Ryanair has added the ability to book groups to its website as it is poised to unveil a new business travel product.
The budget carrier has appointed former head of sales for Europe, Lesley Kane, to the new role of head of groups and corporate travel.
The area will be a key focus for Ryanair in 2014, following similar successful moves by rival easyJet to embrace the business travel community in recent years.
Logic suggests this will mean that the Irish carrier will follow its Luton-based rival by returning to the GDS fold, something Kane was reported by travel technology news blog Tnooz as saying was on the cards.
However if the GDSs think negotiations with rival airlines are tough now, when deals come up for renewal O’Leary will represent a considerable challenge. His last rant against the traditional distribution model took aim specifically at the GDS and the cost they represent to an airline and he vowed not to return to them.
When asked about any potential return to using GDSs, a spokesman for Ryanair said: “Ryanair does not comment upon or engage in rumour or speculation.”
As part of the changes on Ryanair.com, customers can now access a “groups” section on the homepage.
Ryanair says this will be of significant interest to all travelling groups including schools, sports clubs and other large party organisers.
A new business product, due to be unveiled in the coming weeks, will offer flexible tickets, reserved seating and fast-track through selected airports.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “2014 is set to be a very exciting year for all groups and business passengers as Ryanair’s entry into these markets will significantly lower their costs of travel.
“We’re pleased to appoint Lesley Kane as Ryanair’s head of groups and corporate travel. Her extensive knowledge of sales and marketing, combined with her considerable experience from her time as head of Ryanair Direct will ensure the successful implementation of Ryanair’s new service improvements.”
Kane added: “I look forward to rolling out Ryanair’s new groups and business product offering in early 2014.
“Ryanair is continually improving our customer service and has received numerous requests from group organisers and corporate businesses to develop and launch these new exciting products.
“From early 2014, groups and business customers will be able to enjoy the added benefits of our tailored products, which will support Ryanair’s passenger growth to over 110 million passengers by 2019.”