RyanAir: Flying Customers For Free

Ireland’s premier discount airline Ryanair envisions a time in the next ten years when all of its customers fly for free. That may seem ludicrous, but Ryanair is already a quarter of the way there: 25% of its current customers fly for free.

The way they do it is by charging for everything else except airfare. Peanuts? A coke? A pillow and a blanket? Checking-in luggage? It’ll all cost you. The shells of their jets are offered to corporate sponsors as large, flying billboards. They eliminated the magazine pocket on the back of the seat in front of you, lightening their planes and lowering fuel costs, yet opening up space for advertisers. Not only that, but they envision in the future charging their customers to use their cellphones miles in the air, and are looking into turning their jets into flying casinos.

It sounds pretty nightmarish, but it’s actually a great model. Living in Ireland, you’re basically a sucker not to fly Ryanair when you can. You can buy a ticket to almost any destination in Europe for only a euro or two. Sure, it’s the equivalent of a flying subway car — not the most luxurious way to travel — but it works excellently for flights between European destinations. I wouldn’t fly to America with them, but this could be the way forward for cash-strapped and beleaguered American airlines in the coming years. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing for consumers, as long as the choice to fly posh was still available.

A radical fix for airlines: Make flying free [CNN Money]