Travel | November 25, 2016 9:00 am

No Joke: Ryanair May Offer Free Flights Soon

File under: ‘You get what you pay for’

If you haven’t flown them yet, Ryanair is one of Europe’s best/worst discount airlines. Sure, you can fly between capital cities for $15 — but the amenities are on par with a prison waiting room (read: none) and you’ll pay for anything you need (like checking a bag). Still, though: $15. 

Now, Michael O’Leary, the airline’s controversial CEO who once advocated factoring passengers’ weight into their fare, is back in the news with a new plan to discount tickets — down to literally nothing. Oddly enough, the gambit might actually work.

Ryanair keeps its costs low by landing at second- (or third-) choice airports — you won’t fly to Paris via Charles de Gaulle on Ryanair (equivalent: JFK), or even Orly (equivalent: Newark), but Beauvais (equivalent: a barn in the middle of a field). Those airports love the foot traffic, through their gates and retail shops, and they charge airlines like Ryanair a per-passenger fee to handle the foot traffic — but they could waive that fee if Ryanair made it in their interest to do so. Without Ryanair, Beauvais goes back to being a barn. So why not waive the fee?

Anyone who’s ever flown Ryanair would be surprised to see those savings passed on to the passenger — but few CEOs have as good a sense of marketing as O’Leary does, and nothing says “free press” quite like “free tickets.”