Monday, 24 August 2009

Ryanair and Virgin: Compare and Contrast!

Blaming the decision on Manchester Airport's refusal to lower its charges, Ryanair is either closing or switching nine of the 10 routes that currently operate from Manchester, with a loss of up to 600 jobs in the area. This news once again brings controversial Chief Executive Michael O'Leary into the limelight, and provides an opportunity to compare the organisational cultures of Ryanair with that of Virgin Airlines.


  • Michael O’Leary appointed as Chief Executive in 1985
  • Concentrates on the short haul, mainly European market
  • No frills approach
  • O’Leary (Mr. Grumpy?) becoming infamous for his “earthy” language, controversial advertising and unusual practices including suggesting that passengers may have to carry their own bags” and pay to use the toilet (!)
  • Ryanair operates in only one market
  • Ryanair makes it clear that price is its main reason for gaining repeat business
  • Ryanair cabin crew are employed by a third party


  • Founded by Richard Branson in 1984
  • Mainly concentrate on long haul flights
  • Positioned at the quality end of the market
  • Branson (Mr. Happy?) often appears personally in publicity to indicate closeness to employees and customers
  • Airline is part of a major brand including trains and financial services
  • Virgin works hard at customer loyalty
  • Virgin cabin crew (frequently glamorous blondes!) are employed by Virgin and are selected through a lengthy recruitment process

  • What are the differing HR challenges in both of these organisations?
  • How successful would these two organisations be if they had to switch the markets in which they operate?
  • How well do you believe each organisation is placed to survive the current economic downturn?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing (or subcontracting) such a key element of the workforce as cabin crew?
  • Could either organisation be successful without its dynamic, charismatic and controversial Chief Executive?

For a more detailed case study on Ryanair and Virgin, see "Management and Organisational Behaviour" by Laurie J. Mullins (FT Prentice Hall)


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