RYANAIR was once again forced to withdraw a controversial advert after infuriating the Spanish Royal Family by using a photo of Queen Sofia without first seeking permission.
The no-frills airline used the queen's image in a Spanish national newspaper campaign after it was revealed she paid €15 to fly to Britain with Ryanair this week.
The half-page advert invited people to "travel like a monarch", adding: "It's a privilege for us that Queen Sofia flies with the biggest growing airline in Spain."
It is the second time Ryanair has provoked criticism in Spain over an advertisement -- in September 2007, the company was forced to withdraw an advert featuring the prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, again without his consent.
The full-page advert, which also ran in the national press, referred to the Spanish government's decision to give mothers €2,500 per newborn. The slogan asked "What is better? Two million free flight seats or €2,500 for every newborn baby?"
The airline has regularly provoked strong reactions with its campaigns -- it was forced to pay out €60,000 to Carla Bruni after featuring the model and her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an advert.
Mr Sarkozy sued for a symbolic €1 in damages, which the court granted. Ms Bruni sought €500,000 but the court awarded her the smaller sum.
Asked if Ryanair had a policy of using photographs of high-profile personalities to gain notoriety, a Ryanair spokesman said that the airline "simply comments on items which are topical, timely and newsworthy".
"In this case we simply wanted to thank the queen for travelling with us -- we didn't highlight it, we simply thanked her," Stephen McNamara said.
"Once again, we apologise if this caused Queen Sofia any offence."
Earlier, a spokeswoman for the Spanish Royal Palace said: "We are upset and surprised. Nobody has approached us (from the airline) about this issue. An image of the queen is being used improperly."
The palace confirmed the queen flew with Ryanair from Santander to Stansted last Sunday to visit her brother Constantine, formerly King Constantine II of Greece, who is recovering from heart surgery in a London hospital.
Meanwhile, Ireland West Airport Knock yesterday launched its first-ever scheduled flights to a European destination outside of UK, with a twice-weekly Ryanair service direct to Alicante International Airport in southern Spain.