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Ryanair… The Way to Travel in Europe?

For those of you who studied abroad, everyone knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to booking a weekend getaway. You want to find the cheapest hostel in the best location, hit the best bars and clubs, eat local delicacies, and most importantly, find the most efficient mode of transportation for getting there. Living in Prague for four months, I traveled mostly in Central and Eastern Europe,often relying ontrains and buses to get me to and from Praha Hlavni Nadrazi (Prague’s main station – see below for a picture) to Berlin, Munich, Krakow and Vienna. But, flying was a whole other booking strategy. The cheapest airlines that everyone used included, Wizzair, Smart Wings, EastJet and the infamous Ryanair. Although I never flew on Ryanair, I knew that the company has faced an array of scandals and controversies over the years and decided to dig a little deeper.

I was purposely looking for ethical issues that plagued the company in regards to employee relationships or hidden fees, which they have had issues with both in the past. However, I was unaware of the sexist advertisements they have produced over the years. As evident by my previous post about John Stewart Mills and Feminism, I am passionate about women’s rights and the study of women’s history. So, when I first saw a few of the print advertisements Ryanair had publicized, I was disgusted by the degrading and negative portrayal of the lingerie wearing woman used in the ads. In the case of one particular ad, which was launched in December of 2011, Ryanair depicts a stewardess as a model on a cover of a racy magazine. To me, it seems as if the airline was equating their stewardess to Playboy models. The pictures were taken from Ryanair’s charity calendar that is produced yearly. Executives have said that the charity calendar has been published for the past five years and they were going to continue to encourage employees to take off their clothes to raise money for the less fortunate.

According to the article, “’Sexist” Ryanair Ad Faces Inquiry,” a flight attendant for the airline has led a campaign to ban the advertisement. She stressed that the company is portraying their flight attendants as glamorous models and that their role as stewardess is to protect passengers, not to be seen as sex objects. The Advertising Standards Authority has also received numerous complaints from the general public about how the ad not only objectifies women but also degrades female cabin crewmembers. When scanning the advertisement, I could not help but think about Stakeholder Theory and how a company’s survival depends on management’s ability to balance on their stakeholders. How could Ryanair encourage its employees to take off their clothes and then use the pictures for national advertisements? Why hasn’t Ryanair management stopped publishing the calendar and or using the pictures for newspaper advertisements if it degrades their own employees? Although I understand the airline is inexpensive, why would women want to fly the airline if it degrade their own gender?


About Dana Silverstein

I am a Senior Management and History major at Bucknell University. I currently live in Westchester, New York and am hoping to start a career in advertising upon graduation.


5 thoughts on “Ryanair… The Way to Travel in Europe?

  1. Dana, the advertisement really shocked me! When I saw the title of the article I really thought that there would be ethical issues with hidden charges as you had mentioned. I had no idea that this advertisement existed, and I have flown many times in Europe on Ryanair. The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was that it looked very old. In fact, it seems to bring back old stereotypes of the typical stewardess. In shows like Pan Am the existence of past strict regulations for women’s height and weight measurements and stereotypes for women is very evident. I thought that most of these were no longer existent, but it seems that Ryanair has decided to bring them up again. I wonder why they would think to make this advertisement? If anything, it is going to make people shy away from flying on this airline. It would be interesting to see how they defend it.

    Posted by alyssakinell | February 13, 2012, 9:48 pm
  2. Really interesting article on this airline. Having not gone abroad and therefore never experiencing the trials and tribulations of inexpensive European airline travel, I was pretty appalled to see the advertisement as well. From purely a scholarly perspective, though, it’s definitely an intriguing ad campaign because of the different approach to marketing Ryanair takes. Just as Alyssa touched on, it reminded me of the 1960’s and 70’s stereotypes that stewardesses went through. However, this ad by Ryanair seemed to further these stereotypes and further degrade women. Having friends who went abroad, I’ve actually heard of their stories of Ryanair and how cheap it was. In the ad I see that they use it as a selling point, but I don’t see the need to use sex as a selling point. Ryanair is known for being cheap, and I would suspect that sells itself. With regards to the marketing of sex, I wonder how many women have not taken flights on Ryanair because of these racy ads. I would think a lot!

    Posted by Ben K. | February 14, 2012, 6:38 pm
  3. Dana, for starters – great topic choice for this week. I flew Ryanair many times during my study abroad in Europe and have had many interesting conversations with people about their safety, their hidden fees, and their overall business model, but little did I know that they were a sexist company as well! I think this relates a bit back to the post I wrote last week about Apple products. I read a blog about someone who claimed that they would switch their loyalties away from Apple if they learned that another company had more ethical labor practices. I think a similar question is applicable to this scenario – Ben claims that a lot of women would refuse to travel on Ryanair beause of their racy ads, but I wonder if this is really the case. I think the morality of the consumer is something very interesting to consider. Ryanair is dirt cheap and an efficient way to travel all through Europe. While I would like to think that many people would refuse to travel this airline because of their anti-feminist tendancies, I regret to say that I don’t think this is true for the majority as a result of the perceived benefits they are acquiring from the airline. While I don’t think this is ethically right, I think it is an unfortunate reality.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | February 14, 2012, 9:07 pm
  4. When I first looked at the pictures you posted before reading your article I would not have guessed that the advertisement with the woman was for an airline. I was really confused why a half-naked woman was promoting this airline when airlines are about traveling safely and conveniently at a cheap price. I have to agree with you that I would not travel on this airline as woman due to the degrading advertisement that is irrelevant to the company. I don’t think that an airline can make you feel “sexy” so in this case sex sells definitely does not apply.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | February 14, 2012, 9:41 pm


  1. Pingback: Best of Stuff Week! The Stuffiest of the Stuff!, or, um, Something Like That « business government society 2 - February 21, 2012

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