Budget airline Ryanair pushed the economics of cheap flying to its limits yesterday when it offered one million free flights, paying for customers’ taxes, fees and charges.
The move has sparked an unprecedented rush of “binge flyers” clambering to book tickets for close to nothing.
The giveaway comes as Ryanair struggles to fill its planes amid an unexpected drop in demand across the low-cost airline industry during April. The airlines have been hit hard by the doubling in air passenger duty just as they have been taking delivery of new planes and opening up scores of new routes. What the airline industry calls “load factors” – the proportion of seats filled in each plane – have dropped across the board.
A Ryanair spokeswoman said: “This is about getting bums on seats. We are paying to get passengers into our planes – we’ll be paying the tax that they would normally have to pay. There’s no point in flying planes empty.”
Ryanair’s move was branded “grossly irresponsible” by Friends of the Earth. Its aviation campaigner, Richard Dyer, said: “Passengers may be getting a free ride, but the planet certainly isn’t. It is unbelievable that Ryanair is resorting to such tactics.”
One thing is certain – it can’t carry on. Either Ryanair will go bust or the planet will.