” and is looking to build “more positive relationships” with GDSs and travel management companies. “This won’t be on a personal level, but we will have to form some kind of relationships with them,” she said.
Kane also confirmed Ryanair will start the delivery of 175 new aircraft in September, and is looking to increase passenger numbers from 80 million to 110 million, between then and 2019.
“Previous years we’ve been significantly focused on growth, growth, growth and unfortunately we haven’t been able to focus on many projects at the same time,” said Kane.
She said the current time before aircraft deliveries start in September is “a period of reflection" for Ryanair. "So we are looking at how we can improve and grow the business to match the aircraft delivery.”
Ryanair made a number of key management changes, including the promotion of David O’Brien to chief commercial officer.
O’Brien, currently director of operations, will be succeeded by Adrian Dunne, the deputy director of ground operations.
Michael Hickey, director of engineering, has been promoted to group director of operations.
It has also named Kenny Jacobs as its first chief marketing officer. Jacobs was previously head of marketing at comparison site, moneysupermarket.
The company said in a statement that the management changes are effective February 1.