Are Ryanair taking the piss? (no, they’re charging you for it)

Picture 2 We've posted before about Ryanair, the budget airline, and their maverick CEO Michael O'Leary. We can't claim that Ryanair is our favourite airline, but we do admire the crystal clarity of their proposition as THE lowest cost airline, and the unique business model that supports it. In particular, they are the grand masters as cutting out every last bit of cost they can. In our paper on Recession-proof branding we featured examples of this: taking out back-seat pockets to make the plane quicker to clean, and having non-reclining seats that break less often. O'Leary is also a PR genius, as his latest proposal shows.

Picture 1 This proposal involves, wait for it, charging you £1 to 'spend a penny' (go for a pee pee). There you go. 99p profit straight away! Yup, the idea is to charge you to use the toilet. This idea was first floated in March this year, but laughed off as one of O'Leary's many wind-ups; these have earned him the nick-name "Michael O'Really". Well, it seems he really is serious. This week he was reported as saying that he was already in talks with Boeing about designing a plane with one toilet instead of the current three.

Now, this is not quite as mad as it seems.

– First, taking out the toilets means O'Leary can add six more seats, and that means more revenue.

– Second, O'Leary points out that most Ryanair flights are less than an hour long, and most people on plan won't need to use the facilities during this short time. He suggests that people will remember to use the airport toilets before getting on the plane.

– Third, as he also points out, this will mean less hassle for people getting out of their seats to let people past to go to the toilet

– Fourth, this move generates lots of PR. A Google search for "Ryanair and toilet" yielded 94,000 results. And all this PR makes people think "My god, they really, really are cheap". Cheap and nasty perhaps, but then O'Leary has never promised flying Ryanair would be nice.

– And finally, two less toilets means less mess to clean up, so faster turnarounds. And also less maintenance, so lower cost.

The question is of course do we reach a tipping point where the cost cutting also cuts too deep into the service experience, and is so bad that people say enough is enough. I must admit that given a choice I prefer easyJet. The planes are nicer and the on-board staff are nicer. Will be interesting to see how the 2 low-cost airline brands fare in the coming 12-18 months and who comes out on top.

[Images from]