Ryanair pressing ahead with its pay to pee scheme

Around this time last year, Ryanair made the news when its quirky CEO announced his plans to charge passengers for using the bathroom. The inital reaction was that of amusement, then when people realized the guy was serious, people started questioning his mental health.

The news died down, but apparently the folks in Dublin have been working hard behind the scenes to actually become the first airline in the world with paid bathrooms.

In fact, the airline is taking things one step further by removing two of the three bathrooms on the plane, and adding more sears. End result? One pay-to-pee bathroom and a 5% decrease in ticket prices.

The entire scheme actually makes perfect sense, especially since the airline is using the modification to lower prices even more. Of course, this is going to be bad news for people with a bladder problem, or those that enjoy taking their photo in the airplane bathroom.

No announcement has been made when Ryanair passengers will need to bring pee pee money, but knowing how efficient they are, it may be sooner rather than later.

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.

Ryanair blasted for “childish” payment system

Rarely does a week go by without some kind of news blasting Ryanair for something the low cost carrier did to annoy their customers.

This time, it all revolves around a silly payment method implemented by Ryanair. For years, the airline has been advertising its ultra low cost fares without mentioning additional fees or surcharges.

New regulations in the UK mean Ryanair has to include credit card payment fees in all its advertising materials – but sneaky Ryanair found a way around this rule.

By creating one free payment method, the airline can get away with advertising its tickets, without mentioning a GBP5 surcharge for each passenger that uses a credit card.

The “free” payment method is only available with a specific Mastercard prepaid card. All other payment methods are hit with the surcharge – for every single passenger, even if the tickets are all purchased on the same card.

The UK Office of Fair Trading investigated the matter, and called it “puerile and childish” – though I doubt Ryanair cares what anyone else thinks. The law is on their side, and they found a smart way around it. Sure, it may be a smart way that once again penalizes its customers, but at the end of the day, their fares are still substantially lower than any other European carrier.

The high price of low cost airlines

Low cost airlines are awesome – they have completely changed the way people fly, but they also helped redesign the entire aviation world, sending a powerful wakeup call to the legacy carriers.

There is however a nasty side to them – in their drive to cut costs and keep prices low, they have started to alienate customers and take on a very nasty attitude.

When flying with a low cost carrier, you need to pay very close attention to their rules, regulations and fees.

A good example of the inflexibility of the low cost carriers (Ryanair in particular) comes from The Netherlands. When Mrs. Raaijmakers and her family arrived at Weeze Niederrehin airport, she was told that since she had not checked in online, she’d have to pay a EUR160 airport check-in fee (about $230). Since she did not have that kind of cash, the airline simply told her that her family could not fly with them, and departed without her.

Now in the defense of Ryanair, these rules are spelled out quite clearly, and are published right on the main page at Ryanair.com. That said – to tell a passenger that they can either pay, or miss their flight seems quite rude. A Ryanair spokesperson said that the airline is “sick and tired of people who don’t read the rules”, and that “not paying means not flying”.

Because Mrs. Raaijmakers will arrive later at her destination, she and her husband are going to lose their jobs (in a bar). When confronted with this, Ryanair said “that is not our problem”.

I’m not one to blame the consumer, and it doesn’t seem right to blame Ryanair for this either, but it really should be a valuable lesson for anyone trying to save some money by picking a low cost carrier – the hidden cost is that not paying attention will cost you a lot more in the long run. Things that make sense on legacy carriers (like checking in at the airport) do not work with the low cost carriers, so be sure to read their site and check up on user experiences on aviation web sites before clicking “buy now”.


Will passengers stand for latest Ryanair stunt?

Just when you think Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary can’t come up with another way to mess with his passengers, he takes away the seats. The European low-cost carrier’s latest way to cut costs and cram more people on planes is to stick them on stools with seatbelts. According to the Daily Mail, he’s even spoken with Boeing about making this happen.

The nice expression for this, used Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara, is “vertical seating.”

But, it’s not a sure thing. The Irish Aviation Authority needs to give him the green light. Something tells me that there has to be a safety issue buried in this. There just has to be. If not, well, let them stand.

The airline estimates that it could increase passengers per flight by 30 percent with the standing room approach and at the same time cut costs by 20 percent. That’s a pretty big gap between revenue and expenses – the sort of financial upside that most airlines have been unable to figure out.