From toilets to Twitter wars: Ryanair and its history of controversies

Offensive adverts, Twitter exchanges and charges - Ryanair has long been a controversial airline

Ryanair has had some controversial ideas over time

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ryanair passengers may have angered hundreds of passengers by cancelling their flights, but it's certainly not the first time the airline has come under fire.

The airline claims several flights are being cancelled due to an error in arranging time off for pilots, and passengers have complained of poor advice about what to do if they can't travel. The Civil Aviation Authority has even started legal action against the company for “persistently misleading passengers."

It's just the latest in a series of controversies for the budget flyer, centring on its unorthodox approach to PR and business development.

Here are some of the most high-profile:


Toilet issues

Back in 2009 the airline suggested charging passengers for using the toilet whilst on board the plane. Chief executive Michael O'Leary said he was considering putting coin slots on the cubicle doors. He told the BBC "people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future."

Yet O'Leary claimed that it wouldn't be an inconvenience as he suggested "I don't think there is anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair craft with less than a pound."

Thankfully for many passengers the airline didn't implement the controversial idea. but it wasn't time the company had an unusual idea surrounding the toilet.

In 2011 Ryanair floated the idea of removing two toilets from the plane to make way for more seats, leaving one toilet to be used by more than 200 people. It was said that the idea would've cut ticket prices even further.


Weight problems

The company's toilet humour (sorry, serious suggestions about water closets) pale in comparison with its idea to charge overweight passengers more for their travel if they invade the space of other passengers.

The suggestion was announced after the results of a poll on the Ryanair website showed a third of passengers wanted overweight people to pay more.


Saucy adverts

The company also came under fire in 2012 for two advertisements it placed in newspapers. They showed women posing in red underwear with the text "Red Hot Fares & Crew! One way from £9.99," but many claimed this objectified women and was sexist.

The Advertising Standards Authority received 17 complaints about the adverts and ruled that they were likely to offend people. It also said they could be seen as a link between female members of the cabin crew and sexually suggestive behaviour.

Ryanair had argued that it had used images from its charity calendar and because the women voluntarily took part in the photoshoot, it couldn't be seen as objectifying women.


Making a hashtag of it

Critics would say this sort of thing is nothing new for the company. In 2013, during a Twitter Q&A, Michael O'Leary replied to a female correspondent "Nice pic. Phwoaaarr!"

He eventually tried to douse the flames of controversy by writing “Just found out what hashtags are. Learning on da job! Always compliment ladies pics."

He was also sent questions such as “What type of people do you enjoy mistreating most? I’m guessing elderly and disabled?” and “Is it company policy for your staff to be rude and unhelpful as possible?"

Safe to say the exercise wasn't a roaring success.

So it's clear the current flight cancellations aren't the first PR disaster for the airline, but could it be the worst Ryanair ever sees? That remains to be seen.