Ryanair: in for a penny, in for a pound

Ryanair has provoked fresh outrage by suggesting it might start charging passengers to use the toilet...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Ryanair’s spiky chief exec Michael O’Leary told the BBC on Friday that the budget carrier was considering the idea of fitting a coin slot to its toilet doors, ‘so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny’. After a week in which we’ve already seen Ryanair announce that it’s doing away with check-in desks as a cost-cutting measure, we didn’t think it was possible for the airline to show a greater disregard for the comfort of its passengers – supposedly as part of its never-ending quest for lower fares. But apparently so.

Ryanair’s argument is that not every passenger uses the toilet, so they shouldn’t be subsidising other people’s usage as part of their ticket price. The more it charges for ancillary revenues, it says, the cheaper its fares can be. It also pointed out today that the concept isn’t entirely novel: ‘Passengers using train and bus stations are already accustomed to paying to use the toilet so why not on airplanes?’ Perhaps – although the more perceptive among you will immediately notice that nobody pays to use the toilet on trains, buses, or indeed any other kind of aeroplane.

Of course it’s perfectly possible that O’Leary wasn’t even being serious, or just made the whole thing up on the spot to grab some more headlines (successfully, as ever). Even his own spokespeople admitted today that he was a pretty unreliable witness. ‘Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along and while this has been discussed internally there are no immediate plans to introduce it… Maybe O’Leary was just taking the p*** this morning.’ (we assume this was deliberate).

All very amusing, but we reckon Ryanair has to be careful here. Low fares are one thing. But passengers don’t want to be treated like second-class citizens: forced to look after themselves at the airport, run across the tarmac to get seats together, and then pay a fortune to share a can of Coke on board – before paying to relieve themselves of it later. There’ll come a point when people decide that they’d rather just pay a little bit extra to avoid all this. Although Ryanair would argue that at least they’re giving people that choice...

In today's bulletin:

HSBC launches record rights issue as profits slump 60%
I was dumb, says Warren Buffett
Editor's blog: The great British booze problem
Ryanair: in for a penny, in for a pound
Do it right: Seven ways to manage team morale

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