TEXT OF INTERVIEW
SCOTT JAGOW: Ryanair could be coming to the U.S. Yesterday, the CEO of Europe’s biggest low-cost airline said he’s working on a plan. Our European correspondent Stephen Beard joins us from London. Stephen, what does he have in mind?
STEPHEN BEARD: He says that within four years he’s going to launch a low-cost service from Europe to the U.S. and the fares will start for as little as $14 one way.
JAGOW: $14 dollars! So $28 round trip?
BEARD: Indeed. It does actually recall a jibe that an Irish comedian made when Virgin first launched its transatlantic service. He asked, ‘Would you want to fly across the Atlantic with an airline that doesn’t go the whole way?’ I mean it really does pose some big questions. I mean, one should say about Ryanair, that when you look a little closer these flights are not always quite what they seem or as cheap as they seem. There’s only a small percentage usually of the total number of flights that go for that low figure.
JAGOW: But even so, just the idea of being able to fly across the Atlantic for that cheap, how is that possible?
BEARD: There’s no doubt that now as a result of this recent Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Europe to liberalize transatlantic air travel, that low-cost, long-haul transatlantic flights are on their way. Indeed, we’ve already had a small Canadian carrier announcing the first — this is London to New York and it’s going to be one-way including taxes and charges for less than $250. So that’s pretty good.
JAGOW: But how can the airlines offer fares that cheap. Are there seats on the plane?
BEARD: There will be seats, but probably not much else. The big question is: Are passengers gonna go for it? Because you’re gonna keep passengers in their seats virtually without any of the frills as normally associated with air travel for seven, eight, 10 or even more hours.
JAGOW: I’m sorry, frills with airline travel? What are you talking about Stephen? What frills?
BEARD: Oh you don’t use this expression?
JAGOW: Oh we use the expression, we just don’t have any frills. What are you talking . . . Stephen “no frills” Beard from Europe, thanks.
BEARD: Flying by the seat of his pants.
JAGOW: Our correspondent Stephen Beard in London. In Los Angeles, I’m Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.
Prices too good to be true?
SCOTT JAGOW:Flying across the Atlantic Ocean may soon be cheaper than the shuttle bus ride to the airport. An Irish airline is promising a bargain that seems too good to be true. Jill Barshay explains.
JILL BARSHAY: Puckish Ryan Air sells flights in Europe for a single penny. No joke, you can go from London to Barcelona for one cent. So it’s not out of character for the airline to leap into the transatlantic market with an attention-getting $14 fare.
Kieran Daly, editor of Air Transport Intelligence, says Ryan Air can sell tickets cheaply and still make money.
KIERAN DALY: Well, I just flew back from Spain with Ryan Air to London for 34 pence. The way that they’d did that is that they charged me to carry my bags. They charged me extra to carry my sports bag. They got me to pay a ridiculous price for a coffee and a sandwich while I was on the airplane. They are masters at doing that.
But perhaps Ryan Air is a wee bit nervous about taking its ultra-low discounts to America. Instead of investing its own money, it’s going to outside investors and setting up a separate airline. That means it’ll be four years before the cheap seats are airborne.
At least three other discount airlines, including Southwest, say they also plan to offer cheap seats between the U.S. and Europe.
I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.
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