Ryanair launches corporate jet service
Ryanair has taken its move upmarket to a whole new level by launching a corporate jet service.
The budget airline will offer fine dining on a Boeing 737-700 jet refitted to carry 60 passengers on reclining leather business class seats. A spokesman said the plane can be hired by the hour, with the “competitive” rate depending on the cost of using the arrival and departure airports.
The average Ryanair fare is €47 one-way, whereas a 60 seater private jet from London to Geneva charges about £33,000 – or £550 a head – for a return day trip.
Ryanair said the jet would be “ideal for private corporate, sports team or group travel”. Asked if Ryanair would accept bookings from stag and hen parties, a spokesperson said the carrier was “happy to provide quotes for any groups”. The service can operate flights of up to six hours duration, which puts it within reach of north Africa, Turkey and Israel.
A Ryanair spokesman said: “More than 25 million business travellers fly with Ryanair every year … Now, business and group travellers can also enjoy the benefits of Ryanair’s corporate jet service, as we offer a customised Ryanair Boeing 737-700 for private charter.”
The cost for prospective hen or stag dos runs into hundreds of pounds per head. PrivateFly, a charter service, recently flew a hen party to Paris on an eight-seater King Air plane for a day trip that cost £350 a head.
Carol Cork, sales and marketing director at PrivateFly, said Ryanair would be able to undercut other private jet operators because it has stronger buying power on fuel and airport landing fees. But, she added that Ryanair faced a bigger problem in handling the service at airports and providing good catering.
She said Ryanair had got the timing right, with the European football championship taking place this summer. “This is where you would see much more demand,” she said.
She added that Ryanair could decide to configure its aircraft to tap into the VVIP market – by adding millionaire-friendly touches such as fish tanks and grand pianos.
The move is Ryanair’s latest attempt to revamp its image and move more upmarket. The Irish carrier was slower than its rival easyJet in launching a business service. It introduced “business plus” fares in mid-2014 which offer flexible tickets, more check-in baggage, priority boarding and “premium” seats for quick boarding or passengers seeking extra legroom.
Ryanair has also introduced reserved seating and relaxed cabin bag restrictions for all passengers, after its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, realised that being “nice” to customers would pay off.
PrivateFly’s Cork noted that Ryanair’s fleet was newer than some of the other converted Boeing 737s used in the market. She estimated the cost per flying hour at £8,000 to £9,000, plus landing and handling fees, while smaller private jets cost from £1,500 an hour to charter. Private jet charter firm Hunt & Palmer charges £56,000 for a three-day trip from London to Rome, Berlin and Paris on a 45-seater Boeing 737. London to Malaga, with a one night stop, costs £49,000.
David Doughty, sales director at Private Jet Charter, said the pricing would depend on the aircraft, because some private jets have showers and bedrooms.
One of the more memorable trips he recalled was flying a dog to Jersey from Bournemouth as a Christmas present for a customer’s young son. “His dog had died and his best friend had died from leukaemia, so his mother tried to cheer him up.” That trip cost £8,500.