By 2013, after over near 30 years, Ryanair has become the largest airline in Europe in terms of passengers flown internationally. It outperformed its low cost rivals on most operational dimensions. It was unambiguously positioned as the lowest cost of the low cost airlines. Its success, however, came at a price. Ryanair was far from loved. Its operational model, which enabled such low cost flying, had as a side effect service that was seen as far below industry norms. In 2013 its outspoken CEO, Michael O’Leary, came under increasing pressure to tone down the macho image he had cultivated and enhance service levels. To do this he would need to adapt the successful operational model. The A case asks whether such an adaptation make sense. The B case documents the evolution and implementation of Ryanair’s response, a change program called “ALWAYS GETTING BETTER” (AGB). AGB encompasses a digitalization program that chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs believes can enable Ryanair to become the “Amazon of Travel in Europe.” The B case asks whether this is a realistic ambition.
The case allows for an exposition of several related strategic concepts: Business system alignment, strategic positioning, market evolution (and response), customer centricity and innovation. Four specific learning objectives are particularly well addressed;
- Understanding customer centricity
- Understanding strategic alignment
- Understanding whether and how successful incumbents can embrace change
- Understanding how incumbents can best embrace digitalization
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