Charging to pee at 30,000 feet

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One of the glories of living in the U.S. is not having to pay to go the restroom. In communist-loving, potty-hating Europe, charging someone to go to the bathroom is a common practice. A friend who lived in Italy surmised that it's the reason Europeans prefer tiny espressos to giant cups of coffee.

But now, the Irish have gone a step farther. Budget airline Ryanair has asked Boeing to add credit-card readers to toilets. Airlines have become notorious for trying to finagle every extra penny, but this is ridiculous. It's extortion!

The chief executive for Ryanair is an outlandish Irishman named Michael O'Leary. He gave the British newspaper The Guardian a hilarious if unsettling interview on the subject of "pay-per-pee," implying that for five pounds he'd help customers personally.

O'Leary, who has invented many add-on fees, studied airlines in America. He modeled Ryanair after budget carrier Southwest, which announced yesterday that it's letting small pets fly in cabins for $75. Southwest described it as "one of several initiatives aimed at generating new revenues."

As for Ryanair, it has yet to charge for seat-belts, vomit bags and oxygen. Don't rule them out.

(Image via Flickr: Travelin' Librarian)

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