Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is trying to frighten the piss out of his customers again, giving new life to the perennial riddle as to whether or not he actually hates them.
The latest story, dated April 6 in the UK media, appears to be based on an article in the edition of its in flight advertising magazine which was newly in circulation around about April 1.
This quickly gained a few variations in the volumes of free publicity slash media loathing gushing through the press. Not only would the pay toilet door be so sophisticated it would open for either a one pound slash one euro coin (which are different in size and weight) but two of the existing three toilets, the ones at the rear of the 189 seat Boeing 737-800s used by Ryanair and all 737 operators would be ‘removed’.
This was justified as necessary ‘potty training’ for the public, so that they would learn to use the ‘loo before they flew, in the terminals. And it was of course claimed to help in further reducing costs, something that doesn’t quite ring true given the drinking habits of the lager louts encountered on some airline flights who would would either have to stop paying the airline several times the pub price for a drink, or continue drinking and suffer consequent renal distress causing them to urinate all over the inside of the jet, because Mr or Mrs Senile Geriatric is taking too long in the dunny or can’t actually find their way out of it.
Think about it. Out of 189 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots,they have maybe 40-60 minutes level flight time on typical Ryanair routes in which to relieve themselves. At 5 minutes a visit, that’s 8-12 relieved passengers or one third as many as previously, and a lot of aversion training when it comes to taking another Ryanair flight.
Someone in Ryanair is also reported to have said that by removing the two ‘surplus’ toilets at the rear (the other is near the cockpit), it could squeeze in another six seats.
‘Squeeze’ is an appropriate term. The 737 begins to taper at the location of the rear toilets. These would be a notably narrower as well as windowless sets of seats.
But this is where things get difficult. The maximum certified passenger load of a 737-800 is 189 seats. If you want more you have to redesign the doors and hatches at least in part and then recertify the modifications. This is neither a cheap nor fast process. And those additional seats would need an extension of the emergency oxygen supply system, and some mucking about with the wiring and ducts located in the wall panels in that area.
And even if Ryanair is not planning to put extra seats where the two rear loos used to be, any non-standard modification would impair the value of the jet, either if owned, or leased, as there would be a rather small market among other airlines to acquire the use of an RD or renal distress version of the otherwise popular Boeing model.
O’Leary may be a clown but he’s no fool. If he can persuade Boeing that they will come out of this ahead, it might happen.
But the puzzle remains. Why does O’Leary seem to set out to discourage customers? Is the free publicity really worth it?
The ‘real’ Ryanair is not the monster his antics make it appear to be. It is an incredibly useful and profitable network of time saving non-stop flights between locations the lumbering legacy carriers of Europe fail to adequately connect.
For tens of millions of people a year Ryanair is not just the fastest way between two points, because it avoids the horrors of connecting at major hub airports, but is also by a huge margin, the cheapest way of doing this.
Making it hard for these customers to take a leak seems like an incredibly perverse way to encourage them to come back, if in fact O’Leary really intends to do this.