RYANAIR passengers may soon need to cross their legs -- or queue to use one toilet between more than 200 people.
The no-frills airline has dropped its plan to charge passengers for using on-board toilets, but is pressing ahead with proposals to remove two of the three lavatories on each plane and replace them with seats.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said "it would fundamentally lower air fares by about five per cent for all passengers" -- cutting ¤2 from a typical ¤40 ticket.
The airline, which will carry 75 million passengers this year, has only one aircraft type: the Boeing 737-800. Ryanair has installed 189 seats on each plane, the maximum allowed under current rules.
"We're trying to push Boeing to re-certify the aircraft for six more seats, particularly for short-haul flights," said Mr O'Leary, left.
"We very rarely use all three toilets on board our aircraft anyway."
The aircraft manufacturer gave a guarded response. A spokesman at Boeing HQ in Seattle said "We're always listening to what our customers need but don't discuss those conversations or any business decisions."
There is no legal stipulation for an airline to provide toilets on its aircraft. Initially, though, higher-capacity aircraft would be deployed on shorter routes, such as Dublin to Stansted.
The prospect of only one toilet being shared by 195 passengers and six crew caused alarmed in the travel industry.
A spokesman for Abta, the travel association, said "We all know how inconvenient it can be if a toilet on a plane is out of order or the annoyance of queuing if someone has air sickness in one of the cubicles.
"This move could be a step too far in Ryanair's on-going mission to provide a totally no-frills service."
But the aviation consultant John Strickland said the soaring cost of oil could accelerate the process: "High fuel prices are making it difficult for even Ryanair to keep fares low, so anything which helps them to reduce costs is essential.
"Having six more seats on the aircraft would not require more cabin crew and would reduce cost per seat."
Mr O'Leary is used to making headlines when coming up with proposals that will save the airline money.
Last year, he suggested that Ryanair planes could be flown by just one pilot.
He proposed that the company "do away" with the second pilot on the flight deck and be replaced by a fully trained member of the cabin crew.
He has also raised the topic of "vertical seating" on the company's planes -- having passengers standing.
However, many of his suggestions have been dismissed as "PR stunts" by various commentators although his proposal for charging customers €1 for using the toilets gained serious traction last year.