Any publicity is good publicity for Dublin-based budget airline Ryanair.
The no-frills airline recently announced plans to cut down to just one toilet per aircraft (see below), and that had us wondering: are announcements like their toilet fee and "fat tax" tasteless marketing ploys, or is Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary just really cheap?
Despite wanting to strip their passengers of basic comforts like toilets and seat pockets, Ryanair is doing good business.
Comparing September 2011 with September 2010, Ryanair reported a 6 percent hike in passenger numbers, from 6.84 million to 7.25 million. Through September 2011, the airline carried 76.8 million passengers, reported the airline.
The airline's website also claims that in 2010, profits rose 26 percent to more than €401m (US$551m) despite higher fuel prices, the global recession, and volcanic ash disruptions in the spring.
Ryanair's high booking fees and ancillary charges include: £30 (US$41) to check in a bag, £10 (US$14) to pay for flights with a debit or credit card (excluding Visa Electron) and £60 (US$83) to check in sports or music equipment, according to the Telegraph.
Low-cost airline Ryanair unveils plans to reduce the number of toilets on each plane from three to one.
So, to honor the success of the self-proclaimed "world's favorite airline" let's take a look at some of its most ingenious money-saving tactics.
1. One toilet per aircraft
In October 2011, Ryanair expressed its intolerance for people with bladders.
The budget airline announced that it would remove two or three toilets from its aircraft to make room for six extra seats. Up to 200 passengers and six crew would share a bathroom during the flight, reported the Daily Mail.
O'Leary said, "We very rarely use all three toilets on board our aircraft anyway."
But apparently he is doing us all a favor. The move "would fundamentally lower air fares by about 5 percent for all passengers, cutting £2 (US$3) from a typical £40 (US$63) ticket." What a steal.
Currently, there is no legal stipulation for an airline to provide toilets on its aircraft, but Ryanair has not announced a date to implement the plan.
2. Charging £1 for toilets
The toilet removal wasn't a surprise to passengers and critics because O'Leary announced in 2010 that Ryanair would charge £1 or €1 for passengers to use the toilet.
Stephen McNamara, spokesperson for the airline, told TravelMail: "By charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behavior so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight," according to the Daily Mail.
But as of 2011, O'Leary said the plans to "charge a pound to spend a penny" have now been dropped.
3. Standing room only
Looking more and more like cheap suburban public transport, Ryanair announced in July 2010 it was preparing for standing-room-only seats at the back of its 250-strong fleet.
A spokesman for Ryanair said that Boeing had been consulted over refitting the fleet with "vertical seats." Passengers would be strapped in while standing up, and tickets for these seats would cost between £4 (US$6) and £8 (US$13). Here's a video of their design.
The unnamed spokesman said: "It's aviation law that people have to have a seat belt on for take-off and landing so they would have to be in a seat. I don't know how Mr. O'Leary would get around that one. During turbulence passengers also have to have a seat belt on."
In response to criticism for the idea, technological determinist O'Leary suggested haters were a bunch of Luddites who couldn't groove with the changes.
"People are always slow to accept the changes that face the aviation industry, even though it is already almost unrecognizable from 20 to 30 years ago," said a Ryanair spokesman, as reported by the Guardian.
4. Charging for overweight passengers
Backpackers around the world put down their Italian gelato when they heard about Ryanair's "fat tax."
The airline asked passengers on its website whether or not they should charge for "very large passengers."
"Over 100,000 passengers logged on to ryanair.com to take part in our competition and almost one in three (over 30,000) think that very large passengers should be asked to pay a fat tax. The revenues from any such 'fat tax' will be used to lower the airfares for all Ryanair passengers yet further," Ryanair's McNamara said.
This time the plan did not go ahead, not out of ethical considerations but because it would be hard to collect the money and would make boarding much slower.
5. Charging extra £40 to print boarding passes
Ryanair currently charges passengers £40 (US$63) to print their boarding pass at the airport. The charge was intended to speed up the check-in process.
In January 2011, a passenger took the budget airline to court over the charge in Spain. In October 11 2011, the Barcelona Appeal Court ruled that Ryanair's boarding card was perfectly legal in accordance with Spanish and EU law.
The airline's smug response to the verdict on their website was that "less than 1 percent of passengers pay this boarding card reissue penalty which applies only in those rare cases where passengers fail to comply with their agreement, given at the time of booking."
Passengers can avoid the reissue penalty by checking in online before leaving for the airport.