Fast Company

Work/Life: Carriers Need Wings. And Credibility, Too.

Enough is enough.

On July 17, I blogged about Ryanair's announcement that it was mulling the idea of requiring passengers to pay to for potty privileges.

Ryanair has now topped itself. It now is floating the trial balloon that it can lower prices further by squishing more passengers into cabins made roomier by ripping out two of the three toilets. Frankly, I cannot imagine the condition of that single restroom. Nor can I imagine the waiting list for that restroom. They'll have to hand out deli numbers.

The icing on the cake is that Ryanair thinks they have an even better idea: rip out any number of seats so that the cabin begins to resemble a flying subway car. Yes, passengers get to stand for the whole flight.

Actually, I'm not being fair. Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary suggests that fliers can plop themselves atop "bar stools" secured by seatbelts. Sounds promising.

What it also sounds like is that Ryanair has confused publicity with responsibility. Rest assured it's tougher to formulate realistic air travel product enhancements than it is to brainstorm silly product reductions. But there's only so much that the traveling public will put up with; and Ryanair's banter about cuts to the service basics actually may backfire.

Think about it. Let's say Ryanair comes up with a good idea that seems a bit out there at first blush, but which upon mature consideration makes sense. The problem is that Ryanair is eroding the flying public's patience and receptivity to new service ideas by creating the perception that any new Ryanair concept is just another bad joke. The public's kneejerk response will be to dismiss it out of hand.

Ryanair's bar stool concept is clearly laughable from the get-go. First, it hardly complies with even the most basic safety standard, namely passengers should not be set free to bounce around the cabin like pin balls. Second, the FAA is publishing new guidelines on airline seats and seatbelts aimed at reducing injuries from air turbulence, as well as casualties from other types of accidents. It is hardly conceivable that the FAA would take Ryanair seriously. Credibility is a valuable commodity at any company. To see Ryanair fritter away something that takes such a long time to build up, and to do it in exchange for such a short-term publicity boost, is nothing short of stupefying.

Ryanair's blue sky strategizing about cutting corners to cut costs rests on the unstable foundation that cost is the main driver in people's decision to fly. It is not. Convenience, comfort, scheduling, and service may all be more critical than cost to many passengers. If cost were the only thing that counted, Ryanair probably could figure a way to save a buck by doing away with landings and pushing passengers out of planes with a complimentary parachute made from cocktail napkins.

Ryanair already is very well branded as the rock bottom price air carrier. If they're not careful, however, that image won't be the only thing that's on the rocks.






Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com

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