What You Need to Know Flying Ryanair
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No other airline seems to elicit such awe and hatred as Ryanair. Awe because they can have some pretty low airfare. I once saw a fare for €7 one-way from London to Gdansk, Poland. Hatred because they have a lot of little rules you have to follow. If you don’t follow those rules correctly that “cheap flight” will cost a lot more than you anticipated. I’ve flown with this budget airline a few times in the past few months. Here is what you need to know if you want to travel with Ryanair.
Where Ryanair Goes
Most of Ryanair’s destinations are in Europe. They do have some flights outside Europe that are code shared with Air Europa. One reason why they are so cheap is that in many cities they fly into a smaller secondary airport. Taking Ryanair to London, UK you won’t land at Heathrow or even Gatwick, but at London Stansted Airport (about a 45 minutes train ride to central London). The airports could be far from the city adding to ground transportation costs.
Searching for a Flight
I compare flights on Ryanair with a search on Skyscanner or Google flights. Depending on where you are you might find a cheaper flight on another airline. The most inexpensive flights, from my research, are often in the early morning or late at night. I’ve noticed booking about two months in advance gets you the best deal. If you want to travel during peak travel season (Christmas/New Year’s, summer months), you may want to book a bit earlier than that.
Booking a Flight
When you find a flight on Ryanair, it includes your ticket and a small cabin/carry-on bag (40cm x 20cm x 25cm). Your ticket does not include
- Any checked bags. Ryanair is strict with their cabin bag policy (the size and the amount of bags you can take). If your cabin bag is too big, you may have to pay extra to check it at the airport. Sharon from Simpler and Smarter found this out the hard way when she was charged to check in a bag that was just one inch too long.
- A particular seat. If you want to pick your seat that costs from €4 to €15. If you don’t want to pay extra Ryanair will assign you a random seat. Often I found the random seat I was assigned was a middle seat. If you want to be guaranteed a particular seat (or even guaranteed a window or aisle seat) then you’ll need to pay.
- Any food or drink on the plane (including water). That costs extra.
Things To Note When Purchasing your Ticket
Ryanair will try to sell you on extras like
- Upgrading from the cheap Base Fare to their Plus or Flexi Plus Fare. These are more expensive but include things like checked bags and priority boarding. If you are travelling with your family, there is a Family Plus Fare you can upgrade to as well.
- Security fast track, which they say let’s you fast track through security.
- Priority boarding, which lets you be among the first passengers to board the flight. It also allows you to take all your cabin bags on board without gate checking. More about that in a bit.
- Purchasing checked luggage. This cost varies from €15 to €50 depending on your luggage (like whether it’s a suitcase or set of golf clubs).
- In-flight Meals.
- Rental vehicles.
- Airport parking or airport transfers (if you aren’t driving).
I travel with just a cabin bag (or carry-on bag) and my purse. I get to the airport early, so I don’t need security pass. I travel alone, and if the flight is under 2 hours, I don’t care where I sit. If it’s longer than 2 hours, I’ll pay a little extra to get an aisle seat. I already have travel insurance.
If you want to buy any of these extras, like say you do need to check a bag, it’s better to do this when purchasing your ticket. The closer to your flight you wait to buy these the more the price increases.
Baggage Limits and Priority Boarding
With a base fare (no upgrades) you can only take one bag onboard, and it can’t be bigger than 40cm x 20cm x 25cm in size, which is the size of a purse or laptop bag. If you bring a second bag (without paying in advance) or if your bag is bigger than the dimensions above then it’ll cost you an €25. Ouch!
If you have purchased a Flexi/Plus ticket, you can take on a second cabin bag (wheelie suitcase or duffle bag) that’s no bigger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm in size and 10kg in weight. If you pay the base fare, you can take that second bag (55cm x 40cm x 20cm) to the gate, but it won’t be allowed on board. It will get gate checked (for free).
More Random Ryanair Rules
Ryanair has a lot of little rules when you’re looking at a flight and booking a ticket. I already mentioned some of the extra costs, but there are a few more.
- Paying with a credit card or through PayPal will cost you a fee. There is no charge if you book your flight with a debit card.
- Any non-European citizens must print their boarding pass because it needs to get stamped by Ryanair. Before you go to security, you need to go to the Ryanair check-in desk. There’s a queue marked visa check. An agent will check to make sure your passport is valid for travel. Then they stamp your boarding pass. I have to do this for every Ryanair flight (since I’m from Canada). Another reason to get to the airport early. Apparently this is being taken out for Ireland to UK flights, but I’d still print my boarding pass and bring it to the check-in desk just in case.
- If you decide to buy a seat, you can check into your flight 60 days in advance. If you get Ryanair to pick a seat for you, then you can check in between 3 days and 2 hours before your flight.
The most important thing to take away from this post is that before booking a Ryanair flight you should always read the fine print. If you have a question or concern, it’s best to contact Ryanair in advance of your trip.
At The Airport
I have found Ryanair flights are often at the furthest gates from security. Give yourself plenty of time to get through security and check your boarding gate. Don’t arrive at the airport 10 minutes before boarding.
Ryanair does not have a business or first class. They do have the priority boarding that you can buy. Priority boarding only means you get to board the plane first. Unlike other airlines, there is no section for boarding. You’re either in the priority queue or the general queue.
You’ll board your Ryanair flight from the outside by going up a set of stairs. That means you have to walk outside on the tarmac. At some airports, there may be a shuttle to take you to the plane. Be prepared to be outdoors for a few minutes when boarding. On your boarding pass, it will say front or back. That’s because the aircraft has a front entrance and a back entrance. If your boarding pass says back, then you board at the back.
On The Plane
My first Ryanair flight when I walked on board I remember thinking, “this is like a bus.” The blue and bright yellow that Ryanair uses reminded me of being on the bus. Also, there are ads all over the plane. Yes, on the outside of the overhead storage bins are advertisements. There are also advertisements on the back of each seat.
The ads don’t stop there. When you first get on the aircraft, there are advertisements over the speaker system. Ryanair flight attendants also make ad announcements throughout the flight. They advertise for buying meals, duty-free items, and scratch cards. Yes, Ryanair sells lottery tickets on their flights. The proceeds go to a charity. Your odds of winning on their scratch ticket is minuscule. If you want to support Ryanair’s charity partners you’d be better off making a direct donation.
As well Ryanair does not have any in-flight entertainment. There are no televisions, no Wi-Fi, and no power outlets. The only magazine they have is the duty-free magazine (to tempt you to buy stuff). That said be sure to bring something to do on your flight. Be sure your electronics are charged before you get to the airport, because you won’t be able to charge them on your Ryanair flight.
I haven’t had any significant issues with Ryanair. So far I’ve flown with Ryanair to Bristol (when I went to Bath), London, Brussels, and Edinburgh. Some people have had less than ideal experiences with Ryanair, but for me, they have been fine. Ryanair doesn’t spend a lot of time on customer service, or extras like some other airlines do. If you want something from them, you’ll likely have to pay extra. It’s best to look at Ryanair like a bus in the sky. It’s a cheap way to get from point A to point B. Don’t expect much more than that.
Things To Know
I don’t work for nor am I associated with any airline. Please contact your airline or travel agent directly if you have any concerns about your flight. The information on this post is accurate for the date this post was published. Ryanair can change their policies at any time. I may try to update this post if that happens, but I can’t make any guarantee to do so.
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Have you flown on Ryanair? How was the experience?