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April 15, 2021

Ryanair boss says he'll donate pay-to-pee profits to charity

1192087_airplane We promise, really, we’re not trying to slam you over the head with this Ryanair pay-to-pee story.

But after one article last Thursday and another earlier this week, this is like the consumer story that keeps on giving. It’s fascinating on top of baffling on top of mesmerizing.

Like clockwork, enigmatic Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is back making headlines today. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, the company boss displayed a “No, no, you got me all wrong!” demeanour Thursday, apparently backpedalling somewhat on his polarizing move to begin charging passengers to relieve themselves onboard the budget airline’s flights.

Facing criticism the world over – including several raised eyebrows into whether it’s even legal to charge passengers to use a restroom 35,000 feet in the air – an exasperated O’Leary continued to maintain his pay-to-pee initiative wasn’t just a cheap money grab.

“The purpose of charging for the toilets is to change peoples’ behaviour,” he reinforced. Ryanair has said, throughout all this, that an ideal air travel scenario would be if passengers were to use the restroom before or after flights.

“Whatever money we make on the toilets, we’ll happily give it away to some charity for incontinent air-travellers,” he added.

O’Leary actually seems to win back some good will here, playing the “This will save customers money” card for the first time, to my knowledge, in the airline’s pay-to-pee PR disaster. 1016503_toilet_paper

On top of charging for use of the bathrooms, Ryanair has plans to remove two of three onboard toilets to make room for six extra passengers on each of its planes.

“If I add six extra seats,” O’Leary told reporters, “all the fares come down across-the-board by four per cent.”

A new report from BusinessWeek has actually challenged that notion (U.S. manufacturer Boeing might be putting its foot down on retrofitting Ryanair’s planes, as adding six more passengers may not meet air safety regulations), but that’s far from the most staggering nugget from this story.

O’Leary also announced Thursday that, although they’ve since scrapped the plans, the airline once had a strategy to charge travellers based on their weight.

“We have decided we’re not going to (go ahead with that plan) because there’s no way of determining who’s overweight and who’s not,” the CEO said.

Could you imagine that? Charging passengers by how skinny or fat they are! No matter how much sense this might actually make for airline/customer bottom lines, that would’ve caused a hell of an uproar.

Actually, I probably could’ve gotten three, maybe four blog posts outta that baby. Damn.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...