Freelance developer Jason Roe has moved one step closer to winning his next project courtesy of low-cost airline Ryanair, which has amusingly freaked out in public in response to his blog post.

This one looks all set to go the distance, and it’s certainly one for the case study file if you work in online PR.

Jason claimed to have discovered a usability flaw on the Ryanair website that allowed him to book a free flight. He took some screenshots and blogged about it, inviting readers to claim their flights for free. No big deal – we do it all the time. It’s intended to be constructive criticism. 

A bunch of Jasons’ readers duly tried it out, but while they were able to replicate some of Jason’s findings, ultimately none were able to book the flights for free.

No harm done then. 

But wait… somebody at the airline took it a little bit personally. ‘Ryanair Staff #1’ left the following comment, in response to Jason’s post:

“you’re an idiot and a liar!! fact is! you’ve opened one session then another and requested a page meant for a different session, you are so stupid you dont even know how you did it! you dont get a free flight, there is no dynamic data to render which is prob why you got 0.00. what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts they’re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!”

Ryanair Staff #1’s IP address matched that of the company’s headquarters and while it could have been Michael O’Leary we think it’s a bit low on expletives, and humour.

At any rate, Jason responded: 

“Hello Ryanair staffer .. I have not lied, I found a bug in your site that allows a user to see a 0.00 price listed beside a flight. Yes, I have cleared a session, but you have not prevented session jumping! I hope to god a Ryanair management type reads this.”

“Crappy CMS such as wordpress .. its a blog? I put my mobile phone number online as im a freelance developer. At least I provide a phone number on my website, no premium lines here.”

Ryanair Staffer #2 then proceeds to dig a hole, before throwing in the spade and jumping in, only to dig even deeper:

“You didn’t actually discover a bug on bookryanair. You changed some numbers on your own screen tricking yourself into thinking that you could get a free flight, without actually succeeding. Well known for years, and many others have tried it, ending up paying the full price for the flights after all. All good income for Ryanair.”

Ah, a known flaw that generates revenue! Brill.

Ryanair Staff #3 adds:

“Website is not perfect, Life is not perfect… if you would work in your pathetic life on a such big project in a such busy environment with so little resources, you would know that the most important is to have usual user behavior scenarios working rather than spending time on improbable and harmless things.”

This one is being picked up in various quarters, though I should think that WordPress head honcho Matt Mullenweg just blogged about the ‘diss’ has given this the viral factor. 

Maybe it’s just another marketing campaign by Ryanair?

[hat tip to Kevin @ Travolution]