30-Second Interview — David O’Brien, Chief Commercial Officer, Ryanair on flights to Russia and the US
anna.aero’s Amy Hanna (with hair, apparently standing in a hole) talks to “DOBCCO” – the new Ryanair contact big and small airports now need to have on speed-dial (We are required by our Kremlin-style proprietors to state here that DOBCCO was appearing at Future Travel Experience in London, an event organised by anna.aero’s sister business unit).
anna.aero: Russia has been in the news and you like publicity. So are you going to start Moscow services in April?
DOBCCO: No. It’s a longer term thing than that. Bilateral restrictions mean the only Russian opportunities for us are from Ireland. Currently we’re talking to both St. Petersburg and to airports in Moscow. But we have much bigger fish to fry with far more opportunities available in the EU. You can’t do too many Ireland-Russia flights – maybe three or four a week to St. Petersburg and three or four to Moscow. (That’s slightly worse than the Ryanair network average of 4.65 flights per week – anna.aero Editor.)
aa: You’ve now got a lot more bases in untraditional big primary airports — Lisbon, Athens, Brussels Zaventem, Rome Fiumicino. Is Frankfurt next?
DOBCCO: No. And it’s not a big city.
aa: …Riiight…so you have not run out of regional airports to fly to?
DOBCCO: (Long pause) …No, we haven’t run out of any sort of airport, we just haven’t. I have just taken on the CCO role, so I’ve been touring Europe for the last three weeks looking at airports and what strikes me most is that our aircraft deliveries will be insufficient to meet the demand that is organic within that existing airport network. But the outstanding characteristic of some of the big primary airports is that they are underserved. In Athens they say ‘well, it’s the economy.’ Well it’s not that. It’s simply that airport charges are too high, and that the incumbent airlines dominate. So we are interested in any market that has great characteristics apart from the high costs.
aa: And the new cuddly Ryanair model fits in much better with the profile of the people who use these airports?
DOBCCO: Not just these airports. And let’s not overuse the word model. Our fundamental goal is to be the lowest cost, with the best reliability and the widest network. That model is not going away. What you’re saying is that doesn’t suit with our means of communication anymore, and yeah, it doesn’t. We’re going to become a lot more sophisticated, we’re going to spend three times as much on advertising and be more conscious of our appearance so we appeal to the people who care about that sort of thing. That will take us to 110 million passengers within the next five years – which isn’t to say that our existing 81 million passengers are not unconcerned about these things.
aa: Sorry. I have to ask: The €10 transatlantic flights that were all over the news last week. Are these the new ‘nice’ way to get press attention instead of the ‘nasty’ paying for toilets story, or is this something we’re going to actually see?
DOBCCO: It certainly gets us in the papers! But it is a project that is waiting for the right aircraft at the right price. All the long-haul orders are sewn up for a long time to come. We’re not going to do this with old aircraft. If an order collapses somewhere, we’ll nip in. And, of course, as well as tiny prices we’ll also have some higher fares, because we will have excellent services.”