Back to the Gate: Ryanair Grounds Trans-Atlantic Flight Plans Less Than a Week After Announcing Them

(Updated) Ireland-based discount airline Ryanair made waves earlier this week announcing plans to open up Trans-Atlantic routes, at least a dozen of them, at rock-bottom pricing by the end of the decade. It made even bigger headlines four days later, in peculiar and embarrassing fashion, by noting that its board is actually not supporting plans for tickets as cheap as 10 euro (pre-tax) or potentially any concrete plans for Trans-Atlantic routes at all.

After days of dominating the headlines, the discount airline pulled a 180 in a tersely worded press release. It reads, in full, as follows: “In the light of recent press coverage, the Board of Ryanair Holdings Plc wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any Trans-Atlantic project and does not intend to do so.” It was not immediately clarified whether the reversal occurred because Ryanair never had the official support of its board and simply made an error releasing the information or if the reaction since the original announcement was not to the liking of board members, shareholders and other company decision makers. Either way, it’s a big blush for a company already known for a quirky, if not sketchy, reputation. Rumors still persist that Ryanair could launch Trans-Atlantic options under another brand name in the future, but any information about the company’s plans—even those put out in official releases—is hard to take too seriously in the chaotic PR fallout of the odd retraction.

Originally, talk of Ryanair offering Trans-Atlantic flights looked to be a bit of a game-changer for travelers on very tight budgets. However, the impact on business flyers would likely have been muted when compared with other travel classes. Angela Bradbury, a frequent Trans-Atlantic flyer who worked for many years in credit before taking a position as global finance business analyst at Innospec Inc., said the cramped quarters and lack of amenities business travelers need means most would only try it once or twice unless their companies were in the most dire of budget scenarios.

"The biggest complaint in Trans-Atlantic flights is being crowded," said Bradbury, an FCIB conference speaker and former member of its European Advisory Council. "Ryanair is known for crowding people in their planes. Nobody wants to sit in such an area for eight or nine hours."

Val Venable, CCE, director of credit with Ascend Performance Materials, is also a frequent Trans-Atlantic flier who believes business travelers would find problems with the lack of amenities and lack of space would be a deal breaker.

"In many cases, I get on a plane and start working or have to go straight to a meeting when I get off. If I’m in cramped quarters and can’t work or even get some rest, that’s lost productivity," Venable said. Aside from space, long waits and having to pay for virtually every service or amenity, there’s also the consideration that professionals likely won’t be traveling among people with similar considerations.

"What you’re going to have with a lot of families traveling this way is things like animal cracker crumbs rubbed into your sleeve when you’re going straight to a meeting," Venable predicted.

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM managing editor

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