1995. Luton. A larger than life Greek chap stands in a crowded airport departures terminal and announces that his orange flavoured airline is about to take off. Literally.
£26 to Madrid is one of the opening sweeteners and which was, frankly, bonkers.
Not only can an airline not survive on such margins but I for one was at the front of the queue for any other flight, preferably the more expensive the better, that was far more certain to land at the other side. So was the considered, traditional thinking.
Twenty six quid indeed. You couldn’t get a taxi to the airport for that let alone fly anywhere once you got there.
So we waited for the inevitable. Wings falling off. Burning fuselage littering the English Channel. And an embarrassing demise for the son of a shipping magnate that had more if his dad’s money than sense.
Fast forward almost twenty years and the certainty that was sure to happen has not. In fact, quite apart from collapsing into the Adriatic from whence it came, the low cost airline industry did indeed explode however not in a jet fuel inspired way but in a monetary sense with, to date, a plethora of massive budget airlines competing with each other in a space that has transformed the way that people travel and with an ever increasing pressure on ticket cost that has ensured that the might of British Airways have capitulated to the newcomers. And of course, the world’s wallets are better off because.
easyJet now employs 8000 people, owns or leases 170 aircraft and has revenues of over £3billion having carried 60 million passengers in 2013. Some failure….
Now, far from being cheap and fearful as opposed to cheaper and more cheerful, even the likes of RyanAir are moving from a stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap approach to customer service, to one that, due to them losing market share to Easy, Wizz etc, is dictating that CEO Michael O’Leary now regards customers as people. Albeit through slightly gritted teeth perhaps.
Direct booking on the internet rather than via commission hungry travel agents and super efficient working practices has changed air travel.
What multi billion pound industry could be about to follow in its exhaust trail I wonder?
Who wants to bet me that the one that I started out in 30 years ago and which hasn’t changed much since, won’t replicate travel. And recruitment. And grocery shopping. Oh, and insurance. And gaming. And publishing…… 😉