Dear, is that who I think it is?

Yes, that familiar-looking passenger seated on a Ryanair jet from Rome to London last Saturday afternoon was Tony Blair, the budget carrier has confirmed. It was a regularly scheduled flight, too (although it took off almost half an hour late ). The British prime minister had been in Italy for some vacation time - well, in addition to meetings with his new counterpart, Romano Prodi, and with Pope Benedict XVI. Now, these are security-conscious times, especially for the leader of one of the US's staunchest allies in the counterterrorism effort, so you might assume that Blair would fly in government-owned planes under heavy guard. But he has been criticized roundly for his use of Royal Air Force Queen's Flight jets as though they were "personal taxis." In fact, under a Freedom of Information Act query by news outlets, the Defense Ministry revealed that the prime minister's previous vacation trips had cost British taxpayers almost $242,000. The Ryanair fare for this flight: $91.15 each for him, his wife, Cherie, and six others in their party. Other than the fact that the Blairs were whisked aboard and given reserved seats after all other passengers had been through the standard security checks, they traveled just like everyone else - meaning they had the same opportunity to buy a "delicious range of snacks" and drinks.

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