Ryanair is overhauling its no-frills model to put its fleet to work as private jets, complete with fine-dining catering and spacious seating. Olivia Palamountain reports

Ryanair is the latest airline to pivot its business model in an attempt to offset the impact of the pandemic. The Irish low-cost carrier is promoting the use of its planes to wealthy individuals, celebrities and sports stars via a corporate jet service for groups of up to 60 people on board one of its Boeing 737 jets.

Ryanair promises clients “guaranteed competitive pricing”, with a “value” option also on offer, catering to larger groups of up to 189 people for journeys of up to six hours. There are also “fine-dining options” labelled bronze, silver and gold, priced from €15 to €45 per person.

The seating is also upgraded – rather than cramped rows of 3-3 seating, Ryanair is installing all-business class leather seats in a 2-2 configuration, with 48 inches of legroom (compared with 30 inches in economy on commercial flights).Ryanair corporate jet charterIt is not specified whether these large groups would need to provide evidence of a business exemption in order to travel from the UK but Globetrender assumes that to be the case, given the current ban on holidays.

“Large groups can avail of Boeing 737-800s through chartered services with a fleet of over 480 aircraft across 78 European bases,” Ryanair says in a letter to prospective clients.

A spokesman for Ryanair is reported in The Telegraph as saying: “Ryanair has been operating private charter services since February 2016 and has enjoyed considerable demand from our loyal clients who enjoy an unbeatable Ryanair corporate jet service at excellent rates.

“Most recently, Ryanair secured charter services for a number of professional sports clients including the PRO-14, ECPR and several European football clubs, transporting them safely to their away matches throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.”

While the airline is no stranger to charters, providing corporate jet services four five years, travel restrictions have hit the aviation sector hard and Ryanair is said to be amplifying this offering in the hope of offsetting the damage.

Fewer than 1.25 million passengers flew with the Irish carrier in January compared with 10.8 million last year. Reports suggest this could fall to 500,000 in February and March. Ryanair is predicted to make an loss of €1 billion (£880 million) in the year leading up to March 2021.

Private jet companies are one of the only subsectors of the aviation industry that have managed to stay afloat – and in many cases thrive – thanks to the pandemic.

During this time, Globetrender has seen “germaphobia” accelerate demand for private travel, ultra-exclusive escape collaborations between private charter providers and resorts, and amplified offerings for round-the-world itineraries via private jet. Read more about a further six key private jet travel trends that have emerged since March last year and identified by Globetrender here.

London-listed Signature Aviation, which provides ground services to specialist charters, recently agreed to a £3.4bn takeover swoop from Global Infrastructure Partners, the former owner of Gatwick Airport, The Telegraph reports.

London-listed Air Partner has reported that profits would be ahead of expectations. Mark Briffa, Air Partner chief executive, says: “Enquiries to our UK private jets division have grown during the pandemic, as high net worth customers seek to avoid busy airports and commercial flights.

“We’ve also seen clients choosing private jets for the flexibility and certainty they can bring when travel restrictions are in place. However, the UK’s current border restrictions are constraining all passenger movements, although we expect private jet travel to take off again once these restrictions are lifted.”

What’s coming next? Trend reports available to download HERE