Certain other bloggers think they’ve got the market cornered on premium class trip reports. Well, I think readers should get more than just one viewpoint of who has the best seat or who offers the best service or which carriers serve the best Krug. Business class is more than just Krug!
So when I had the opportunity to fly a business class product that hadn’t been reviewed by these certain other bloggers, I decided it was a premium opportunity (see what I did there?) to get ahead of the curve and bring the experience to you, my loyal Travel Codex readers. Because how can you know what the world’s greatest business class products are like if you haven’t truly experienced the world’s ultra-greatest business class product?
I’m talking, of course, about Ryanair Business Plus.
I know, I know, Ryanair is not known for having a high-end customer experience. They’re an ultra low cost European airline who might be best described as “Spirit Airlines without all the luxury.” Ryanair currently sports a rating of 4 out of 10 on airlineratings.com where you can read some of the positive customer feedback such as “When asked for a reason, customer service replied: ‘that does not matter’” and “they led us out on the tarmac and made us wait in the pouring rain for 5 minutes before they let us board the plane. Other than that, it was lovely.”
But Ryanair is an actual airline with actual planes and they actually sell a ticket called Business Plus. So I decided to actually review it.
OK, seriously, stop laughing. It’s starting to make me feel bad.
Going for the upgrade!
My reason for flying Ryanair in the first place is that I needed a positioning flight from Dublin to Cologne, and Ryanair was charging $33 for a nonstop flight while everyone else wanted over $200 to go through Austria (which, by the way, is near neither Dublin nor Cologne). I knew Ryanair likes to tack on fees for every little thing, but after my previous success in avoiding the fee-a-thon of Spirit Airlines (see “Devil’s Advocate Trip Review: Spirit Air A319 Las Vegas to LAX“), I was confident I could keep the charges to a minimum.
But when I clicked onto ryanair.com to purchase my ticket, imagine my surprise to be offered a discounted upgrade!
I mean, how lucky was I to have been booking on the one magical day where I could get up to €30 off a Business Plus ticket? Granted, there was no mention of what the normal price of Business Plus is, and after further research I discovered that every day of the year appears to be “today only!” when it comes to the €30 discount. But still… a discount is a discount, right?
Besides, after clicking through, I found that the Business Plus upgrade was only going to cost me an extra €16 above the economy price, which with the current post-Brexit exchange rates is about 82 American cents.
Also, purchasing Business Plus generally exempts you from most of the insidious Ryanair fees. So how could I say no?
A brief tangent…
But since Ryanair knows they’re not going to be able to fee you to death once you buy Business Plus, they do take the opportunity during the checkout process to try and squeeze in one quick unwarranted upcharge. I am speaking of the Dynamic Currency Conversion ripoff, which I’ve written about before.
DCC is a con job currently being run by a number of overseas banks and travel companies under the guise of “customer convenience,” which in this case translates to “getting hosed.” Basically, the travel company offers the “convenience” of billing you in your home currency instead of the foreign currency. What they don’t mention is the cost of this “convenience” is a ginormous markup on the conversion rate.
Ryanair is practicing the DCC hustle with the best of them. As you can see, I had the option of being billed €45.89 in euros (and being warned I would be subject to my bank’s “daily fluctuations”)…
…or Ryanair would be happy to charge my card in US dollars for a total cost of $55.43.
Actual currency conversion rate in effect at the time? Around 1.13 dollars per euro. What Ryanair was offering was a conversion rate of 1.21 dollars per euro. Meaning when I insisted on being charged in euros and letting Citibank do the conversion, I only got charged $51.53, almost $4 less than if I had let Ryanair play their DCC game. So in this case, not using DCC was like having an 8% cashback card.
Consider this a public service announcement, folks – do NOT under any circumstances consent to Dynamic Currency Conversion. Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, of which there are tons. Or heck, just eat the 3% transaction fee. It’s still cheaper than the DCC screw job.
Business Plus check in and security
Since my extra €16 meant I was now an elite Ryanair customer, I decided I was going to take advantage of all the perks. For instance, normally on Ryanair if you don’t check in online and need to print your boarding pass at the airport, the airline charges a small fee to do so… of €70.
No, that’s not a typo. Seventy euros to get a boarding pass at the airport if you haven’t checked in beforehand. Spirit Airlines thinks they know how to charge exorbitant fees? Hmmmph. Let the Irish show you how it’s done, Spirit.
However, as a Business Plus elite, I was entitled to have my boarding pass printed at the airport completely free of charge. So even though I could have easily printed it at home, you’d better believe I was going to do it at the airport for no reason other than that I could.
The desk agent was very quick and professional and in just a few minutes had me all checked in. She reminded me that I was eligible for Priority Boarding and underlined it twice on my boarding pass. She also reminded me that I could use the Fast Track lane at security, and since that wasn’t printed anywhere on my boarding pass, she wrote it in. Finally, she emphasized several times that boarding would be completed and the gate closed at 11:40am, even though that would be a full half hour before departure, and she gave that a circle to indicate its importance.
Feeling pretty high and mighty, I proceeded to security where I had absolutely zero luck finding the Fast Track lane. Perhaps it’s like Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books and if I had just run straight at the metal detector between lanes 2 and 3, I would have found myself in the Fast Track lane. Or more likely arrested and deported.
In any case, with the clock ticking, I decided not to test the limits of international law and reluctantly joined the Ryanair ham ‘n’ eggers in the normal security line. It actually moved along rather well. Note that these international security lines are virtually identical to the ones that Delta recently claimed to have “innovated” for ATL at a cost of $1 million. Only in the airline industry does copying someone else’s idea cost a million bucks.
The Priority boarding process
Upon arriving at the gate, I was very pleased to see the passengers were separated into two lines. I was even more pleased to see the lines were designated simply as “Priority” and “Other.”
I quickly got into the Priority line and as far away from the “Others” as possible and then waited for boarding to begin, which I assumed would happen with due haste since it had to be over by 11:40am.
Except that at 11:40am, the plane had yet to show up. Nor was it there at 11:45am. Or 11:50am. Or 11:55am. Nor was any announcement made about this fact. If I had known things would run this late, I might have made a sprint into the metal detector after all.
Finally a few minutes before noon, the incoming plane arrived and the passengers disembarked in a manner I would charitably describe as “uncontrolled chaos.”
People appeared to be wandering the Dublin tarmac of their own accord in a vain attempt to find their checked luggage, which I’m guessing is simply thrown off the plane during landing unless you’ve paid the extra “baggage claim delivery fee.”
Finally, after a few more minutes, boarding for the Priority group was announced. Our boarding passes were scanned and our passports checked, and then we were brought as an elite group to… the stairwell. Where we waited bunched together for warmth for another 15 minutes.
Eventually we were allowed out of the stairwell and onto the plane, where I could finally settle into my Business Plus seat.
The hard product and IFE system
The normal Ryanair economy seat is in a 3×3 configuration with blue faux-leather upholstery, no ability to recline, and limited legroom. It looks like this…
But the Ryanair Business Plus seat is in a 3×3 configuration with blue faux-leather upholstery, no ability to recline, and slightly more legroom. It looks like this…
Yes, to the untrained eye, these seats may seem identical. But if you look closely, you can see that the Business Plus seats cost more. And that’s the Ryanair difference.
All seats on Ryanair feature an extremely limited inflight entertainment system embedded in the seat back. There is precisely one program available, but that one program is in ultra high definition “non-motion” and recounts the fascinating story of a family that managed to survive the crash of a 737-800.
The soft product
There were four flight attendants on this flight, all of whom were very attentive to my needs, so long as my needs included buying something. This even involved handing out a perfume catalog to each and every passenger at the beginning of the flight. Yes, a perfume catalog.
I’m not sure exactly what this says about Ryanair’s opinion of the odor of their clientele, but I will note that my catalog was more than a little bit wet at the bottom. I’m not sure what that says about me either.
Also, one of the Ryanair flight attendants provided what very well may have been the greatest announcement I have ever heard in all my years of flying. Right before takeoff, this flight attendant got on the P.A. and made (in English) the following exact announcement which I swear I am not making up:
“If you have an allergy to nuts, we kindly ask you not to consume any nuts while on board.”
Oh, sure, you may think this warning is absurd, but I ask you… how many completely idiotic warning labels have you seen in the United States stating what should be totally obvious to anyone with half an ounce of intelligence but still needs to be specifically noted in writing. You know, like this…
Clearly we have exported another great American invention: the fear of frivolous litigation.
In flight dining
Finally, what Business class review would be complete without photos of the dining service? Here is a picture of the drink that was included in my Business Plus ticket…
I considered requesting a Pinot Grigio instead, since I knew it would be crisp, but I didn’t want to insult my Irish hosts when they had gone out of their way to provide a drink that would undoubtedly be complimentary to the meal that followed, which is pictured below…
Both the appetizer and main course were very light, almost to the point of being non-existent. But I assume that was due to it being a short flight, so I sat back and simply listened to my stomach rumble.
The Devil’s Advocate suggests passing on the Ryanair Business Plus upgrade.
OK, so Ryanair Business Plus is obviously not an actual cabin, but simply the branding for a pre-determined package of Ryanair add-on services which are normally sold a la carte. If you actually needed to take advantage of all these options – such as a checked bag which I didn’t have on this trip, or a significantly more flexible ticket – then it might very well be worth the minor upcharge for Business Plus to avoid getting dinged for those items separately.
But if you’re thinking Business Plus means Business Class, you’re bound to be disappointed. It’s the same seat, the same service, the same charges for food and drink, and so on. They don’t even block the middle seat, so you’re not going to get any additional space to rest your arms.
But hey, at least they’ll smell nice after you put on some of that Ryanair perfume (*not included).Devil’s Advocate is a bi-weekly series that deliberately argues a contrarian view on travel and loyalty programs. Sometimes the Devil’s Advocate truly believes in the counterargument. Other times he takes the opposing position just to see if the original argument holds water. But his main objective is to engage in friendly debate with the miles and points community to determine if today’s conventional wisdom is valid. You can suggest future topics by following him on Twitter @dvlsadvcate or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Recent Posts by the Devil’s Advocate:
- A New and Better Way To App-O-Rama
- Three Reasons NOT to Privatize the TSA (#garyleffiswrong)
- Is It Time To Dump TSA PreCheck and Get a Clear Membership?
Find the entire collection of Devil’s Advocate posts here.