Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has outlined his vision for transforming the budget airline’s website into “the Amazon of Travel”.
The Ryanair Labs team at the carrier’s Dublin base are working on how to propel Europe’s largest low-fares carrier into profitable new niches. The aim is to “disintermediate the disintermediators” – stealing the business of hotel booking websites.
His plan is backed by a digital strategy which has overhauled the Ryanair website and is developing a mobile app.
Self-confessed technology “moron”, O’Leary told the Sunday Times in a wide-ranging interview how he is intent on swiping business from hotel booking websites and car hire sites.
He said: “They don’t own a brick of a hotel anywhere but they have somehow managed to insert themselves in between the hotels – who are generally incompetent when it comes to distribution and retail – and the customers.”
He aims to undercut the 20% commission that he says the sites charge hotels, and use the income to cut the price of fares and accommodation.
O’Leary singles out Booking.com, as a “parasite” whose model is “doomed to fail”.
All Ryanair customers will also be forced to become “members” of its website, giving the airline an unrivalled source of data to mine.
However, he appears to have cooled on the idea of a long-haul service, and says he will not be following low-cost rival Norwegian across the Atlantic any time soon.
“We want aircraft that can get to the west coast of the US. The Gulf carriers have mopped up all the orders for the 787s, the order book is full until 2021. You need a 757 equivalent,” O’Leary said.
Nor is he tempted by the idea of buying Norwegian, which has only just emerged from a drawn-out battle with US regulators to secure the right to fly from Cork to Boston.
“If that’s what they will do to someone Mickey Mouse like Norwegian, imagine what they will do if Ryanair turns up,” he said.
“I’m not stupid. I don’t want to commit myself to 50 long-haul aircraft and show up and find a US pilots’ union supported by a couple of idiot congressmen and senators is blocking this thing. Norwegian have been shamefully treated.”
Instead, he revealed that Ryanair is working with Boeing on developing a new version of its defunct, mid-range 757.
“We are helping them with the design of the aircraft.”
After 22 years in charge, O’Leary shows no sign of slowing.
He is signed up as chief executive until 2019, and hopes to stay beyond then “as long as what we are doing is interesting and revolutionary”.