In the past I’ve looked at the question of to whom the head of online sales in an airline should report, but I’ve never really thought that much about the most suitable background for someone taking on the role leading ancillary revenue initiatives. That was until I was recently alerted to this current position available at Ryanair.

Reporting to the Deputy Chief Executive & Chief Operating Officer and managing a small team, you will be expected to build on Ryanair’s pre-eminent position as the number one airline for ancillary revenue per passenger with continued development of existing revenue streams and innovative and imaginative growth of new sources of ancillary income.

The most interesting sentence in the job spec is the following one:

Preferred background will be in the FMCG sector, ideally with experience of internet sales and marketing.

One of the main problems I’ve seen in the years I’ve been keeping a very close eye on the airline ancillary revenue scene has been the lack of understanding of the technological implications of implementing crazy ideas. This problem mainly comes from people outside of the airline industry hired as salespeople for vendors who see their “innovative” product as a natural fit for airlines hungry to grow ancillary revenue, but who have absolutely no idea of what it takes to implement such a product for both online sale and fulfillment.

On the other hand, I’ve also at times been a little surprised by a lack of imagination on the part of some airlines, even though I for one know that the challenges in turning these ideas into reality is not always a road without bumps.

That said, I definitely don’t fall into that camp I see all too often – the camp which says that unless you have work experience mirroring my own, then you are the problem and not part of the answer. The sentence usually goes something like, “The problem with this company is that they don’t hire enough of X” with X either being “people with extensive airline experience” or ” people from outside the airline industry with fresh ideas.” Whichever one you insert as X always seems to be the one that matches your own CV!  

If there is any airline where airline experience is less relevant for the current role Ryanair want to fill, then Ryanair would be the one. They operate very much as their own island, so the technological understanding of processes related to ticketing, revenue accounting and interlining etc insofar as they relate to ancillary revenue really fade into the background. Instead you can spend more timing thinking about to how to implement previous wishes from your CEO such as coin operated bathrooms and stand up seating!

Without thinking too hard, airlines like Delta hiring from Target, Alaskan hiring from Microsoft / Amazon and TAM hiring an ex brewing executive come quickly to mind as all having looked outside the airline in recent times when it came to finding someone to head up online sales.; likewise, there is no reason why an airline hiring from the fast moving consumer goods sector for an ancillary revenue director shouldn’t do well with this approach. But it is a one way path? The head of online at US Airways recently announced he was leaving, but rather than show FMCG types how to do things, he is off to do a similar job at Etihad.

If you want the job with Ryanair in Dublin, you’ve got about 10 days left to apply.

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