When that “Uber moment” becomes a “Ryan Air” moment

Is it any surprise that businesses that are disrupting established markets are running into a few hurdles? There is after all an industrial revolution happening around us.

It was only a matter of time that hurdles such as industrial relations challenges and competition laws catch up with them.

Trade unions have been around for centuries and were legalised in 1871, while competition laws were around in Henry VIII’s time.

These hurdles to digital disruption could water down the benefits, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you feel that the companies causing disruption feel they are above the law. We rarely associated workers being exploited when we consume digital services. It has taken a long time for people to understand how workers in developing countries are exploited to supply goods to the rich West. And the knowledge doesn’t stop us buying the stuff they make anyway.

Uber is synonymous with digital disruption. The phrase “Uber moment” is always used when referring to how a business is shaking up a sector through a business model using the latest technology. But since Transport for London’s decision to reject the company’s application for a new license it is tempting to give the phrase new meaning. It could mean the moment when a business model which has shaken an industry is found wanting due to more traditional challenges.

So what is the catchphrase for when a company causing disruption gets to that moment when its business model is put to the test?

Despite Uber’s trouble we can’t repurpose the phrase. Although I doubt it will be over-used by IT analysts in a positive context anymore.

What about “Ryan Air moment?” That would work as a catchphrase when an industry disrupter hits rocks. It might not be a digital disrupter but it is certainly a disrupter.

And the company really is suffering as a result of how it contracts pilots. Until a disrupter with robotic pilots comes along, and manages to get regulatory approval, pilots will remain vital. Multiple pilots per flight in fact.

I met up with an old friend recently who is a pilot. I was discussing Ryan Air’s troubles with him. He said it is common knowledge among pilots that the airline’s pilot shortages are the result of its pilots moving to different airlines, mainly one recently, because they are being offered better packages. Ryan Air prides itself on being low cost, and it certainly is, but to offer the prices it does it has to save money in other areas. Pilots are simply being tempted by better offers and presumably Ryan Air’s pilot contracts are done in a way that allows pilots to leave on short notice.

There are other airlines ready to fill the gap that Ryan Air is leaving with its flight cancellations and these airlines might be the customer’s choice in the future. It is the same with Uber. If someone else steps in with a similar platform, perhaps even a London only version, it could be at risk of losing out

On the subject of robotic pilots my old friend also told me his young son wants to be a pilot, but he is not recommending it as he doesn’t think pilots will be needed in the future. Scary thought. I am just coming to terms with autonomous cars.

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