Ryanair has made noises before about making passengers pay for toilets on planes, and now it is considering removing those in the rear of the plane. It is difficult to reconcile an allegedly kinder and friendlier Ryanair with scuttling toilets in the back of the plane.
Howard Miller, Ryanair’s deputy chief executive and CFO said the low-cost airline will now accept American Express cards and is also looking in to offering a fast-track service which, for a fee, would allow customers to bypass long queues in security.
“Amex bookings will drive significantly more business travellers,” he said.
“We think we have been restricted so we may have lost some bookings [by not accepting Amex].”
However, to use the card to make booking customers will be charged €7 ($11.23) and a 2% commission on the cost of the flight.
Business travellers currently make up roughly 20% of Ryanair’s customers and with this deal, the airline is “hoping to increase the penetration in to that market”.
Further down the line it is also looking to offer bundle packages, so passengers will be able to buy multiple items in one transaction.
Ryanair will no doubt also be hoping that its recent pledge to improve its customer service will boost passenger numbers.
As part of improving the customer experience, Mr Miller said the airline would be rolling out a new website at the end of November, that is “slicker, quicker and with less noise”.
“We are going to offer products in a different way. At the moment you have to say ‘no thanks’ too many times,” he said.
As part of the new website, customers will be able to register, which will make booking a flight as quick and easy as shopping on Amazon, he added.
Face-to-face experience will also be improved, Mr Miller said, with staff being encouraged to take a more “flexible” approach and have “more latitude and more common sense” when dealing with customers.
But it could be a more unpleasant experience onboard if Ryanair remove the rear toilets to leave just one facility at the front of the plane.
That could become a reality after Mr Miller said the company was currently in talks with aircraft manufacturer Boeing to increase the number of seats on board from 189 to 200.
One option that is being looked at to be able to accommodate more seating is the removal of the rear toilets Mr Miller said, but he stressed that this was just one of several options being looked at.
“Clearly we want to maintain passenger comfort so we are working with Boeing in a creative way,” he said.
The airline currently has only one aircraft type- the Boeing 737-800 and is in talks with a Chinese company to supply it with planes. However, Mr Miller said any plane was “a long way off”, with nothing expected before the end of this decade at the earliest.
“We don’t have any bespoke planes,” he said. “What we want is an aircraft that is more simple and easier to operate.
“[But] I don’t think [the Chinese] will be in a position to create an aircraft of 200 seats [before the end of the decade].
“But we will continue to meet with them.”
Last week, Ryanair announced its growth plans, after striking a 10-year deal with the Stansted’s new owners to grow traffic by 50pc at its main UK hub to more than 20m passengers a year.
The deal comes less than a fortnight after Ryanair shocked the market with a profits warning, when the airline said full-year earnings could be at the bottom of its guidance or even below it.
“I think people have over-reacted a little bit,” said Mr O’Leary. “It does help to focus analysts’ minds on our profits guidance of €570m to €600m (£477m to £503m). Some analysts were on €640m.”
Photo credit: A model airplane rests on a table during an announcement of the commitment for Ryanair to purchase aircraft from Boeing, in New York March 19, 2013. Lucas Jackson / Reuters