If you have spent any time in Europe then you will almost certainly have heard of Ryanair. Irish-owned airline Ryanair is the marmite of the skies: you either love them or hate them. Most people fall into the latter category, but I actually love Ryanair.
Why do I love them?
Most simply, because they are cheap.
If it wasn’t for Ryanair I would never have spent four days in Venice for an all-inclusive £150. I wouldn’t have flown the four-hour journey from Tenerife to London for only £40. And if it wasn’t for £55 return flights from Västerås Sweden – London then I wouldn’t get home as often as I’d like.
I’m not saying that Ryanair is my favourite airline. Indeed it’s far from it. But Ryanair delivers exactly what it promises – the cheapest fares across Europe. I have occasionally compared prices of a Ryanair flight to its nearest competitor, but Ryanair is always the cheapest by a large margin. So whether I like it or not, Ryanair is the sensible choice for the traveller on a budget. I tend to think of a Ryanair flight in the same way that I think about catching a bus: there will be some standing in line, there will be pushing when the plane arrives, and the rest of the passengers will look thoroughly miserable for most of the journey.
If you want to take advantage of Ryanair’s cheap flights then you have to play their game. Here are some tips to get you started.
Making a booking on Ryanair’s website is undeniably infuriating but once you have done it a few times then you learn to avoid the pit-falls.
- Always uncheck the boxes
The Ryanair website will try to add on extras as you book. You will have to uncheck the option that selects travel insurance for you, uncheck the box that adds on a Ryanair approved Samsonite bag and uncheck the box that decides you will want to hire a car on arrival.
- Read the small-print carefully
Double check the breakdown of your booking BEFORE you proceed to the check-out, then you will know if any extra items such as unwanted travel insurance have been added to your bill. Make sure you have read the luggage allowance rules and have chosen the checked baggage option if you intend to take (or bring back) a lot of items.
- Remember to check-in online
When you book a Ryanair flight it is essential that you have access to a printer as you will be expected to print off your own boarding card. Failure to do this will result in a hefty fee at the airport.
- Pack your case according to their instructions
Your checked-in baggage must not exceed the allocated weight allowance and you can’t pool resources, so if your bag is overweight and your travel companion’s under then they won’t just add the two together—you will have to stand to one side and redistribute the weight. This happens to a large majority of Ryanair passengers which considerably slows the check-in process for everybody. The problem would be easily solved if everybody read the rules!
- Don’t ignore the ‘one-bag’ cabin policy
Ryanair operates a strict ‘one bag’ policy in the cabin. That means that handbag, camera, purse and even items purchased inside the airport have to fit inside your carry-on bag and they will check as you board the plane. What’s more, your bag has to be within the Ryanair specified dimensions and any bag deemed to be larger will have to be placed in the basket to prove that it fits.
- Pay extra if you want Priority Boarding, or be prepared to wait if you haven’t
Unless you have paid for a Ryanair Priority Boarding pass you will not have allocated seating. If you don’t have the pass then don’t stand in the Priority line. I have seen police called to deal with passengers who refused to move into the other line!
- Take your own food
- Research the Arrivals airport before you book your ticket
To keep costs low most Ryanair flights fly into smaller airports that can be over an hour away from the city you actually planned to visit. Ryanair provide a transport bus so you will be able to reach your destination but you should check beforehand how long the journey from airport to destination will take, especially if you have made plans or onward travel arrangements.
It sounds like a lot to remember but really it’s very simple:
When flying with Ryanair read the rules and stick to them.
If you do this, you will benefit from flights that are cheaper than buses and a surprisingly speedy turnaround for boarding and disembarking.
How do you feel about flying with a budget airline? How much are you prepared to sacrifice for cost? Do you like flying with budget airlines, or would you pay extra for better service? Please share your thoughts below!