The headline at Mail Online said it all yesterday, as headlines at Mail Online tend to: "Ryanair rakes in record profits as it squeezes more out of customers in add-on fees and in-flight sales". There followed a graphic detailing "sky-high" charges – sky-high, geddit? – such as online bag check-ins, airport bag check-ins and credit card fees. "It will please boss Michael O'Leary and shareholders," the article gushed, "but the passengers who are forced to pay higher ticket prices on top of the airline's infamous swathe of extra charges will be less thrilled."
Indeed they will. Moaning about Ryanair is very fashionable. It's not just Mail Online that likes to stick the proverbial boot into O'Leary, nor even journalists at more refined titles; the last time I walked through Brixton Market I heard two rudeboys lamenting the fact that they had to pay to use the toilet on a flight to Alicante. Late-night chat shows abound with Ryanair horror stories. No pub or dinner party seems safe from a torrent of abuse for O'Leary and his service, what with its yellow Lego seats and pre-recorded safety demonstrations.
Here, then, is a radical thought: Ryanair is surging to record profits because it is giving a lot of people something they really want and can't get cheaper elsewhere. This is called capitalism. It is based on the idea that the unit price of a particular service depends on the balance of supply and demand. What Mr O'Leary has clocked is that there is a lot of demand for cheap air travel, and still not that much supply.
If people really hate Ryanair so much, they should choose another airline. Maybe plenty of them have. But then, maybe plenty of them haven't, because of those old record profits. Given how everybody now knows about these "hidden costs" and can presumably budget for them, it just seems weird to moan about having to pay them, given that there is no legal or moral compulsion to choose Ryanair over any other airline. I know there are tales of awful service, rude attendants and screaming tots but, for what it's worth, in my experience they simply don't exist.
The main complaint I have about people who complain about Ryanair is how spoilt it is. Consider the grand sweep of human civilisation, and what an utterly amazing, inspiring thing it is that low-cost airlines allow poor people to reach other parts of the world so quickly, cheaply, and safely.
That is the real thrill of no frills travel, and if part of the package means paying for a pee, well just shut up and do it. If you don't want to, there's always Air France.