Ryanair still serious about transatlantic plans — but stays realistic

In a recent interview with a Dutch newspaper, Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary sat down to discuss the future of his airline. The fastest growing airline in the world still operates out of a tiny office complex in Dublin, with no intention of moving to the kind of slick all-glass towers his competitors fill.

When asked about the crisis in the aviation world, he laughs – “what crisis”. In 2009, the Irish low cost carrier transported 66 million passengers, up from 58 million in 2008. But better yet – they managed to double their profits. In just under 6000 square feet, the airline takes care of their sales, marketing, HR and web site management. Nobody uses email to discuss anything – they believe that getting up out of your chair and walking to the person in question is far more efficient.

In 2009, the average price of a Ryanair ticket was just 28 euros (about $40). Even with those low prices, the airline can make a profit. The key to their success, according to O’Leary, is to use smaller regional airports and to stick to a very simple principle – your ticket get you a seat and nothing else.

Ryanair has often been the source of jokes, mostly started by the airline itself. When they say they’ll add a coin slot to airplane bathrooms, people laugh, but O’Leary is dead serious. In 2010, they plan to remove some of the bathrooms on their planes, giving them room to add more seats. With just one bathroom and a coin slot, ticket prices can once again go down a little.

O’Leary also revealed that he’ll hand over control of his airline to someone else in two or three years. Despite his success, he dislikes the aviation world claiming “profit margins are slimmer than at the local grocery store”.

When asked about his transatlantic plans, he still insists that the airline is serious – it won’t be part of the current Ryanair, but flying a plane full of people from Europe to the US should be possible for around $15 per ticket. Like in Europe, a transatlantic Ryanair would most likely make use of smaller regional airports. If he ever pulls this off, he admits that he’d need to do it in one big blow – lots of planes, lots of destinations. Given how successful O’Leary has proven to be, I don’t think anyone in the aviation world should ever doubt he can succeed.

Big flyer on Ryanair? Order an “extra comfort seat”

If you are planning to fly on Ryanair, then here is a little secret that may help bring some comfort to your trip.

When booking your tickets, you can actually pre-book a spare empty seat. Simply reserve two seats, and enter “Extra Comfort Seat” as the name for the second passenger. Especially on those very cheap Ryanair flights, you may be able to book yourself a nice double seat for about $20 extra.

The Ryanair page describing this “trick” does not mention whether the second fictional passenger is allowed to bring luggage, and I doubt the airline will allow it, as this could be a quick and cheap way to get a second seat and double your baggage allowance. Also not mentioned on the page is whether you’ll be charged twice for airport taxes.

Pay to pee on Ryanair no joke

Remember when we called Ryanair’s plans to charge for lavatory access a stunt? Yeah, we do, too. Those were simpler days, I guess. It turns out, that stunt concealed an even larger one. CEO Michael O’Leary announced that the airline will begin charging one pound (around $1.65) for access to the special rooms at the front and back of the plane.

I actually see some restraint on the press-whorish CEO’s part. I expected him to break the fee down by bodily function, charging a premium for what results in a bit more time. After all, time is money, and one person’s long stay could cost a few extra bucks because other passengers may not get their turns.

But, the savvy airline leader is hedging his bets … as he did with the fat tax, which is now off the table (O’Leary calls it “impractical”). No start date has been revealed; only a two-year time horizon was given. But, he does say, “We are serious about it.”

There’s only one way to make this better, and O’Leary’s found it. Instead of charging for the existing abundance, he’s planning to tear a few out of each plan, in order to make room for more seats. This works in two ways. First, there are more people on the plane who become potential piss-payers. Also, there are fewer lavs, creating a scarcity of resources.

Flight delays may be wrinkle in Ryanair fat tax

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says he’ll only move forward with plans to charge oversized passengers for extra seats if it’s easy. If it slows down the process of checking people in and getting planes pushed back from the gate, he wants no part of making more money.

Surprisingly, O’Leary didn’t comment on whether larger passengers would slow planes down, causing further delays. The media whore controversy-prone CEO – who then wonders why “idiot bloggers” treat him as we do – is known for offering journalists the outrageous and then wondering why they publish it.

Unsurprisingly, O’Leary used the phrase “fat tax” in a press conference. Specifically, “We are not going to introduce a fat tax unless it is easy to administer,” as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

While the public actually voted in favor of this measure, it’s nonetheless been a lightning rod for criticism. With typical panache, O’Leary says, ostensibly to critics, that a fat tax is not against the law, which is the company’s usual standard for behavior.

And, when all else fails, “we can make it a safety issue.”