10 Crazy Air Line Travel Ideas That Just Might Work

FareCompare readers who travel in Europe may have encountered Ryanair, an Irish airline originally patterned after the low-cost U.S. airline Southwest. Ryanair’s approach is to cut fares as much as possible, while charging fees for many services that travelers take for granted on other airlines. The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, comes across to some as a business visionary, and to others as a crackpot who throws every cost-saving idea he thinks of against the wall, to see which ones stick.

Here are 10 ideas O’Leary has proposed, some of which have already spread to other airlines, and others that many say go too far in the quest to offer the cheapest airline tickets.

1. One toilet per plane: a pay toilet. By removing the two rear bathrooms on planes with shorter routes, Ryanair could add 18 extra seats. This move could cut fares by 4 percent.

Will it pan out? It is not likely. A storm of complaints followed this cost-saving suggestion, before it was even implemented.

When will we see it? Perhaps never. Even the biggest devotees to cheap tickets will only give up so much to save money.


2. One pilot per plane. O’Leary says that because of the increase in computer navigation, having one pilot per plane, with one cabin crew member trained in how to land a plane, could be sufficient.

Will it pan out? Not likely. Nobody is willing to give up safety to save a little money.

When will we see it? Stephen McNamara, Ryanair’s head of communications, told MSNBC, “Check back with me in 100 years.”


3. Standing room fares. O’Leary wants to replace 10 of the back rows of seats with 15 rows of “standing seats” on shorter routes. These would be similar to the “seats” used on standing theme park rides, where people stand, but are secured by restraints.

Will it pan out? This idea has some traction. The main hurdle is addressing safety regulations.

When will we see it? It would be several years before this idea could address safety concerns, but it has not been rejected outright.


4. Gambling and “adult” entertainment on planes. This pay-per-view service would allow people with smart phones to occupy themselves thusly while in-flight. Adult movies would only be shown on personal handheld devices.

Will it pan out? It is likely. Enough passengers are interested that it could be profitable.

When will we see it? Planes would have to be fitted with broadband service, which would take at least a year.


5. Passengers loading their own checked luggage. Save on baggage handlers by making passengers stuff it into the plane instead.

Will it pan out? It is not likely. Giving passengers any access to the cargo hold is seen as a huge security risk.

When will we see it? Probably never.


6. £40 charge to print boarding pass at the airport.

Will it pan out? Ryanair has been doing this, and other airlines have looked at the idea. In the U.S., Spirit Airlines already charges $5 to print out a boarding pass.

When will we see it? Charging to print boarding passes could gain traction with other airlines soon, as they look for additional revenue streams.


7. Extra charges for very large passengers. Think of it as an “overweight fee.”

Will it pan out? A fairly high percentage of travelers think that very large passengers should pay extra.

When will we see it? Some airlines already require very large passengers to pay for two seats, but enforcement is sketchy. However, this idea definitely has legs (even if it can’t see them without the aid of a mirror).


8. £60 charge for checking music and sports equipment. As if musicians were not badly paid enough.

Will it pan out? Ryanair already does this.

When will we see it? Most airlines already charge extra for sports equipment and larger musical instruments.


9. Charging extra for wheelchairs. Sorry, Grandma!

Will it pan out? Ryanair used to do this with passengers who required a wheelchair after entering the airport on foot. They no longer do.

When will we see it? Probably never.


10. Minimizing customer service. Currently, disgruntled Ryanair customers must fax complaints to company headquarters if they want to complain. An online form only allows complainants to choose from a menu of categories characterizing their complaint.

Will it pan out? Ryanair already does this.

When will we see it? This idea is unlikely to take hold with other airlines, most of which are investing manpower in social media interaction with customers.


Updated: July 31, 2015