Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Put them by the toilet

When the day is long and exhaustion threatens to leach the joy from life, I keep my spirits up by reading transcripts of Ryanair's investor briefings. Michael O'Leary, the accountant-turned-dark overlord of the European aviation industry is a master of the blarney. Despite being a man with a job that is mostly office bound, he seems desperate to come across like a muck-covered prize pig farmer, returning from the Big City to tell the other denizens of his ten-pub, nine-person village about the terrible things he's seen.

Whether O'O'Leary, Most Irish Man Alive is angry about Aer Lingus getting preferential treatment from the Irish government, or Brussels "interfering" by trying to ensure some dignity to the whole travelling experience, or just raging that he is surrounded by competitors who are too stupid to live (but insist on doing so), he can be relied on to say something memorable.

Who knows if O'O'O'Leary really means what he says? Perhaps its a calculated ruse, saying things just offensive enough to get attention, presenting Ryanair as the plucky outsider/the only common sense outfit in operation/a company run by a pub bore who'll trap you by the fruit machine and tell you all about the nanny state and how you should pay attention to him. I don't know if he's like that in real life. Maybe he listens to Enya and drinks Celtic spring water. Or maybe he has Jeremy Clarkson on speed dial. It doesn't really matter.

What matters is that dear old Mike, my old mucker (I've read enough transcripts now to feel a personal attachment) does have the gift of the gab. Three hours of it would be a bit much, but as a break from bloodless men talking about revenue per passenger kilometre it helps.

The latest money making wheeze, after charging for toilets/luggage/queuing up first, is to charge for assigned seating. Once again it seems Ryanair's plan is to find something people were accustomed to get for free, and then make them pay for it. It's being sold as a convenience, a way of ensuring that families can all sit together, but dear old O'O'O'O'Leary was a bit too honest, stating baldly that he'd book a seat up front and then have his children stowed down by the toilets at the back. (Not in the toilets, of course - that's where the staff sit on takeoff when Ryanair feel like being done for breaching safety regulations.)

The thing is, maybe this time he has gone too far; nobody likes being stuck next to annoying children on aircraft, but you're not meant to admit it. You're meant to stealthily assign them seats at the back of economy and then act all surprised at your 'free' upgrade to the other end of the plane, where you can chug gin to your heart's content. Not that you would be getting complimentary booze in First Class on Ryanair, but still - don't spoil the surprise, Mickey boy. It's one thing to want to attract publicity, but it's quite another to give the game away entirely.

I guess we can always blame it on the computer mucking up our bookings. Until Ryanair find a way to charge for that, too.


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