We hate to fall for Ryanair's shameless publicity stunts. We really do. But this one's particularly brazen, even by its own very high standards. After Telegraph hack Bryony Gordon wrote last week: 'I am willing to bet my flat and its contents that nobody has ever said the words 'Ryanair', 'marvellous' and 'service' in the same sentence', the low-cost airline is now claiming that it actually has lots of gushing feedback along these lines - and as such, Gordon now owes them her flat. Are there no depths that Ryanair is unwilling to plumb in the name of PR?
Gordon was writing in response to last week's news that Ryanair is planning to strip out some of their on-board loos to make room for more seats, and then charge a pound for using the ones that are left - a hoary old plan that CEO Michael O'Leary dredges up every time he's not been in the paper for a couple of weeks. 'You never hear anybody casually mention that they have just flown with Ryanair, and that they really enjoyed it,' says Gordon, going on to list all the reasons she hates it - particularly the extra charges (up 700% since 2006, it emerged last week).
Now you might think this is no worse than lots of the stuff that gets written about Ryanair all the time. And why would they care anyway? Surely Ryanair is all about getting you from one place to another (some of which aren't served by other airlines) as cheaply as possible; it's not about having fun or travelling in style. Even Gordon admits that she, like many of us, continues to fly with Ryanair (possibly, she suggests, because it ticks two of our favourite boxes: 'a perceived bargain, and a bloody good moan').
However, with its finely-tuned ear for a PR stunt, the Irish airline has swooped on her comments faster than its flight crew with a book of scratchcards. 'Ryanair receives thousands of letters each year from satisfied customers,' it huffed. And having sent Gordon a link to a select few, it's now claiming the keys to her flat.
Of course none of the testimonials actually includes the words 'Ryanair', 'marvellous' and 'service' in the same sentence. And she didn’t technically bet her flat at all (a 'willingness' is hardly the same thing). But that's hardly the point as far as Ryanair's concerned: this is just a chance to make some headlines and wax lyrical about how many happy customers they've got. Judging by some of the responses to Bryony's blog, that seems to be true - although admittedly we’ve never actually met any of them...
In today's bulletin:
How the politicians are skewing the property market
Debenhams cashes in - and Easter boosts high street sales
At last: Twitter has a plan for making money
Ryanair tries to confiscate journo's flat over 'bet'
The Parent Project: Who am I?