Maybe yesterday's story that Ryan Air is considering removing 2 of the 3 toilets on some of its 189 seat 737-800s , giving them them 6 more potentially saleable seats is just another headline grabbing exercise unlikely to actually see the light of day.
It is though an interesting and risky piece of customer psychology. Ryan have long made it clear that they don't seek to be loved, or even liked, by their customers and that they see price and range of destinations being all they need to continue on a roll.
Few accountants,- and airline ones in particular,-have ever been able to see much value in product improvements or even simple warmth or cuddliness of image. The stockmarket has taken a similar view with anything looking like additional cost often resulting in an immediate shareprice drop even if it is a real investment. The human reality is though that being liked and even better having stronger emotional bonds with the customers must have a value in achieving real loyalty and repeat business. This was recognised twenty plus years ago when the concept of stakeholders or a three cornered relationship between company,staff and customers was in vogue. Earlier than that, from the 1950s at least, being the link between being liked by the customers and thereby being their first choice was well understood by the airlines. Just look at the old ads. The first customer loyalty programmes were probably the very simple young frequent flyers' logbooks and badges introduced by Pan American with their Junior Clipper Club and BOAC with its Junior Jet Club. Both appeared in the mid 1950s, were extremely effective at a very low cost and sought to bind child travellers in for life. In doing so they achieved this emotional link, not just with the children but also with their parents. It was very clever. More recent loyalty programmes involving air miles and similar have been about financial rather than an emotional reward . They are therefore a different animal. There is a separate question as to whether they increase or just distort and even displace real competition.
Ryan, like any airline or business depends on keeping the incoming cash flow running ahead of the following tsunami of bills demanding payment. Being sure of continuing to attract large numbers of customers crucial in the current economic situation. BA's £ 20 million "To Fly to Serve " campaign is about reaching out to be liked as well as to be respected as innovative, safe and customer orientated. Easyjet is in full persuit of the higher yielding business market. Others are putting a lot into making themselves as attractive as possible. It is a strange moment therefore to be offering customers the prospect of serious physical discomfort should an incumbent of the sole remaining toilet not be a short stay customer. The visual, materiel and aromatic impact on those sitting nearby should the desparate decide to relieve themselves in the nearby door or other areas would be dire. It has happened on other airlines who have pushed up queuing times by reducing the number of loos.
Maybe this latest "initiative" is a step too far for Ryan and they would do well to stop and think about it. There comes a point where people say "Enough is enough". Then the flow of bodily waste can reverse direction.