European low fares/no frills airline Ryanair flew 5.8 million passengers in June, up a cool 13% on their June 2008 figures. A stunning performance in what we all hope is the bottom of this miserable recession! Meanwhile "the world's favourite airline" British Airways has struggled to attract 2.9 million passengers in June, down 5% over the same period.
The performance difference between these two benchmark airlines could not be clearer, and yet their media treatment belies this. Ryanair gets regularly pilloried for its relentless efforts to cut its operating costs, simplify its processes, and find novel ways to charge passengers for "extras"—like using the toilet in flight! BA, on the other hand, continues to get a largely sympathetic press as it tries to persuade its staff to take less pay, in one form or another, to offset their declining numbers and mounting losses.
So, which airline is setting the better example of contemporary business excellence? Which is doing the best overall job for its customers? Which of them gives the best indication of the way forward when it comes to leading businesses out of the current economic mire?
For those of you who haven't come across Ryanair yet, live wire CEO Michael O'Leary is certainly no Herb Kelleher and whilst they have copied much of Southwest's original business architecture, the airline has none of Southwest's personality and style and most people agree that their customer experience sucks.
Personally, I hate flying Ryanair. But there are no prizes for guessing with which airline my wife and I have chosen to fly when we go to Spain for our summer holiday in three weeks' time.