Considering we've been down this road before, and taking into account Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary's reputation as the walking embodiment of "there's no such thing as bad press," I'm withholding a scrap of hope that what I'm about to type is some sort of PR stunt—but I don't think it is:
Ryanair actually plans to charge passengers to use the bathroom.
The Guardian is reporting that O'Leary has asked Boeing "to look at putting credit card readers on toilet locks for new aircraft." He also wants to remove two of the three bathrooms on his airline's aircraft and replace those bathrooms with up to six seats.
Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth: "We are flying aircraft on an average flight time of one hour around Europe. What the hell do we need three toilets for? ... It's not because we need to generate money from the jacks. But ... if you get rid of two [toilets] you can get six seats on a 737. They will all be scurrying to the toilet before the departure gate."
To be fair, I can see his point. Ryanair essentially acts as a bus service in the sky, and can reasonably expect passengers to cross their legs while onboard or, as O'Leary put it, scurry to the loo in the airport before departure. And after all, your average bus only has one bathroom, which is usually adequate. Of course, your average 737 carries three times as many passengers as your average long-distance bus.
Still, no matter how you try to justify it, there's just something a bit underhanded about charging to use the bathroom. Imagine you weren't feeling well or had a sudden bout of air sickness and rushed off to the bathroom only to find you have to pay for the privilege of using the lavatory. Or imagine you're flying with a baby and you need to change a diaper. Or imagine you simply had a big cup of coffee at the airport—you get the idea.
Ah, but Mr. O'Leary has already thought about all that. Here's what he had to say: "All this pious stuff about ... you can't charge for entering the toilet. All right then, we'll charge you to exit the toilets."
I guess there's no such thing as bad press. After all, Ryanair just got itself 400 words in this space, free of charge. But open disdain for your customers? I can't imagine that's ever a good thing—not when it comes to publicity, and certainly never when it comes to policy.
Readers, what do you think? Is Ryanair serious about charging for bathrooms, or is this just a warped PR stunt? And what about O'Leary? Is he simply giving voice to what all airline CEOs think but are afraid to say aloud? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.