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Freelance developer Jason Roe has moved one step closer to winning his next project courtesy of low-cost airline Ryanair, which has amusingly freaked out in public in response to his blog post.

This one looks all set to go the distance, and it’s certainly one for the case study file if you work in online PR.

Jason claimed to have discovered a usability flaw on the Ryanair website that allowed him to book a free flight. He took some screenshots and blogged about it, inviting readers to claim their flights for free. No big deal – we do it all the time. It’s intended to be constructive criticism. 

A bunch of Jasons’ readers duly tried it out, but while they were able to replicate some of Jason’s findings, ultimately none were able to book the flights for free.

No harm done then. 

But wait… somebody at the airline took it a little bit personally. ‘Ryanair Staff #1’ left the following comment, in response to Jason’s post:

“you’re an idiot and a liar!! fact is! you’ve opened one session then another and requested a page meant for a different session, you are so stupid you dont even know how you did it! you dont get a free flight, there is no dynamic data to render which is prob why you got 0.00. what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts they’re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!”

Ryanair Staff #1’s IP address matched that of the company’s headquarters and while it could have been Michael O’Leary we think it’s a bit low on expletives, and humour.

At any rate, Jason responded: 

“Hello Ryanair staffer .. I have not lied, I found a bug in your site that allows a user to see a 0.00 price listed beside a flight. Yes, I have cleared a session, but you have not prevented session jumping! I hope to god a Ryanair management type reads this.”

“Crappy CMS such as wordpress .. its a blog? I put my mobile phone number online as im a freelance developer. At least I provide a phone number on my website, no premium lines here.”

Ryanair Staffer #2 then proceeds to dig a hole, before throwing in the spade and jumping in, only to dig even deeper:

“You didn’t actually discover a bug on bookryanair. You changed some numbers on your own screen tricking yourself into thinking that you could get a free flight, without actually succeeding. Well known for years, and many others have tried it, ending up paying the full price for the flights after all. All good income for Ryanair.”

Ah, a known flaw that generates revenue! Brill.

Ryanair Staff #3 adds:

“Website is not perfect, Life is not perfect… if you would work in your pathetic life on a such big project in a such busy environment with so little resources, you would know that the most important is to have usual user behavior scenarios working rather than spending time on improbable and harmless things.”

This one is being picked up in various quarters, though I should think that Wordpress head honcho Matt Mullenweg just blogged about the ‘diss’ has given this the viral factor. 

Maybe it’s just another marketing campaign by Ryanair?

[hat tip to Kevin @ Travolution]

Chris Lake

Published 23 February, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Jason Roe

Regarding the live tweets .. people will have to turn on thier phones on first .. http://twitpic.com/1mqqd

That picture is from a Ryanair flight on Sat (while in-flight). This was after the pilot had announced that live calls could be made. Work that one out.....

over 7 years ago

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Craig Cockburn

I blogged about Ryanair yesterday (follow link under my name), their absurd price markups and the fact that Aer Lingus is cheaper. No comments yet from the boys at O' Leary airlines, maybe they're too busy fixing the bugs?

Craig

over 7 years ago

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David Hamill

I'm just wondering how RyanAir employees manage to get the internet on their faxes. After all that's all they seem to have in their office.

over 7 years ago

Michelle Goodall

Michelle Goodall, Online PR/Social Media Consultant at EconsultancySmall Business Multi-user

As you say Chris, definitely one for the Online PR case study file.

There is an argument for enabling all employees to engage through social media without moderation or a PR filter on behalf of an organisation. We at Econsultancy work that way. But there have to be some guiding principles in place - e.g don't flame, be measured in your responses, due dilligence before replying etc

This is a classic example of why many organisations fear the loss of their corporate/brand messaging through social media via their own staff as 'conversationalists'.

These employees posted without appreciating the potential impact of their comments on their employers reputation. I'm thinking....OK so you might feel that this guy is a pain in the a$$ but don't take the bait and do consider other ways to respond, e.g. through non employee advocates/supporters etc.

What a shame. This is a big social media guideline/PR FAIL for Ryan Air!

over 7 years ago

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Clerkendweller

I thought it interesting you referred to this as a "usability flaw".  I agree!  In other circles, this might have been called a "security weakness", "software defect" or "vulnerability".  Somehow "usability" and "accessibility" testing doesn't normally include a consideration of the security aspects such as abuse of functionality, insufficient process validation and anti-automation.

Whatever it is called, it's not the intended functionality.  These types of flaw are best avoided by designing the process correctly and identified during testing of use and mi-use test cases.

over 7 years ago

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Ante

I'm stunned that Ryan Air actually has a website. They don't need a marketing campaign against them - all you have to do is take a flight with them. If that doesn't teach you a lesson, take a second flight with them.

Do they even own a plane that's been built since the 1970s?

over 7 years ago

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tweetie

Tell me how i am supposed to print a Ryanair ticket.  No booking details function. Is this another ploy to get £9.00 extra at the Ryanair desk.

over 7 years ago

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Paul Blunden

I am not going to attempt to add to the comments already made which I agree with completely except to show a contrasting experience.

I wrote a piece called "Can we save Jessops" on my own blog (http://paul-blunden.com/2008/07/16/how-can-we-save-jessops/). The post not only highlighted the short comings in Jessops website (http://www.jessups.co.uk/) but also the business model overall - the variuous channels (website, call centre and store) compete with each other.

I had contact from people at Jessops quite quickly but every conversation and email has been positive and reflected their desire to get it right. They have a lot to do and bits of the business that are a real challenge but it feels like they are genuine about wanting to provide a better experience to customers.

My point is that businesses can be right or wrong, good or bad at any time in their execution of strategy but if the underlying values of the business are just plain wrong well, as the saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig.... 

over 7 years ago

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Jeremy Lim

That's disgusting. My stomach actually clenched up reading that. Probably the worst reaction I've ever seen. Worse than YouTube trolls.

over 6 years ago

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Jeanette

Ryanair is the crappiest airline I have ever flown in the world. Their rules are just some kind of joke. Once when I had flown by myself and saw that young mother flying with two little children. She had to travel with an infant with her but her 3 year old boy had to sit away from her. It is all because they let people to take any seat they want, and let them in like you do with cattle. I have never seen that. Horrible. They also have no cancellation policy... What is that? Unbelievable!!! I live in the USA and had planned to visit family with my two young kids and my mom. I paid over 500 euros. Unfortunately I cannot make it, I contacted them, send fax to headquarters ( you don't get the phone number ) nobody replied, no cancellation so no penalty fee, zero money back. The other time I had about 6 pounds to much in my luggage they charged me over 200 euros for that. Staff is repulsive. I hate this airline and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. Why this airline even exists in this civilized world. Why people do not boycot this horrible company??????

about 4 years ago

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