Destination Europe

Every business wants to look good on Google but sometimes Google can be a little too helpful.

Last week, I had a chance meeting with P.J. McGoldrick, former Chief Executive of Ryan Air and now CEO of EUJet, a new lost cost airline that will soon be operating out of Manston, which is now Kent International Airport, a stone’s throw from Ramsgate and Margate on the North Kent coast.



Up until now, Manston, which used to be an RAF V-Bomber base with the third-longest runway in the country, has been used as an air cargo hub but from September, EUJet will be operating a fleet of seven Fokker 100 aircraft offering trips to many of the most popular European destinations, such as Palma, Turin and Nice, where I’ve booked a flight to, for the whole family for £147 return, all-inclusive.

Does the UK have room for another low cost airline? My own feeling Is that Manston, here in Kent, is perfectly positioned to capture the attention of the South Eastern population, who like me, want cheap flights to popular destinations and without hours spent trying to tackle the Greater London traffic. On a normal day, Manston is 1:10 mins drive from junction 9 of the M25 or 1:15mins from Docklands

This could also be of great economic benefit to an area of the UK which is suffering from 22% unemployment and needs a good success story to kick-start the local economy beyond traditional tourism and the building trade.

The commercial heart of the EUJet operation is, of course its website, which is certainly one of the quickest and simplest I’ve found to date in the airline business. ‘Idiot-proof’ is an expression I hesitate to use but in my case it generally applies and finding an uncluttered website that would allow me to book my choice of flight and graphically select a row of seats – with extra leg room – by an emergency exit, was an experience that is likely to bring me back again.

The sense that the relationship between many airline reservations systems and the Web need a little extra work was reinforced by a conversation with a pilot friend who had just booked a flight to Majorca for the weekend. Although he’s online, he preferred to use the telephone and had found a company called Air Berlin who apparently both a website and a customer call centre that answer the phone within two rings he tells me, a miracle in this day and age.

Back to EUJet then and P.J.McGoldrick tells me the new business has invested a great deal of effort in the usability and speed of its website as the focal point of customer experience. A good five years into the Internet age and this aspiration, should, one would think, be shared by every business but time after time, different research tells that both public and private sector websites consistently exhibit a callous disregard for best practise and indeed common sense in the way in which they design and manage their virtual relationship with their customers; a customer service number on the front page of a website often being the first good idea.

Of course, if you’re not on the first page of a Google search result, then in the minds of many surfers, you don’t exist and owning a high Google ranking is the ambition of any successful business. But there’s a twist in the EUJet story. It has a proposition for the population of the South East, of England which avoids the nightmare M25 and M1 road-trip to Stansted or Luton and a website which makes booking a cheap flight to the Sun or a European business centre a quick and painless experience. Just one problem though. If you look-up EUJet on Google, above the www.eujet.com address the search engine returns, it obligingly asks the question, “Did you mean: EasyJet - www.easyjet.com/en - We fly 153 routes between 44 European airports. Book now”!

“We need to ask Google to look at this”, says P.J.McGoldrick and he’s right. Can you imagine looking for Microsoft Windows and being asked “Did you mean Lindows”, which rather supports my theory that with Internet search engines increasingly figuring as critical factor in the development of a successfully branded on-line presence, there is no justice, only Google.

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