AIRLINE CHARGES:RYANAIR says it will press ahead with plans to charge passengers to use its aircraft's toilets. Despite admitting its announcement last year that it might install coin-operated facilities was a publicity stunt, chief executive Michael O'Leary is now revisiting the issue, according to the airline.
Ryanair would also like to remove the two toilets at the back of each aircraft, leaving only one on board and creating room for six extra seats.
In its in-flight magazine the airline described the coin-operated toilets as a “cost saving proposal” that would help reduce fares by at least 5 per cent.
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said the €1/£1 charge would apply only to flights of an hour or less, which would include almost all Ryanair routes between Ireland and Britain.
McNamara added that Ryanair was in talks with Boeing about refitting 50 of its 737- series aircraft with a single coin-operated toilet. There was no health-and-safety issue, he said, although the change would need approval, as Ryanair’s fleet is already fitted with its maximum permissible number of seats. “One toilet will discourage overdependence. There is nothing in the rule book to say that an aircraft has to have any toilets at all, which might sound strange, but we believe three toilets are excessive.”
One industry expert cast doubt on the proposals. Ryanair could install coin-operated locks on its toilet doors fairly simply, he said, but replacing two of each aircraft’s three toilets with seats would be very expensive. Boeing “would have to embark on a huge type-certification exercise” to prove that the remodelled aircraft could still be evacuated within two minutes, and, combined with the complexities of re-engineering each 737, the cost could amount to “between €250,000 and €500,000” per plane.
Such changes are not unknown. Airbus agreed to install extra seats on its A319 aircraft for a large order from easyJet, making the emergency exits larger in order to comply with safety regulations. But Ryanair’s changes “could make its aircraft hard to sell on”, as relatively few airlines would be interested in buying single- toilet planes.
O’Leary caused a furore when he announced the toilet proposal to the BBC, last February. The story ran for a week before he admitted at a tourism conference in Malahide that Boeing could not do it and “some bureaucrat in Brussels” had said it was impossible. “It is not likely to happen, but it makes for interesting and very cheap PR,” he said at the time.
McNamara said his boss had a habit of thinking out loud when it came to cost-cutting proposals. “The funny thing about Michael is that he’ll say these things as an off-the-cuff remark, and then he’ll start to think about it more and more, and he’ll start doing the sums. He has said that if it got him €5 extra he’d wipe people’s bottoms for them.”