How far can Ryanair go?

The Budget air travel market has grown significantly over the past decade across the globe and one of the leading airlines fuelling this rise in popularity is Ireland’s Ryanair, an airline that truly pioneered new destinations in regional airports all over Europe, avoiding the major hub expensive airports to support people in different locations, bring down the cost and to inadvertently promote trade, Tourism and travel between unlikely towns and cities. For this we respect Ryanair and no-one can dispute that their low cost formula does not work. 

Part of the concept was to offer people more choice, by de-bundling the classic flight package and allowing people to choose whether they eat and drink in flight or reserve a set seat at check-in. Under the veil of individual choice, millions of people chose to fly with Ryanair and the concept has been duplicated all over the world now, from Spice Jet in India to Air Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

However, recent newly invented revenue tactics and new measures are slowly beginning to alienate Ryanair passengers and in this time of recession one wonders how they will maintain past passenger volume levels, after antagonizing so many people that travelled with them before.
Firstly that great argument of Ryanair “the element of Choice” is now something that is being slowly eroded, in favour of concealed aggressive revenue tactics. Firstly, Ryanair has confirmed that it will close all its airport check-in desks in October 2009. During the phasing out period passengers in the UK for example will be charged up to 20 pounds per person per flight to check in at the airport.

To counter, the carrier has extended its FREE web check in facilities to non EU/EEA citizens, people with checked luggage and passengers with reduced mobility. At first the cost to check-in at the airport was 10 GBP, however on May 1st this fee was increased to the staggering price of 20 GBP per person per flight (more than the cost of some flight), although this fee will not apply to promotional fares.

As Ryanair will close all of its check-in desks from October 1st, they will require all passengers to check in online. Not a lot of choice there! Moreover, a 5 GBP charge will be levied to even online check-ins, again taking away the element of choice and adding 10 GBP to the cost of a return flight.

CEO Michael O’Leary is becoming a little like the Les Miserables character “Master of the House” charging for every little thing he can force on his customers. Booking flights online features the following mirage of add-on sales, some of which are automatically checked, so one needs to be very careful to uncheck them (many Budget carriers are following similar tactics and with Air Asia, the insurance is often impossible to uncheck)…
• Charge to check-in luggage
• Priority Boarding
• Insurance
• Sports and musical equipment
• Special assistance
• Credit card fees

Then of course there is the “Additional Income Streams” as follows…
• Hotels / Hostals / Villas
• Car Hire
• Gift Vouchers
• Airport Parking
• Transfers from the airport miles away
• Mobile Phones in Flight
• Duty Free or sale of goods in flight

Most people are happy and to see Hotels, Car Hire and additional services, however Ryanair are not content with this, as more annoying nickel and dime revenue ideas are on the horizon. First they allowed phone calls in flight, which by all consumer reports to date is judged as most annoying. Now they are considering to charge people to use the toilet in-flight. Ever heard of “I need to spend a Penny”, well CEO Michael O’Leary recently hinted that Ryanair has considered installing coin slots on its cabin toilets. The plan is to charge 1 pound (not just a Penny any more) to use them. Such an idea defies belief and begs many questions like; Will he charge extra for a number 2? What would the Flight Attendants do if passengers held the door open for each other? Is this morally correct, especially if someone has medical issues that requires them to use the WC frequently?

Interestingly the UK Business Traveller Magazine recently carried out a survey on the topic of extra charges, with the lead question as follows…


The results shown below are interesting to say the least…

Credit cards fees 35.8%
Luggage Charges 21.8%
Airport Check-In 21.5%
Premium –Rate phone lines 14%
Food and Beverage 4.6%
Priority Boarding 2.3%

Whatever next I hear you say? Well here are some other things Ryanair may want to consider to charge…

• For the pleasure of being Security checked
• For a life vest
• Oxygen if needed in an emergency in Flight
• For a reclinable seat
• To look out the window
• For an Isle or Window confirmed seat

The above are tongue and cheek, but in reality it seems that charging for everything is on the agenda!

At Perpetual Traveller we will watch the fortunes of Ryanair and see if they take that bridge too far by introducing too many additional forced charges that annoy people, thus potentially eroding their market share, by alienating their prime source of income “passengers”. We will keep on eye on the other Budget airlines too, so that you can follow the trends.

Happy travels and don’t worry this article was free!

Grant Holmes
Perpetual Traveller