Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Volume 02, Issue 04
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Special Features

How Ryanair makes the 'green'

Golden learning opportunity for Boeing employees in Ireland


The Shannon RegionWhether it was the luck of the draw or simply Irish luck, for eight Boeing employees it was an opportunity of a lifetime—a business trip to Ireland, courtesy of the Irish airline Ryanair.

It all began in Seattle, Wash., at an employee event sponsored by Ryanair and the Boeing 737 airplane program. The sponsors blindly selected employees' names out of a pool of 100, and mine was one of them.

"We saw this as an opportunity to thank the employees who build the airplanes that have helped Ryanair become the most profitable airline in Europe," said Carolyn Corvi, Vice President 737/757 Airplane Programs.

Up, up and away

Four months later and 40,000 feet in the air, we had two airplane rides and more than 5,000 miles to ponder our adventures. Over the course of a week, we would visit and learn about three Ryanair operations. The first stop was Dublin.

Our dedicated Ryanair hosts, Ray Barker and Les Walsh, wasted no time in showing us around. On computer screens in the operations center, we monitored the activity of the 65 737s in their fleet, including those down for maintenance. Not only does the system show each airplane schedule, but it also indicates how each aircraft performed in flight.

Such on-time departure and arrival data is crucial for low-fare airlines such as Ryanair, which have a high frequency of flights. To combat cheap airfare rates and remain profitable, it's vital they turn their airplanes on schedule.

We put Ryanair's desired 25- minute turnaround time to the test when a flight came in from London. With seconds ticking, the crew efficiently unloaded passengers from the forward and aft doors, refueled, unloaded and reloaded baggage in the forward cargo bay, boarded new passengers, and completed a routine exterior inspection. A mix-up on the passenger list resulted in some last-minute scurrying, and 29 minutes after parking at the gate the airplane was off again.

Then we were off to see the Ryanair corporate headquarters, which, like the airline itself, exhibited no frills. Most of the site's 250 employees, including Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary, work in a three-story building at the Dublin airport.

We caught up with O'Leary in his office, a modest space large enough for a desk, conference table and several 737 airplane models. Amongst Ryanair employees, he's known as the man of the people, playing on their football team and eating in the cafeteria.

To the rest of the world, he's considered the driving force behind the success of Ryanair. He took the helm as CEO in 1994. Today the carrier flies 125 routes, 50 of which it opened in the last year; and it is in discussion with another 40 airports.

Like the airports Southwest Airlines uses, those Ryanair utilizes are less congested and often located many miles from major cities. This is the case with London, one of the other locations we visited, where the airline flies out of Stansted, the site of the largest Ryanair operation. Here Ryanair occupies a new terminal, which the airport built to the airline's specifications.

Heightened airport security resulting from the war in Iraq limited what we could see and do at Stansted. This was the case in Shannon also, where heavy use of the airport by the U.S. military kept our site visit to a minimum.

Historically the Shannon airport has been a refueling facility for U.S. troop carriers, as well as a customs entry point for visitors. Approximately six million people visited Ireland last year.

Business and pleasure

The Guiness Storehouse in DublinOur guides wove side trips to several popular attractions into our business agenda, so we got a glimpse of what tourists come to see—and along with the side trips came Irish lessons. At the Guiness Storehouse in Dublin, Guiness advertised the alleged nutritional benefits of the stout beer: "Guiness is good for you." Near Limerick, we learned the true meaning of "finger food" while feasting with our hands at a medieval banquet in the great hall of Bunratty Castle. In the midst of fiddle tunes we learned about the likes of Captain Farrell and what happened on the green fields of France.

But most of all during our trip, we learned what it meant to take partnering with a customer to a new level. Granted, the 737 is one of the cornerstones of Ryanair. But equally important is the deep partnership the airline is developing with Boeing at all levels.

And it works. Although we arrived in Dublin as eight almost complete strangers with different skills and backgrounds, we shared a common goal: to serve as ambassadors of Boeing. We returned to our teams with new knowledge of how a valued customer does business—information we shared with the 737 Leadership Team. And we returned with new relationships forged. We didn't need the luck of the Irish to do that.







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