When you look up Ryanair online, the reviews usually aren’t too kind towards the airline. I can’t help but feel this is slightly unfair as it is an explicitly and proudly budget airline. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up using the airline, but I actually think Ryanair – and other budget airlines like AirAsia – is an incredible way to travel. Like most budget airlines, they don’t have lounges in airports, nor do they offer a points reward scheme.
Ryanair operates across a large majority of European countries as well as some North African locations at sometimes absurdly low costs and ticket prices include one small piece of hand luggage of dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 20cm weighing up to ten kilograms and/ or a hand or laptop bag. This used to be even more restricted than it is now, so they’re definitely becoming more lenient. With their cheap fares also comes countless add ons during the ticket purchasing process like extra leg room for £11/€11 per person or car rentals. There are also several post booking penalties that may result in first time users of the airline being overcharged, examples of which include the check in fee – if you fail to check in online you will be charged a flat fare of £45 or €45 per person on the booking. If you fail to print or download your boarding pass onto your phone, you will be charged a flat fee of £15/€15 for reissue. In their defence, they send several emails between the time of booking and departure reminding you of this information and it can all be found here, on their website. If you’re still confused after reading that breakdown, just email their customer service team.
Another part of the flight that excluded in the air fare is any food or drinks on the plane. The longest you’ll fly in Europe is around five hours, and the only thing the airline explicitly restricts in-flight is the consumption of alcohol that has been purchased somewhere other than on the aircraft. You can bring drinks or snacks and avoid paying for overpriced ones on the flight, but if you need to they sell everything from packets of crisps and beers to kids meals. The hot meals on the flight are, although pretty pricey, actually quite good and you can usually cut costs by buying one as part of a meal deal. The selection of drinks and snacks is generous, as is prepared cold and hot food. If you’re willing to pay, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
When in flight, I have always found the cabin crew to be very friendly. With some other budget airlines that I’ve used, service and price seemed to be in a negative correlation but with Ryanair I haven’t ever found that to be the case. They are warm, informative and helpful. Any announcements made over the intercom are typically announced in the language of the departure and destination country as well as in English, which I always feel is a nice, inclusive touch.
Last summer, I travelled across Europe beginning in Lisbon and ending in Oslo mostly using Ryanair flights and a handful of trains as less than half the cost of an Interrail ticket. I have flown for weekends away to Paris and Budapest for less than £75 return and managed to bag a flight for an astonishing £7 when travelling from Lisbon to Porto. If you live in or are travelling across Europe its probably the cheapest airline there is to get you from point A to B. It’s perfect for weekends away where you need no more than a small suitcase or business trips where you would only need the same. We had to cram ten weeks worth of clothes into our suitcases in order not have to pay to check larger cases, but we made it work and it ended up saving us hours over the course of our trip because we didn’t have to check or wait for our bags at the different airports. Within the EU, there’s no border control so this also saved us time at airports as when we disembarked the flight we were able to leave immediately. If you’re considering doing a trip across Europe I would highly recommend using Ryanair for a lot, if not all of your travel.
The seats on Ryanair flights are pretty compact and as I already said, you could pay extra during the booking process to guarantee a seat with extra leg room. If you don’t want to add another £11 onto your booking, however, then I can suggest checking in as close to the flight time as possible. The extra leg room seats are left empty in case someone decides to pay for one during check in, but if you’re one of the last people to do so then the chances of you bagging one are pretty high. We thankfully figured this out before our European trip and only flew once without the extra leg room.
Ryanair usually fly to and from smaller airports a little further away from city limits than busier airports, so you will have to consider this when deciding whether to fly with them or not. Usually, most airports they use like Barcelona have cheap public transport links to the city centre, however there are some airports like Charleroi – that is used for flights to Brussels – are monopolised by private companies that consequently charge more for transfers to and from the city. That particular airport, however, offers discounted fares if booked online and in advance, so be sure to research all options thoroughly.
Overall, if you want to fly cheap in Europe then Ryanair is your airline. They will take you from one European or North African location at a fraction of the other airlines that fly the same routes, and if you can get past the lack of complimentary food or drinks, then the money you save on your flight could maybe get you an extra night or two wherever you’re headed.