A JOKE: A guy is in a bar at Heathrow airport when a beautiful woman sits next to him. Intrigued, he says to himself: ‘She must be a flight attendant, but which airline does she work for?’
Having some knowledge of the aviation industry, he leans towards her and utters the Delta slogan: ‘Love to fly and it shows.’ She gives him a blank stare. so he tries another slogan: ‘Something special in the air?’ She gives him the same confused look so he mentally scratches Singapore Airlines from his chat-up list.
Next he tries the Thai Airways slogan, ‘Smooth as Silk,’ he says. This time the woman turns towards him: ‘What the f**k do you want?’
‘Ah!’ says the would-be seducer, triumphantly. ‘You work for Ryanair!’
The moral of the tale is that Ryanair has integrated foul language into its brand awareness strategy with such success that its socially-offensive comments no longer shock the Mothers of Ireland.
Nor do people mind when Ryanair crudely links its cut-price fares and disdain for passengers with lavatories and the expulsion of bodily waste. Indeed, some analysts believe that its self-proclaimed vulgarity actually contributes to hefty profits (€379m last year).
Here are some examples: ‘All our flights are fuelled with Leprechaun wee and my bullshit’ (Michael O’Leary). Or his observation in relation to the way Germans endorse Ryanair’s budget prices: ‘They’ll crawl bollock-naked over broken glass to get low fares.’
Then there’s this: ‘If someone wanted to pay £5 to go the toilet, I’d carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver’ (O’Leary); and ‘I don’t give a shite if nobody likes me.’
Or, his infamous plan to charge for the use of the jacks on board his airplanes: ‘One thing we have looked at is maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future. Pay-per-pee,’ he giggled.
In fact lavatories feature prominently in his speeches. Opening a press conference to announce Ryanair’s annual results, he said: ‘I’m here with our executives but they’re presently making love in the gentleman’s toilets, such is their excitement at today’s results.’
He described the airline industry as being full of ‘bullshitters’; and his opinion of Bertie Ahern, entered the annals of audacious bad taste when he said the then Taoiseach was ‘a gobshite!’
Foul language and the role it plays in Ryanair’s commercial activities is worthy of comment if for no other reason than because our readers want basic prerequisites to remain top of the list when travelling on an airplane. Things like reasonably comfortable seats, foot room, courtesy and assistance from cabin staff, high standards of safety and a public relations service of the kind that Aer Lingus passengers take for granted. Oh, and no rude or offensive words from the people who own the outfit!
Interestingly, it is the scatological content of Ryanair’s utterances that will intrigue Freudian psychologists for some time – at least until the company goes bust or becomes a bad joke.
Scatology is a preoccupation with obscenity and deals with the excretory functions. An interesting example of the role scatology plays in the Ryanair business model was a report in last week’s Sunday Independent concerning a marketing boss. He posted on Facebook a photograph of himself sitting on a toilet bowl, holding a newspaper (the Sindo?) in the place of a toilet roll.
The photograph was accompanied with the caption: ‘Winding down after a “shit happens week”.’ According to the Sindo, the bizarre tweet was posted in jest and was ‘in response to the barrage of coverage … during a week when his (the executive’s) full focus was on re-accommodating Ryanair customers.’ The reference, of course, was to the sudden cancellation of flights that affected thousands of people.
Ryanair, of course, could have got across the message that life is full of unpredictable surprises by means of a simple statement to the media but instead chose a smutty way to do so: a lavatory and a picture of a company executive at stool!
Which raises this question: are future Ryanair flights to be advertised on the basis of poop fetishes and physiological constipation, complete with snaps?
Freud – were he alive – would have been enthralled by Ryanair, categorising its penchant for the scatological as an example of an anal-retention, or what those in the trade refer to as ‘suppressed bowel activity’.
Even more interesting is that Freud would have been kept busy trying to comprehend the intestinal link between Ryanair’s current interest in faeces and the cancelation without notice of 50 flights daily for the next six weeks.
Because, to put matters bluntly, the sudden cancelled flights syndrome is nothing more than an expression of the company’s prerogative to sh*t on its customers whenever it likes!
Of course, we are in no way suggesting that defecation (with the consumer as target) has become a fixation in the commercial life of Ryanair. It’s just a temporary arrangement and in line with The Economist’s assessment that the company richly deserves its reputation for nastiness.
At the heart of the matter is the huge turnover of pilots at Ryanair – some sources claim that 700 left in the last financial year – but not as a result of a ‘mess-up’ about new annual leave systems. The fact is the company cannot replace pilots as fast as they leave and, to make matters worse, pilots again are seeking union recognition and an active engagement from Ryanair in creating better working conditions.
Indeed, the haemorrhaging of so many pilots is very damaging, as is the knock-on effect of 103,000 cancelled flights over the next six weeks.
Is it any wonder, then, that its top execs take to the little room where they photograph themselves, issue silly statements and post the details to the world. They know, as do the dogs in the street, that the repercussion from the flight cancellations is going to be quite specific: namely, that trauma is on its way!
Is it possible for the company to be overwhelmed by trauma? Of course. Trauma, as any Freudian knowledgeable in psycho-babble knows, has an unmistakable affinity with anxiety and can induce hysteria, obsession, unmanageable helplessness, total disintegration and possible annihilation. Yes, annihilation! We’re not kiddin’!
Merger on way?
Certainly, traumatic darts of anxiety are inevitable when shareholders see €1.4bn of Ryanair’s market value erased overnight (the lost profits and compensation costs currently stand in excess of €25m and then there’s the huge reputational damage). All of which, we suggest, points to something more than an intestinal obstruction in the commercial life of Ryanair.
Putting it another way, the company is in for a battering from which there might be no recovery. Could Ryanair eventually be overwhelmed or, God forbid, merged?