Have you heard? You better go to the bathroom before you get on a RyanAir flight or have a little pocket change on hand. That’s right, the British budget airline brand is making headlines around the world as the carrier that is now charging for using the toilet. They will also be eliminating two out of three of their on-board facilities—replacing them with more seats—leaving one bathroom for up to 189 passengers. Guys, be sure to take your Flomax, and gals, well, never mind, you’ll probably be okay.
Can you believe any company, even one known for no-frills flying would want this kind of buzz associated with their brand when it could simply charge an extra pound or two per flight per passenger and be done with it? But that’s not all, RyanAir will be charging for carry-on bags too. I wonder what’s next. How much will a seat belt cost? Or a flotation device? Sorry no air for you until you cough up two euros for that oxygen mask.
C’mon! This is what you call the “mind” side of a business going into overdrive at the expense of not just the heart, but common sense. They say all PR is good PR, but I don’t know on this one. This brand buzz is the kind that can become legendary. “Oh, yeah, RyanAir. That’s the airline that started charging people to take a _____!” Ha, ha, ha! “Whoever Ryan is of RyanAir, he’s a real ______!” Ha, ha, ha! Those blanks will not be filled in kindly.
Yeah, RyanAir, you are likely going to see the wrong side of the “heart” of your customers. Because just as they can be passionately on your side like Southwest Airline’s advocates are (they’re proud to fly this low-cost carrier) customers can also behave like an angry mob. Maybe the Brits will be too polite to pitch a fit on this one, but the American airline carrier that engages in such outright stupidity will have a firestorm on their hands. Not because passengers can’t spare the buck, but because the whole notion of charging to pee is so offensive. It just reminds everyone who has to fly commercial that we are economy-class citizens. Thanks RyanAir for vividly reminding us of that fact 30 minutes after we drank that Coke that cost us 4 pounds. “Would you like the full can?” Hmmm, are you being nice, or is that just a ploy to make me have to pee pee and pay?!”
I always say that your brand is as much about creating unforgettable experiences—moments I call them—as it is about putting promises out there through advertising. When the mind side of your business overpowers the heart side you can end up with some pretty bad moments. And RyanAir appears to be the prince of bad moments. (Check out RyanAir Caught Napping.) Their web site doesn’t promise much, but it promises more than this.
Yes, I understand that there is a place for budget brands in aviation and that airlines must increase revenue, but there are ways to do it and still make people feel special, even without frills. I’ve discovered over the years that everyone wants to feel special, and when you can accomplish that in your business, people attach a value to it. Pay toilets don’t make anyone feel special. Quite the opposite. Budget doesn’t mean treating people poorly. Sorry RyanAir, your bean counters, or should I say pee counters, have gone a bit too far.
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.