In Brief

Ryanair introduces business class fares for first time

It's no joke: budget airline Ryanair aims to shake off its grim image with improved customer service

Ryanair

Airline Ryanair has made a break from its usual cattle-truck image by introducing business class fares for the first time. "Business Plus" tickets will be more flexible than ordinary tickets and come with a free hold bag, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The new tickets will allow one checked-in bag up to 20kg, which would cost as much as £75 on top of a standard fare, and will permit travellers to change to another flight on the same day, or to any airport in the same country, up to 40 mins before departure for no extra charge. Each change might normally cost £90.

The ticket prices will also include priority boarding and access to one of the plane's so-called "premium seats", says the newspaper. These seats normally cost £15 to reserve - although they are not dramatically different from standard seats, having slightly more leg room or being at the front of the plane.

Of course, there's a catch: commentators have been quick to point out that customers trying to buy a Business Plus ticket have to opt in to all of these benefits by ticking the right boxes - if they fail to do so, they will still pay the extra cost but get none of the perks.

The move is part of a raft of measures made by the Irish no-frills carrier in an attempt to make up ground lost against rival EasyJet. Its orange-liveried competitor has made a concerted effort to target business customers since the financial downturn as companies look to trim their expenses.

Other changes announced by Ryanair's grandstanding chief exec Michael O'Leary earlier this year include reducing the steep penalties the airline charges passengers who forget to print their own boarding pass, or otherwise break the rules, and an improved website.

Business class represents a change of heart for O'Leary who has always refused to woo business customers in the past, once observing memorably that a plane "is nothing more than a bus with wings on".

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