Ryanair, the Irish-headquartered low-cost airline, Europe’s second largest after easyJet, denied Tuesday it is navigating toward a Hoover-style promotional debacle.

Back in 1992, the US-owned consumer durables manufacturer nearly bankrupted its UK operation by offering two free flights to the USA for every £100 ($162.03; €150.60) vacuum cleaner purchased. Over 600,000 buyers claimed their free tickets costing Hoover £48 million.

Now Ryanair’s latest promotion in support of its new credit card, proclaims: “Use the Ryanair credit card once and get a free flight on any of Ryanair's 101 routes across Europe.” The airline confirmed yesterday its offer was genuine: cardholders are entitled to a free return flight, excluding airport taxes, even if they spent as little as £1 on the credit card, which is being launched with US financial services group MBNA Europe.

However, unlike Hoover, Ryanair is not leaving its wallet unzipped. Nestling unobtrusively in the small print the carrier caps the offer at an initial 20,000 free seats. Says director of communications Paul Fitzsimmons: “We have put on 20,000 flights and that is reviewable by us.”

But what if five million folk subscribe to the card? Fitzsimmons ducked, dismissing the question as hypothesis: “That's like asking me if the clouds are made of candyfloss.”

Nevertheless, card-members will be entitled to more free flights if they use the card to buy ten Ryanair rides during a twelve month period. “It’s buy ten, get one free,” said Fitzsimmons.

Data sourced from: Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff