It was only last week we wrote of how Michael O’Leary at Ryanair was flying high. In a lunch interview with the Financial Times, O’Leary did not seem fazed by anything out of the ordinary.
Now there’s a diversion.
Britain’s business regulator Office of Fair Trading has described Ryanair’s high credit card fee (£5, even though it reportedly only costs the carrier 30p) as “puerile” and “almost childish”, The Independent reports.
Coincidentally, this month Flightglobal publication Airline Business features O’Leary and Ryanair on the cover. (You can read the article, and O’Leary’s latest thoughts on a long-haul carrier, the future of Aer Lingus, and other matters here.)
In a corresponding editorial The Independent writes:
So the question, given that none of these charges are illegal, is whether the manner in which Ryanair conducts its business is anyone else’s concern. John Fingleton, the head of the Office of Fair Trading, suggests that it is.
This seems like a shot across the bows for the airline. The OFT is in the middle of an investigation into online prices and advertising, which could spell trouble for Ryanair when it reports later this year. The regulator has certainly shown itself willing to take on the airline in the past. In 2006 it forced Ryanair to alter its contract terms over lost baggage. And last year, the OFT secured an agreement from the airline to increase the clarity of its website and emails over the small print on promotional offers
Surcharges are gaining prominence, and not just with low-cost carriers. In October, Qantas won the dubious “Shonky” award for its “sky-high” surcharge on tickets purchased with a credit card: A$7.70 for each domestic passenger and A$25 for each international passenger.
What is Ryanair’s response? Well judging from the Independent it doesn’t have one:
Stephen McNamara, Ryanair’s head of communications, said: “As a general rule, anything that comes from an office that has chosen to ignore fuel surcharging airlines like British Airways and remained mute while London air passengers were being ripped off by the BAA monopoly should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“Ryanair is not for the overpaid John Fingletons of this world but for the everyday Joe Bloggs who opt for Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares because we give them the opportunity to fly across 26 European countries for free, £5 and £10.”
In the future, would McNamara have to modify his comment to “we give them the opportunity to fly across 26 European countries for free, £5 and £10, plus a £5 credit card fee, if applicable”? Hmm. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.