Thursday, April 15, 2010
Givent the subject matter of this blog, I suspect many readers are frequent travelers by air, both domestically and internationally. Yesterday, I read a news report that Ryanair is floating a proposal to charge airline passengers to use the restrooms on planes. I must say, this struck me as a new low in the treatment of airline passengers (following closely on the heels of baggage fees not only for checked bags, but now for carry-ons). Ryanair claims the proposal is not to make more money on toilets, but to encourage passengers to use the toilet at the airport before boarding the plane. If passengers did so, fewer toilets would be needed on the plane, allowing the removal of some toilets from the plane and the addition of extra seating instead. Ryanair CEO O'Leary reportedly has offered to donate the proceeds from this change in policy to charity, but there appears to be no guarantee that any savings would be passed on to charity or customers.
Astoundingly, Ryanair believes that European authorities are willing to accept this inhumane proposal. European Commission officials allegedly are unconcerned as long as the policy is advertised because consumers can make a choice in air travel. Fortunately, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is balking. Although Ryanair does not operate in the United States, the FAA must approve the modification to the planes made by U.S.-based Boeing corporation, which constitutes a large portion of Ryanair's fleet. The FAA is hesitant to approve the plan because the six extra seats may slow down evacuation of the plane in the event of an emergency, a potential safety hazard.
An airline passenger is captive on a plane and is not able to avoid the fee by using another toilet. Often during travel, one is eating and drinking foods and beverages that are unfamiliar to one's system and may cause a person to be a bit irregular. Thus, even if the passenger has visited the toilet before boarding, he or she may still require a toilet on board. What is a passenger to do if without the proper coins or coins in the proper currency (something that happens often in international travel)? It has been my experience that flight attendants often are not willing or able to exchange foreign currency on planes. What about children and those with health conditions who are less able to predict their bodily functions? There is no mention that this policy would apply only to flights of limited duration. International travelers can be thankful for once that airlines often are subject to more than one regulatory body in this global world.