Ryanair might charge potty fee

DUBLIN — Is a bathroom an optional extra when you're at 30,000 feet? Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary seems to think so — and says his no-frills airline might charge customers to use its aircrafts' toilets.

O'Leary whipped up a frenzy of indignation and potty humor Friday as he suggested that future Ryanair passengers might be obliged to insert a British pound coin before they gain access to in-flight relief.

As always when introducing new charges, O'Leary suggested that a separate toilet fee would lower ticket costs and make flying, somehow, easier for all. Nobody, even his own aides, seemed to know whether he was serious or pursuing his well-documented penchant for making brazen declarations to win free advertising.

"One thing we have looked at in the past, and are looking at again, is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might have to actually spend a pound to 'spend a penny' in future," O'Leary said, using a local euphemism for relieving oneself.

Politicians and analysts agreed that the man who pioneered charging airline customers to check bags, to use a check-in desk, and even to use a credit or debit card to make an online booking just might be serious about mile-high toilet extortion, too.

O'Leary's own chief spokesman, Stephen McNamara, said his boss often spoke tongue-in-cheek — but then defended the idea of charging for a toilet as part of a logical trend.

"Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along and, while this has been discussed internally, there are no immediate plans to introduce it," McNamara said, adding, "Passengers using train and bus stations are already accustomed to paying to use the toilet, so why not on airplanes? Not everyone uses the toilet on board one of our flights, but those that do could help to reduce air fares for all passengers."