Ryanair was once known as much for its brusk treatment of customers as its low ticket prices. The company dinged customers with fees at every turn and seemed to dismiss their earnest complaints. Its notoriously candid CEO Michael O'Leary even went as far as to once call fliers "idiots" for forgetting to print their boarding pass ahead of time and therefore incurring fees.
But the Europe's largest discount airline sought to change its ways about two years ago when it proclaimed the start of a customer service charm offensive called “Always Getting Better,” whose goal is, essentially, to be nicer to fliers. As O'Leary put it, Ryanair wants to "stop unnecessarily piss[ing] people off."
That plan has already resulted in the relaxed cabin baggage allowances and the introduction of allocated seating. And on Thursday, the company took it a step further, announcing that it would cut baggage fees and simplify its baggage fee scheme from 108 different options to six.
On domestic flights that last less than two hours, baggage fees will decrease by 50%, from €30 (about $34) to €15. Customers on any flight under three hours will see baggage fees cut by 17%, from €30 to €25. Baggage fees on all flights over three hours will stay at €40 .
The airline, known for its no-frills short-haul flights within Europe, says those changes will reduce fees for 92% of its customers.
Ryanair's efforts to woo customers—plus its lower fares, which it says will drop 7% this year—have paid off, at least in the short-term. In its latest fiscal year that ended March 31, it reported a 43% rise in net profit and recorded more than 100 million passengers for the first time. On Thursday it also announced that its passenger traffic jumped by 12% to 10.2 million in May.
Fees for baggage and perks like early seat selection have factored into the airline industry's on-going streak of profit growth. In fact, International Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, said Thursday that it's revising this year's profit forecast up by about $3 billion, to $39.4 billion from a previous estimate of $36.3 billion. The industry will make more money than initially thought thanks to low oil prices and airlines' ability to fill plans and tap ancillary revenue streams, such as extra fees.