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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Standing Room Only

Ryanair, the no-frills European airline that was the first to introduce fees for everything from luggage check-in to telephone reservations to using credit or debit cards to pay for a ticket, is now talking with Boeing about designing aircraft with standing room. This brilliant move would allow Ryanair to squeeze in more passengers per flight.

The idea would see standing passengers strapped to stools during take-off and landing, allowing Ryanair to fly up to 50 per cent more travelers per flight. Spring Airlines, which calls itself China's first low-cost airline, is also considering this tactic.

Any such move would need approval from local aviation authorities. Here in the United States, regulations would not allow standing room. "The regulations ... are very specific, said Les Dorr, spokesman for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. "Everybody above the age of 2 has to have a seat or a berth."

Even if this particular idea doesn't end up passing the smell test, Ryanair continues spewing out unique ways to increase revenue. For example, CEO Michael O'Leary recently has suggested that #1, he might start charging more for overweight passengers or #2, he might make people pay to use the toilet. Given that the latter idea would heavily undercut in-flight beverage sales, it appears highly likely that the revenue-savvy O'Leary was merely tossing out #2 as a publicity stunt.

Still, you can't poo-poo everything O'Leary says. After all, he said passengers would start paying for online check-in in 2009, and voila, in May, it came to pass. Ryanair now charges five pounds for customers to check in online. Of course, since Ryanair no longer has check-in desks at airports, that basically means all passengers have to add five pounds to the price of their tickets. For passengers who check in online but forget to print a boarding pass...tack on another 40 pounds for getting one at the airport.

For those of you not familiar with Ryanair, it's no fly-by-night operation. The airline was established in Ireland in 1985 and has become one of Europe's largest carriers. Flying to nearly 150 airports, Ryanair claims to be “twice the size of British Airways”, having flown 5.8 million passengers in June, compared to BA’s 2.9 million travelers over the same period. The point-to-point carrier sells its seats for next to nothing, but makes up for its low ticket prices, as you might have guessed from reading this post, by figuring out how to charge ancillary fees for everything from A to W.C.

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