December 13, 2017

Ryanair Promises to Improve Customer Service

The Irish airline said it would overhaul the way it communicates and be more lenient about fining customers over luggage sizes.

“We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily” irritate people, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said at the company’s annual meeting after several shareholders complained about the impact of customer service on sales.

He said the airline would overhaul its Web site, set up a new team to respond to e-mail and stop fining customers whose carry-on baggage exceeded maximum sizes by a matter of millimeters.

“A lot of those customer-services elements don’t cost a lot of money,” Mr. O’Leary said. “It’s something we are committed to addressing over the coming year.”

While Ryanair’s focus on cost-cutting has helped it to grow — it flew more scheduled international passengers last year than any other airline — shareholders said the company’s reputation for poor customer service was limiting its room for growth.

“I have seen people crying at boarding gates,” said Owen O’Reilly, a shareholder. “There is simply something wrong there that needs to be addressed.”

Mr. O’Leary, who for years has played down such complaints, citing statistics about revenue growth and on-time departures, nodded as other shareholders told anecdotes about being verbally attacked at dinner parties and having family members who refused to fly Ryanair.

“I am very happy to take the blame or responsibility if we have a macho or abrupt culture,” he said. “Some of that may well be my own personal character deformities.”

Mr. O’Leary said he was personally irritated by the fact that some Ryanair employees fined customers when their carry-on baggage was slightly above the maximum size. He said management would now be encouraging staff members to be more lenient.

“If it’s a millimeter over size, get on with it,” he said. “We are not trying to penalize people for the sake of a millimeter.”

A front-page headline in an Irish newspaper the morning of the shareholder meeting said, “Ryanair sinks to new low,” after a Dublin surgeon was charged 188 euros ($254) to reschedule a flight days after his entire family was killed in a fire in England.

Mr. O’Leary apologized, said the customer’s money would be refunded and promised to deal more quickly with similar cases in the future.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/business/global/ryanair-promises-to-improve-customer-service.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Citigroup Adds Two New Directors

Citigroup has expanded its board, announcing the additions of two new directors.

The bank, which has been aggressively working to reduce costs and work through a morass of soured assets, added Gary M. Reiner, a former chief information officer for General Electric, and James S. Turley, a former chairman and chief executive of the accounting firm Ernst Young, to its 11-member board. The new members will increase the size of the board to 13.

Michael E. O’Neill, the bank’s powerful chairman who led the ouster of Vikram S. Pandit last year, had hinted about a board revamp during a panel discussion last month. At the time, he said the bank was considering increasing the number of board members.

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The two new directors will contribute “considerable insight to the board as Citi continues to leverage its unmatched global strengths,” Mr. O’Neill said in a statement on Monday.

The moves are the first substantive changes to the board’s composition under the leadership of Michael L. Corbat, who took over as chief executive after the abrupt exit of Mr. Pandit in October.

Since taking over the reins, Mr. Corbat has promised to continue repositioning the bank to focus on its core businesses while shedding less profitable business units. That cost-cutting began under Mr. Pandit, who helped steer the bank through one of its most tumultuous chapters in its history when a flailing Citigroup received a $45 billion federal lifeline.

The additions on Monday are also playing out amid renewed attention from shareholders on corporate governance as investors zero in on how the dynamics of the board room affect broader bank performance. The issue was thrust into the spotlight this year during a closely watched vote at JPMorgan Chase over whether to separate the jobs of chairman and chief executive — roles that Jamie Dimon, the bank’s influential leader, has held since 2006.

The composition of Citigroup’s board shifted in April, when Lawrence R. Ricciardi, who had top jobs at I.B.M. and RJR Nabisco, retired as a director after reaching 72.

Mr. Turley, who led Ernst Young from 2001 until last week, will bolster the board’s auditing and operations insight, Mr. O’Neill said in the statement.

“Mr. Turley’s extensive background at Ernst Young and his leadership in the field of auditing make him an excellent addition to the board and specifically to our audit committee,” Mr. O’Neill said.

Mr. Reiner, who is also on the board of Hewlett-Packard, will “lend his expertise to key priorities across the company, including increasing productivity and helping to oversee important initiatives in our operations and technology functions,” Mr. O’Neill said.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/07/08/citigroup-adds-two-new-directors/?partner=rss&emc=rss

BP Executive Testifies That Rig Explosion Was Known Risk

“There was a risk identified for a blowout,” said Lamar McKay, the former president of BP America and current chief executive in charge of global upstream operations. “The blowout was an identified risk, and it was a big risk, yes.”

Robert Cunningham, a lawyer for private plaintiffs, tried to pin down Mr. McKay on BP’s responsibility for the 2010 disaster that killed 11 workers and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the gulf. Mr. Cunningham suggested that the British company’s cost-cutting and risk-taking culture were at the heart of the explosion and spill. He pressed Mr. McKay on the fact that a BP report on the accident held contractors responsible, but did not cite management failures.

Mr. McKay repeatedly responded that BP was responsible for designing the well, but that the rig, cement and other contractors shared responsibility for safety on the drilling operations.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “It’s a shared responsibility to manage the safety and risk.”

Mr. McKay testified for more than an hour at the end of the day and will continue on Wednesday. He told the court that there were risks involved with drilling both in deep waters and in shallow waters, but that a blowout could be more difficult to control, and therefore more damaging, in deep waters. There was little, if anything, in his comments that diverged from what BP executives have said in the past.

After the April 2010 spill, internal BP documents showed that the company had struggled with a loss of “well control” in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig. And for months before that, it had been concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer, which are considered critical pieces in the chain of events that led to the disaster.

On June 22, 2009, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

Early in his testimony, Mr. McKay shifted and appeared uncomfortable on the witness stand. He acknowledged that he had never read a textbook on safety system engineering before or after the accident, or a safety report written by a BP consultant who testified earlier in the day.

Mr. McKay was the second witness to appear in a multiphase trial that will determine who was responsible for the accident, whether they were grossly negligent and how much oil was spilled. He followed Robert Bea, a professor emeritus of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and former safety systems consultant for BP, who largely blamed the company’s culture for the accident.

“It’s a culture of every dollar counts,” Dr. Bea said. “It’s a classic failure of management and leadership.”

The Federal District Court trial in New Orleans is bundling suits brought by the Justice Department, state governments, private businesses and individual claimants against BP and several of its contractors. Decisions on culpability and damages could be a year or more away, but they are likely to have profound effects on environmental law and on the viability of BP as a major oil company with global ambitions.

Under the Clean Water Act, fines against BP could range from $1,100 for every barrel spilled through simple negligence to as much as $4,300 a barrel if the company were found to have been grossly negligent. The federal government has estimated that about four million barrels of oil were spilled, meaning liabilities of as much as $4.4 billion to $17.2 billion. BP has claimed that the amount spilled was at most 3.1 million barrels.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 26, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated Lamar McKay’s title when he headed BP America. He was president, not chief executive. Because of an editing error, the article also misstated the federal government’s estimate of the number of barrels spilled. It is about four million barrels, meaning a liability range of $4.4 billion to $17.2 billion, not 4.9 million barrels and a liability range of $5.4 billion to $21 billion.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/business/energy-environment/bp-executive-says-explosion-was-known-risk.html?partner=rss&emc=rss