Ryanair Strategy

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Journal of Air Transport Management 15 (2009) 195–203

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Journal of Air Transport Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jairtraman

Pricing strategies of low-cost airlines: The Ryanair case study Paolo Malighetti a, *, Stefano Paleari a, Renato Redondi b
a b

Department of Economics and Technology Management, University of Bergamo– Universoft, Viale Marconi 5, Dalmine 24044, Italy Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Brescia – Universoft, Via Branze, 38 – 25123 Brescia, Italy

a b s t r a c t
Keywords: Dynamic pricing Low-cost Ryanair Fares

We analyse the pricing policy adopted by Ryanair, the main low-cost carrier in Europe. Based on a year’s fare data for all of Ryanair’s European flights, using a family of hyperbolic price functions, the optimal pricing curve for each route is estimated. The analysis shows a positive correlation between the average fare for each route and its length, the frequency of flights operating on that route, and the percentage of fully booked flights. As the share of seats offered by the carrier at the departure and destination airports increases, fares tend to decrease. The correlation of dynamic pricing to route length and the frequency of flights is negative. Conversely, as competition increases discounts on advance fares rise. Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In recent years, the entry of low-cost carriers has totally revolutionised the air passenger transport industry. The low-cost business model was introduced by Southwest in the US at the beginning of the 1970s. However, it was only in the 1990s that the phenomenon spread worldwide. Ryanair was one of the first airlines in Europe to adopt the low-cost model in 1992. Easyjet, Ryanair’s main low-cost competitor, was founded in 1995. Although the phenomenon is relatively recent, the stunning results obtained by low-cost carriers urge academics to study the reasons for their success. The reduction of costs lies at the core of the low-cost business model, which aims to offer lower fares, eliminating some comfort and services that were traditionally guaranteed (hence the definition of ‘‘no frills’’, often employed to refer to low-cost flights). The use of an on-line booking system, the suppression of free in-flight catering, the use of secondary airports connected through a pointto-point network, and the use of homogeneous fleets are only a part of the innovative choices made by low-cost airlines. Many studies have analysed low-cost businesses, highlighting the keys to lower costs (Alamdari and Fagan, 2005; Doganis, 2006; Franke, 2004), and the role played by entreprership (Cassia et al., 2006). The containment of costs is only one of the reasons for the success of a low-cost carrier. Alertness to ‘‘latent demand,’’ characterised by the passenger’s willingness to pay elastic prices, which is not the attitude of the so-called ‘‘traditional’’ passenger, is among the key factors.

In the airline business, the maximisation of the profits obtained from each flight is strictly related to the maximisation of revenues, because many of the costs incurred are essentially fixed, at least in the short term. Pricing has always represented an important factor in the carriers’ choices, driving the adoption of different strategies by low-cost and full-cost carriers. Full-cost carriers choose price discrimination techniques based on different fare classes, complex systems of discounts with limited access, customer loyalty schemes, and overbooking techniques. Low-cost carriers instead use ‘‘dynamic pricing’’. Because of dynamic pricing, it is now common for people to buy air tickets to European destinations for less than V10.00 (airport taxes excluded). This paper deals with the pricing policies of low-cost carriers, offering a detailed analysis of Ryanair, the main developer of the low-cost model in Europe. Generally speaking, fares tend to increase until the...
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