DUBLIN: Being nice to customers has helped boost profits at budget airline Ryanair by 66% and the company now plans to turn its attention to its digital marketing and to personalisation in particular.

The airline, which has a long history of poor customer service, has sought to change its image over the past two years after Michael O'Leary, the abrasive CEO, admitted it should probably stop doing things "that unnecessarily piss people off".

The worth of that approach was evident last November when interim profits rose 32%. "If I had known being nice to customers would work so well I would have started many years ago," O'Leary said then.

The company is currently half way through 'Always Getting Better', a three-year turnaround programme. Operations chief Mick Hickey told Marketing magazine that the business was near the end of the first stage of scrapping "those items that hack people off", including excessive baggage charges and the trumpet sound that plays when a plane arrives on time.

The airline has also increased the number of primary airports it serves – "the runway is close to a big city on the map, not just in the minds of Ryanair's marketing department", the FT noted acerbically – to attract more business passengers.

The second stage relates to interacting with customers, including the launch of the My Ryanair apps, "and we'll have a continuous rollout of those products as we go forward", Hickey said.

Chief financial officer Neil Sorahan elaborated on the digital focus. "We spent an extra €25m on marketing last year – that was a step-change and there will be another step-change this year," he said.

"We're trying to get better at personalisation on the app and the mobile and desktop sites," he added.

"As we enhance that, we'll be able to better target passengers with the offers they want – that's the real goal for us."

Data sourced from Marketing, Financial Times, CityAM; additional content by Warc staff