Posted by Joe Maxfield
DUBLIN (AP) - Is a bathroom an optional extra when you're at
30,000 feet? Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary seems to think so - as
his no-frills carrier contemplates charging customers to use its
O'Leary whipped up a frenzy of indignation and potty humor
Friday as he suggested that future Ryanair passengers might be
obliged to insert a British pound coin before they gain access to
As always, O'Leary suggested a separate toilet free would lower
ticket costs and make flying, somehow, easier for all. Nobody, even
his own aides, seemed to be sure if he was serious or pursuing his
well-documented penchant for making brazen declarations to win free
"One thing we have looked at in the past, and are looking at
again, is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the
toilet door, so that people might have to actually spend a pound to
`spend a penny' in future," O'Leary said, using a local euphemism
for relieving one's self.
When asked, during an interview on BBC Television, what would
happen if a customer really had to go, but didn't have the correct
change, O'Leary dismissed the scenario as implausible. This even
though Ireland and most of Europe uses euros, not the British
currency, and even on-board attendants often find themselves
without the correct change.
"I don't think there's anybody in history gone on board a
Ryanair aircraft with less than a pound," he said.
Politicians and analysts agreed that the man who pioneered
charging airline customers to check bags, to use a check-in desk,
and even to use a credit or debit card to make an on-line booking
just might be serious about mile-high toilet extortion, too.
Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners in London,
cautioned consumers that O'Leary might be attempting two for the
price of one: Free publicity backed by cut-throat reality.
"This begs a simple question retort of: Is there absolutely
nothing that this airline won't do? Not really, so if you are
thinking about flying cattle-class Ryanair in future, beware," he
O'Leary's own chief spokesman, Stephen McNamara, said his boss
often spoke tongue in cheek - but then defended the idea of
charging for a toilet as part of a logical trend.
"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 said, adding, "Passengers using
train and bus stations are already accustomed to paying to use the
toilet, so why not on airplanes? Not everyone uses the toilet on
board one of our flights, but those that do could help to reduce
airfares for all passengers."
Rochelle Turner, head of research at British consumer rights
magazine Which? Holiday, said Ryanair had a well-documented
practice of "putting profit before the comfort of its customers"
- but this one could backfire.
"Charging people to go to the toilet might result in fewer
people buying overpriced drinks on board. That would serve Ryanair
right," she said.
Tommy Broughan, transport spokesman for Ireland's Labour Party,
said the toilet-charge idea had to be taken seriously.
He noted that Ryanair last month began threatening customers
with euro30 fines if they tried to carry on board a second bag
regardless of size - even one filled with a just-purchased item
from the airport's duty-free shops.
"When Ryanair introduced this euro30 extra duty-free charge, many
passengers joked that next they would be charged for using the
toilet - not realizing that this indeed seems to be the newest
extra charge on Ryanair's agenda," Broughan said.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)