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Prize winner
Eleanor O'Higgins (UCD c/o Smurfit Graduate Business School)
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36 pages
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Ryanair was the first budget airline in Europe, modelled after the successful US carrier, Southwest Airlines. It was Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers and market capitalisation in 2010. It had enjoyed remarkable growth and success but faced various issues in 2010/11, notably the global economic recession and uncertainty about oil prices. What strategy should Ryanair use to weather this storm? Would the crisis produce a long-term change in industry structure? Could Ryanair take advantage of the situation as it had in the past, by growing when others were cutting back? A predicament of its own making was Ryanair's 29.8 percent shareholding in Aer Lingus, the Irish national carrier, following an abortive takeover attempt. The case concentrates on how to analyse industry environments, and internal resources / capabilities of companies. It illuminates how a strategy that is grounded in the best deployment of assets / resources / competencies, whilst adding perceived value to customers, delivers sustainable strategic advantage. But the case also illustrates the difficulties and obstacles that stand in the way of achieving and retaining such advantage. Evaluation of the Aer Lingus bid involves issues of corporate level strategy, as well as of strategic change, and there is also the scope to appraise issues of strategic leadership by analysing the role of CEO Michael O'Leary in Ryanair.


Airline industry; Budget airlines; Sustainable competitive advantage; Lowest cost strategy; SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats); Strategic development; Corporate strategy; Leadership


The events covered by this item took place in 2009-2011.

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  • Michael O'Leary (male), CEO

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