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Ryanair (RYAAY) CEO Michael O'Leary says Brussels is unlikely to raise objections to his plans to charge for the use of on-board toilets, but admits he is having a hard time convincing US authorities.
"If it's approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration and [plane-maker] Boeing then it will happen," he told this website on Tuesday. Although the company does not operate in the US, approval from the American authority is needed in order to alter the US-made planes.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels to mark the launch of new flights to the Charleroi airport, Mr O'Leary said he was keen to push ahead with the controversial plans, insisting the aim was not to make money on the toilets themselves.
"The purpose of charging for the toilets is to change peoples' behaviour," he said. By giving people an incentive to use airport toilets before they depart, the company says it would be able to remove two out of the three toilets on each plane, making space for six additional seats.
"If I add six extra seats, all the fares come down across-the-board by four percent," he said. "Whatever money we make on the toilets, we'll happily give it away to some charity for incontinent air-travellers," added the Irishman.
Under the proposals, passengers on short one-hour flights are likely to be charged €1 to use the coin-operated facilities.
But plans to charge customers based on their weight have been scrapped. "We have decided we are not going to charge people by weight because there's no way of determining who's overweight and who's not," said Mr O'Leary.
Commission officials contacted on Tuesday suggested the airline CEO may well be correct in his assessment of little EU resistance, so long as any changes are clearly advertised allowing passengers to make an informed choice on whether to fly.
However, the scheme may never make it over to this side of the Atlantic for consideration, with the FAA and Boeing (BA) concerned that the six extra seats could slow the plane's evacuation time, presenting a health hazard.
Asked why he did not simply switch to planes made by European manufacturer Airbus (EADSY) as a means of avoiding the American authority, Mr O'Leary said it "would be a big change for us considering that we now have a fleet of 200 Boeings. We could try though."
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