Low-budget Ryanair launches business-class tickets

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Low-budget Ryanair launches business-class tickets
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary holds a scaled replica of an airplane as he meets the media to present new Italian routes in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Jan.26, 2010. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
ARCHIV - Ryanair-Chef Michael O'Leary, rechts, zeigt auf eine Torte mit einem Flugzeugmodell am 18. Maerz 2009 in Bruessel. O'Leary laesst trotz Spotts und heftiger Kritik nicht von seiner Idee ab, Fluggaeste fuer den Gang zur Bordtoilette zur Kasse zu bitten. "Wir diskutieren zurzeit mit Boeing, wie man an den Tueren Muenzgeraete fuer einen Euro oder Schlitze zum Durchziehen der Kreditkarte anbringen kann", sagte O'Leary dem "Spiegel", veroeffentlicht am Samstag, 27. Juni 2009. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo,file) **ZU APD8294** ----FILE - CEO of Ryanair Michael O'Leary, right, gestures as he points to a cake and a toy airplane during a media conference in Brussels, Wednesday March 18, 2009. Ryanair announced on Wednesday further expansion of its Brussels (Charleroi) base with the addition of one new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and four new routes. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo,file)
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary speaks during a media conference in Brussels on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. The press conference was held to reveal new destinations and options for passengers on board. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary holds up boxes wrapped as Christmas presents with new destinations during a media conference in Brussels on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. The press conference was held to reveal new destinations and options for passengers on board. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary poses for photographers prior to a press conference given in Marseille, southern France, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary holds a plain scaled replica as he meets the media to present new Italian routes in Milan, Italy, Monday, Jan. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Ryanair Chairman Michael O'Leary is seen during a press conference given in a hotel in Brussels, Tuesday Oct.5, 2010. Ryanair called for the EU Commission to remove the "right to strike" from essential air transport services. At the same time, Ryanair Chairman Michael O'Leary celebrated with a cake Ryanair's 20th million passengers traveling from Brussels South Airport in Charleroi. The lady posing along Michael O'Leary is Melissa Milioto, Public Relations Communication Executive of Ryanair at Brussels South Charleroi Airport. (AP Photo/ Thierry Charlier)
Chief Executive of Ryanair Michael O'Leary speaks during an interview after a press conference in London, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Too often for customers, it's been the Ryanair Ordeal. Now Europe's no-frills airline leader, renowned for forsaking service in favor of the cheapest fares, is hoping to improve its love-hate relationship with customers by offering them fewer tears in exchange for their trip. On Wednesday the airline's famously rude chief, Michael O'Leary, unveiled a company initiative billed as "The Ryanair Experience." (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Low Cost airline Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary reacts during a media conference outlining EU rules preventing EU staff from using budget airlines, in Brussels, Thursday, March 29, 2012. Ryanair is criticizing the European Union for allegedly discriminating against low-fare airlines and favoring national flag carriers. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
Chief Executive of Ryanair Michael O'Leary during a press conference in London, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Too often for customers, it's been the Ryanair Ordeal. Now Europe's no-frills airline leader, renowned for forsaking service in favor of the cheapest fares, is hoping to improve its love-hate relationship with customers by offering them fewer tears in exchange for their trip. On Wednesday the airline's famously rude chief, Michael O'Leary, unveiled a company initiative billed as "The Ryanair Experience." (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A passenger jet seen after sliding off the runway, at Prestwick Airport, Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. The Ryanair plane skidded on to the grass moments after landing at Prestwick Airport. No one was injured police said. (AP Photo)
Chief Executive of Ryanair Michael O'Leary poses for a photograph after a press conference in London, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Too often for customers, it's been the Ryanair Ordeal. Now Europe's no-frills airline leader, renowned for forsaking service in favor of the cheapest fares, is hoping to improve its love-hate relationship with customers by offering them fewer tears in exchange for their trip. On Wednesday the airline's famously rude chief, Michael O'Leary, unveiled a company initiative billed as "The Ryanair Experience." (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
CEO of Ryanair Michael O'Leary, right, gestures as he pretends to bite a toy airplane during a media conference in Brussels, Wednesday March 18, 2009. Ryanair announced on Wednesday further expansion of its Brussels (Charleroi) base with the addition of one new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and four new routes. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
A Ryanair jet takes off from Belfast City Airport, Northern Ireland, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Budget airline Ryanair launched a new takeover bid Monday for Aer Lingus, seeking to capitalize on labor unrest at its Irish rival and Ireland's economic difficulties. Cash-rich Ryanair Holdings PLC said it would pay euro 1.40 (USD 1.8; GBP 1.17) a share for 70 percent of Aer Lingus Group PLC, a 25 percent premium over Monday's opening stock price. Ryanair initially tried to acquire Aer Lingus two years ago and already is the airline's biggest shareholder with a 30 percent stake. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary talks to the Globe and Mail at his headquarters at Dublin Airport, Ireland, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A Ryanair aircraft is shown at the Berlin Schoenefeld airport, in this undated photo. Europe's largest low-cost airline Ryanair said Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007 it wants to increase routes to two of Milan's airports.Ryanair said it plans to invest US$1.2 billion (860 million) to open routes at Milan's main international airport, Malpensa, and expand its presence at the low-cost hub Orio al Serio. The company will discuss its offer in a meeting with Malpensa officials on Friday. (AP Photo)
Michael O'Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair Holdings Plc., gestures as he speaks during the airline's news conference in London, U.K., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Ryanair Holdings Plc aims to double business traffic in two years after partnering with global booking system Travelport Ltd. to reach a broader customer base. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Cyprus Airways Public Ltd. operated Airbus A320, manufactured by Airbus Group NV, taxis before take off at Larnaca international airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Ryanair Holdings Plc is one of 15 groups that has expressed interest in buying Cyprus Airways, Chief Financial Officer Howard Millar said during an interview in July. Photographer: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CEO of Irish budget airline Ryanair Michael O'Leary gives a press conference, on January 22, 2014 in Brussels. AFP PHOTO/BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM (Photo credit should read KRISTOF VAN ACCOM/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael O'Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair Holdings Plc, reacts during a news conference in London, U.K., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The Irish carrier announced today that it would be adding more destinations from Manchester Airports Group's London Stansted airport in 2014. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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By SHAWN POGATCHNIK

DUBLIN (AP) - Europe's largest budget airline, Ryanair, has launched a flexible business-class ticket in its latest U-turn from a no-frills tradition.

The Dublin-based company, long Europe's fastest-growing carrier with a sell-it-cheap, stack-'em-high philosophy, says more than a quarter of its passengers already are business travelers. It hopes having a business class will allow it to capture three-fourths of all work travel between Britain and Ireland, its two biggest markets.

Wednesday's announcement sent Ryanair shares 3 percent higher to 7.15 euros ($9.45) on the Irish Stock Exchange.

Marketed under the slogan "Your boss will approve," Ryanair's business ticket reverses some of the airline's more reviled policies for fee-dazzled travelers.

These pricier tickets allow a checked-in bag weighing up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds), which normally costs 25 euros to 75 euros ($33 to $99); preferential boarding and, at some airports, fast-track security lines; and most importantly, free changes to flights including on the day of travel.

The latter policy seeks to solve one of the great headaches of travel that made Ryanair off-limits for many business travelers: the risk of eating tickets and punitive penalties for altering anything.

Ryanair this year took a cold look in the mirror and decided it could get even more business if, in chief executive Michael O'Leary's typically blunt assessment, the airline stopped irritating people needlessly with.

Customers now can buy tickets online using debit cards without fees. They automatically receive seat assignments, ending long waits in line to secure position and making family travel easier. They can take two bags on board, no longer battling to shove airport purchases into an already full bag and avoid costly punishment at the boarding gate.

Ryanair last month boosted its 2014 earnings forecast, citing service improvements as the key driver of growth. It aims to carry 86 million passengers this year, 4.5 million more than last year, and is about to take delivery on the first of its new 180-aircraft contract with Boeing.

While Ryanair's business-branded ticket is strong on flexibility, other business-class staples remain absent. The airline has no executive lounges, there's no special menu, and no seats recline on its tightly packed aircraft. You'll pay extra to pre-book the least uncomfortable seats.

And while the airline increasingly is cutting deals to open services at Europe's business airports - with London's Heathrow a glaring exception - long-haul connections remain a nerve-wracking chore. Ryanair has started to allow travel agents to sell their tickets, but it does not transfer bags between flights. This leaves Ryanair as Europe's most ubiquitous choice for traveling from A to B, but not C.

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