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NY to London: Ten bucks?

The king of super-cheap European airlines says it can offer trans-Atlantic flight for $10 or 10 euros, as soon as it gets the right airplanes. Bombshell, bait-and-switch or BS publicity stunt? Color me skeptical.

Among your traveling friends, you may hear some buzz about this:

Ireland-based Ryanair, the McDonald’s of European short-haul, low-fare airlines, says it’s looking to jump into the trans-Atlantic game as soon as it acquires the right aircraft.

When that happens, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary is telling people the airline could offer fares between the United States and Europe for what the British would call “a tenner.”

New York City to London: $10. London to New York: 10 euro.

Are you packing yet?

The attraction is obvious. Let’s face it, we Americans are addicted to all things cheap. If Walmart had wings, we’d probably fly it.

But before you start booking five-star hotels off Piccadilly Circus or the Champs Elysee with all the money you save on your $10 airfare, slow your roll for a moment.

This is one of those guaranteed conversation starters from an airline that specializes in generating buzz about itself. Reality says this is not going to happen in a matter of weeks or months, if it happens at all.

And if it does, you may want to think twice about going, anyway.

Because while we may love cheap, we don’t love suffering — and nowadays, to fly is to suffer.

Even on airlines that don’t make you pay extra for seats that recline…which Ryanair does.

Indeed, when it comes to Ryanair, you need to look long and hard at what you get — and don’t get — for the money.

Remember the old folk tale about “stone soup?” That’s pretty much the Ryanair approach to airfares. If anything, they pioneered that approach.

By the time you finish paying extra fees for using a credit card to book your flight, making a reservation over the phone, actually choosing your seat, checking a bag or buying a seat comfortable enough to sit in for seven hours, that $10 trans-Atlantic airfare of yours may have ballooned by 30 or 40 times.

Should you opt for a Premium Economy or Business Class seat, you’ll probably wind up paying the same fare as you would have on most other airlines, anyway.

Furthermore, that initial $10 fare is likely to be one-way only. Good luck trying to get a return flight for that price, or anything close to it.

The cattle car approach to air travel might be bearable for an hour or two. How about seven? That’s roughly how long it takes to cross the Atlantic by air.

And this is the airline that actually floated the idea of installing pay toilets on its airplanes and airliners flown by a single pilot.

Still, if the Irish airline could pull that off and sustain it, it would turn a large part of the air travel world upside down.

Mr. O’Leary is in the habit of floating radical ideas publicly, either to gauge public reaction or just to keep the Ryanair name — and his own — in the news. As such, it’s hard to tell when he’s serious about one of these off-the-wall proposals and when he’s just pulling our seatbelts.

The flying public seems to be equally ambiguous when it comes to Ryanair. On the one hand, they’re among the largest air carriers in Europe, obviously they’re doing some things right.

Still, when the London-based newspaper The Telegraph asked its readers in an online survey “Would you fly to the States with Ryanair?,” about 65 percent said “No.”

Maybe we Americans aren’t the only ones addicted to cheap.

Ryanair: Can a sweatshop have wings?
Will GOD be our co-pilot?
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