Ryanair’s gamble

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A press event with Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary (above) always promises to be interesting, and yesterday’s event in London was no exception. Wearing his everyman check shirt and at times trying extremely hard not to swear (“ffffffffflipping security”), O’Leary rapidly got down to business.
Although O’Leary refused to talk about Ryanair’s proposed takeover of Aer Lingus, he did reveal plans to introduce in-flight gaming on all of its flights. In what O’Leary calls “a logical development”, Ryanair has joined forces with UK online gaming website jackpotjoy and plans to provide the world’s first in-flight online gaming.
Passengers using the service can play Bingo and instant-win games with the chance of winning a cash jackpot. They could also play to win back the price of their flight.
But despite all the hoo-ha of yesterday’s “launch”, the scheme is still theoretical. While passengers can sign up and play online at home, the technology has not yet been ironed out for in-flight access.
That, apparently, is hinging on Ryanair’s first priority: in-flight mobile telephony. Passengers will use their mobiles to access the online gaming. But in-flight telephony is still months away, as mobile phone providers seek approval from the FAA and other regulatory bodies. In fact in-flight mobile phone use won’t be rolled out before June or July 2007 and online gambling is expected a couple of months later.
When asked why Ryanair had chosen to launch the scheme now when the technology isn’t even approved, O’Leary was typically frank: “The technology is already decided and we decided to give ourselves a 9-12 month run at it with the website to develop a degree of expertise.”
For those that don’t own a mobile phone, there is the possibility of handing out handsets on each flight.
Ancillary revenue is obviously a key area for Ryanair: with ancillary revenue growth at 16% it outstrips passenger revenue growth. O’Leary expects this figure to grow to 20% in the next five years.


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