Ryanair calls time on low cost revolution and reveals it will allocate seats for passengers in 2014

Ryanair calls time on low cost revolution and reveals it will allocate seats for passengers in 2014

Critically Ryanair added that after 20 years of rapid growth, traffic numbers would remain flat over the coming 12 months. Its shares nosedived 11 per cent in the City.

Experts believe Ryanair has been forced to launch a charm offensive after realising it will struggle to grow beyond its current 80 million customers a year without changing its business model.

Fierce rival EasyJet moved to fully allocated seating a year ago, a decision praised by travellers.

Mr O’Leary today also admitted Ryanair also had to improve its website, seen by analysts as far inferior to rivals such as easyJet. Mr O’Leary described it as “notoriously awful”.

How much Ryanair will charge passengers to pick their seat remains to be seen.

But it comes just two weeks after the airline cut some of its famous fees and charges and introduced a 24-hour grace period on bookings, so customers can fix minor errors such as mis-spelt names, free of charge.

In September, after Ryanair’s first profit warning, Michael O’Leary told shareholders it should scrap its “macho” image and eliminate things that “unnecessarily p*** people off”.

Ryanair transformed the airline industry and economies of towns and cities dotted across eastern Europe over two decades of growth. The airline had a target of flying 110 million passengers a year by 2018.

But in today’s statement the airline said: “After 20 consecutive years of rapid growth, the next 12 months will see a brief pause in traffic growth, along with stable load factors.

“We intend to use this period to further improve our industry leading customer service.”

Half year profits rose 1 per cent to euros 602 million after tax. Passenger numbers for the first six months of the airline’s financial year rose just 2 per cent to 49 million.

Average fares dipped 2 per cent but so-called ancillary revenues – revenues from fees and charges – were up 22 per cent.

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