There is no scrum at the boarding gate and enough legroom to tap dance in. This is Ryanair, but not as we know it.
With the tap of plastic champagne flutes, the Irish airline’s new corporate jet service embarked on its maiden voyage on Tuesday, with a short hop from London Gatwick to its spiritual home in Dublin. And for €5,000 (£4,000) an hour you too can live like a Ryanair VIP.
There’s no shower or Austin Powers-style gyrating bed but you and 59 of your best mates can swap the overpriced paninis, Pringles and soft drinks of cattle class to party on your personal Ryanair plane.
For a price the budget airline will even lay on “fine dining”, which for its first outing was a smorgasbord of fruit salad – complete with 1970s-style melon balls – smoked salmon and pastries and copious amounts of fizz, albeit prosecco rather than champagne.
The 737-700 has been refurbished with 15 rows of plush leather seats. With two seats where there would normally be three, there is plenty of elbow room. And the 48in seat pitch – airline speak for extra legroom – means even the most enthusiastic “manspreader” can relax without invading his travelling companion’s personal space.
With an army of stewardesses clad in the airline’s smart blue tailored uniforms, complete with orange cravats and tight hair buns, if you half close your eyes you might think for a minute you were in business class on British Airways. There is limited Ryanair branding on board and the migraine-inducing yellow has been replaced with chic navy.
And no one even tried to sell any of Tuesday’s passengers a scratchcard during the flight. But if you want to get a feel for what it’s like to be Posh and Becks, wafting through international airports without ever being asked to join a queue or take off your shoes, this service probably isn’t it.
Departure gate 14 at Gatwick looked suspiciously like the one Ryanair flights normally depart from and ground staff seemed to have missed the memo explaining we were all VIPS.
Ryanair believes the service will be popular with groups of friends travelling to sports events as well as schools and stag and hen parties. Pampered executives, used to gilded business class services, might not be tempted to trade down as there is still a budget feel to proceedings due to the disposable cutlery and plastic glasses.
The toilet cubicle is decked out with a posy of flowers but the effect is spoiled somewhat by the company issue Ryanair handwash, which triples as a moisturiser and air freshener.
Future customers will, however, have to move fast: for the time being Ryanair is devoting only one plane to the service and in the summer months, the luxury jet will be rapidly refitted as a standard aircraft to carry holiday-makers on packed European routes.