By the end of the decade, it may be cheaper to fly from Europe to NYC than it is to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn by automobile. The board of Ryanair, the largest carrier in Europe by volume, yesterday approved a five-year plan to launch transatlantic flights with tickets that could start at just £10 ($14.67 this morning) for flights to the U.S. Meanwhile, the one-way cash toll on the Verrazano Bridge is increasing from $15 to $16 this Sunday.
“Ryanair, which spent the past 18 months revamping its image after admitting its no-frills approach could “piss people off,” is studying plans to fly between about a dozen European and U.S. cities,” Jane Wild writes in Financial Times.
It will be a while before fare wars with established transcontinental airlines commence, however. The Dublin-based carrier’s first problem will be lining up planes able to ferry all those folks already queuing up — albeit in their dreams — for a long weekend in Paree.
“With the airline industry enjoying rapid growth worldwide thanks to burgeoning demand from a rising Asian middle-class, the order books of Boeing Corp. and Airbus NV are fuller than ever. Ryanair said it may have to wait four to five years for planes,” reportsFortune’s Geoffrey Smith.
But it also said it is “in talks with manufacturers about purchasing long-haul aircraft but couldn’t comment further,” Pamela Newenham and Mary Minihan report in Irish Times. The Ryanair statement added: “European consumers want lower-cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market,” the airline said.
Not that it’s a new idea.
“Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, has long hoped to set up a low-cost transatlantic service. The company has, until now, held off as a series of predecessors have tried and failed to make such an idea pay,” The Guardianreports.
The failures include Zoom, which was grounded by high fuel costs in 2008, and Sir Freddy Laker’s Skytrain in the ’70s. More recent attempts are still flying, although at nowhere near the discount Ryanair will purportedly offer. Iceland’s Wow this morning is offering a £188.88 fare between London and Boston via Reykjavik (on April 10, with apparently one seat available; two seats are open on April 16, however). Norwegian Air Shuttle, with its cheapest fares (£389) also “few and far between,” has “plunged … into the red for the first time in eight years,” according to The Guardian.
“We’ve seen what others have done, we’ve listened and observed what’s gone on in the past 12 months and now have a better view on how we’d like to launch it and market it, and what the product would look like,” Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s head of marketing, tells the FT’s Wild.
“To make it pay, Ryanair, an apostle of the cramped, single-class cabin, will have to include a business-class section, which is the most profitable part of the transatlantic business,” The Economistpoints out.
“As these high-worth passengers demand flexibility, it will also need a fleet of as many as 50 planes to make a serious assault. All of which means that the airline that flies across the pond is likely to be very different to that which currently traverses the English Channel.”
It may even have a different name — “O’Leary is worried that a brand that is both divisive in Europe and little-known in America will be a drag on success” — The Economist states.
Indeed, it will “need to contend with the challenge of brand recognition in the U.S.,” as Nicola Clark observes in the New York Times, where it has recently launched a website with fares displayed in dollars.
“While Ryanair’s website says it serves ‘thousands’ of American travelers across its vast European network, that figure is a tiny fraction of the 89 million passengers it carried in the last year,” Clark reports. “You are basically starting from zero there,” Peter Morris, chief economist at London aviation consulting firm Ascend, tells her.
The Daily Mail has a different take on the news, forging its lede from some tweets: “Air travelers today lampooned Ryanair's plans to offer £10 transatlantic flights by suggesting they may have to stand, pay to use the toilet or even parachute into America because it is so cheap,” Martin Robinson reports, while later granting that there’s was “a largely positive reaction online to the proposed transatlantic expansion.”
Robinson also reports: “In November Ryanair's profits soared by 32% and its loud-mouth boss Michael O'Leary admitted: ‘Being nice to our customers is a new and winning strategy.’”
Imagine that. Now imagine a Saturday evening stroll along the Seine. No doubt, many are.