Budget airline Ryanair has unveiled a series of upgrades, including an improved offering for business passengers and its first loyalty programme in over a decade, as the outspoken CEO Michael O'Leary warned of the dangers of Brexit and took a swipe at striking French airport workers.
As part of the third year of its revamp, the Irish carrier said it would introduce new in-flight and digital developments to improve passenger experience, adding that it will pass the savings from low oil prices onto its passengers by keeping air fares down.
The airline, which announced that passengers will have access to an "auto check-in" feature for reserved seat booking made via the company's mobile app, outlined plans to introduce a new ticket class for leisure travellers – which includes a checked bag, fast-track security and priority seats.
Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday (12 April), Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs confirmed the decision to introduce a new ticket class comes after the introduction in 2014 of a bundled business-class ticket.
He said Ryanair, which wants to be seen as a retailer as much as an airline, will place greater focus on its digital offer and allow customers to book "travel extras" – such as upgraded seats or added bags – via its mobile app, which has reached a total of 7.5 million users. It is also launching its first loyalty programme in more than a decade, offering discounts and priority access to seat sales.
"While year one and two [of the programme] were about fixing the areas customers didn't like and improving the existing offering, this year will be about digital acceleration and innovation," Jacobs said.
Meanwhile the carrier revealed it suffered a loss of between €10m-€20m (£8m-£16m, $11.4m-$22.8m) in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels and the recent strike by French air-traffic controllers (ATC).
Group chief executive Michael O'Leary, who saw his horse Rule The World storm to victory in the Grand National on Saturday (9 April), said he expected the impact of both events would reduce over the coming months, but warned they could last until the summer.
The 55-year-old reiterated that it was vital for the UK economy that Britain remain in the European Union, although he added a Brexit would not have much impact on Ryanair's business. O'Leary told a press conference in Dublin that the EU's good aspects "far outweigh the bad".
He added: "The only way to reform the bad – such as French ATC strikes, such as that kind of shambles – is to keep Britain in Europe working with some of the more sensible countries like the Italians, the eastern European countries. (We must) deal with some of the idiotic members of the European Union, for instance the French, who believe that nobody should work and the Germans will pay for everybody."