Ryanair plans flexible tickets, says learning from easyJet

LONDON Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:57am EST

LONDON Nov 21 (Reuters) - Ryanair plans to introduce flexible tickets for business travellers next year in the latest change to its low-cost business model as CEO Michael O'Leary admitted he is trying to learn from the success of rival easyJet.

The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the airline to attract premium passengers in a big strategy shift announced after the company's first profit warning in a decade.

While Ryanair has used its lower cost base to undercut rivals on price, high charges for the likes of extra baggage and changing tickets, in addition to a reputation for poor customer service, has deterred some business travellers from using the airline.

"We will be rolling out a product specifically tailored for business travellers in the first quarter of next year," O'Leary told journalists in London.

Business travellers who register on the website will be allowed to change flights up to the day of travel, though the pricing structure has not been finalised. A special package for families will also be introduced, O'Leary said.

Currently passengers have to buy a new ticket if they need to switch to an earlier or later flight.

Since September O'Leary has announced sharp cuts to fees for excess baggage and reprinting boarding cards. Ryanair will also introduce assigned seating on all planes from February, ending the often frenzied boarding scramble.

O'Leary said the introduction of allocated seating was in direct response to easyJet, which boosted sales in recent years by adding the kind of extras that Ryanair eliminated in its rush to cut costs.

"We can learn from the bits they've done well," O'Leary said. "They were doing something right and we were missing a trick."

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