COMMENT: PR game is too easy for airline boss

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary pulled off another PR coup last week when, in an interview with the BBC, he floated the idea of charging passengers £1 (just over $2) to use the toilet.  

Cue lots of righteous indignation from travel industry commentators, with Which? Holiday head of research Rochelle Turner thundering: “It seems Ryanair is prepared to plumb any depth to make a fast buck and, once again, is putting profit before the comfort of its customers. Charging people to go to the toilet might result in fewer people buying overpriced drinks on board, though – that would serve Ryanair right.”

Sadly, her hopes are likely to be dashed, for one simple reason – it’ll probably never happen.

As Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara himself said:

“Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along and, while this has been discussed internally, there are no immediate plans to introduce it.”

McNamara’s next sentence, meanwhile, gives an insight into O’Leary’s true motivation: “This highlights Ryanair’s continuing obsession with lowering costs and passing these savings on in the form of lower fares.”

The airline has taken unprecedented steps to keep headline fares low, charging extra for items such as additional luggage and, recently, O’Leary told the UK’s Daily Telegraph he wanted to remove all check-in desks by the end of the year in a further bid to cut costs.

And every time he does it, it generates extra column inches for his central message: “We’re all about finding ways of raising discretionary revenue so we can keep lowering the cost of air travel.”

Meanwhile, the best rival Easyjet’s spokesman can do is respond with a lame joke – “inflation appears to have gone crazy if it now costs £1 to spend a penny” – a line O’Leary had already used in his original interview.

Sometimes, he must think it’s too easy.


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