The comment by the airline's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, that it might start charging passengers £1 to use the lavatories on its planes was met with outcry last week. Ryanair may have subsequently sent out a statement saying it is only considering the move, adding that its boss was 'possibly just taking the p***', but the general reaction to the statement was not positive. Many commentators asked how much more the airline can push its luck with its passengers before they take their custom away.
Clearly Ryanair thinks its can push a lot further. We see evidence of this all the time. It believes that all the coverage generated by O'Leary, as well as its controversial advertising, garners it valuable free publicity. Certainly, if I am asked to name a low-cost airline, Ryanair is the name that pops into my head first, ahead of easyJet, for example. However, it is not the first airline I would choose to book with, because my last attempt to fly with the carrier was such an appalling experience that I have not flown with it since and have no plans to do so.
So, will Ryanair's behaviour ever come home to roost? Many branding experts think it will, but I don't. Even though I will not fly it again, I also accept that I do not represent the majority of passengers on Ryanair's routes. These are the customers who rely on it to get them to airports to which few other carriers fly directly for a fair price. Therein lies a saving grace - at least Ryanair does not use its monopoly on the routes to charge excessive prices.