Forget Charging for Lavs, Ryanair Is Eliminating Ticket Counters at Airports

All the Ryanair buzz this morning is about some casual comments made by Michael O’Leary suggesting he wants to charge people to use the lav onboard. Well of course he does. Even if he is successful in this plot, it’s not nearly as big of a deal as the announcement earlier this week that Ryanair will ditch ticket counters at airports to save money. That could have much larger consequences for travelers than simply having to pay to pee.

This scheme certainly brings up plenty of questions. First of all, how do you check a bag? Fear not, there will still be a bag drop for the anticipated 1 in 5 people that need to check a bag, but that’s about it. I think the plan is to have people check their bags online, tag them, and then drop them off and be done with it. You won’t be able to do anything else until you’re behind security, but the cost savings here may spur Ryanair to actually reduce the bag check fees.

There are undoubtedly going to be some major hiccups here in the short term as they settle into this new routine. Only 75% of people check in online now, so those remaining 25% will have to change their behavior or be out of luck. The communication piece on this change is critical, and I imagine that Ryanair’s best efforts won’t be nearly enough to get 100% compliance.

The good news is that you can check in online up to 14 days in advance. So the excuse of not having internet access for two straight weeks before your flight seems highly unlikely. But what if you happen to forget or you didn’t read the fine print saying you have to check in at home? Will you still be able to check in at the airport on a kiosk? Even if you can, what if you get stuck on a delayed train (if you’re in London, that’s just a given), and you miss your flight? Can you still get through security with your expired boarding pass? Or will you be stuck and out of luck?

There are plenty of scenarios like these that may happen infrequently, but they still will happen. Over the first few months of this plan, Ryanair is going to have to learn about these corner cases, and it’s not going to be a pleasant learning experience for the passenger. Of course, if you buy your ticket for a penny, you’ll suck it up and deal with it.

It’s basically going to be like a bus now, except they’ll frisk you before you get to the door and you can’t pay your fare onboard. But like the bus, nobody will be around to help you figure things out beforehand. You’ll just have to be good at getting around on your own. If you aren’t, well, Ryanair will probably tell you to fly someone else.

Something tells me the cost savings will be worth it for them.

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