For people that visit Europe, Ryanair presents a very inexpensive way to get around the continent. However, there is enough that is said about them and the onboard product that could scare some away from such an option – aspirational travel it is not! 🙂 I have flown on Easyjet before and had a good experience with them (except for the fact that they made me check my normal carryon bag and then lost it – while charging me for it. Otherwise, good!) as an onboard experience. I had not yet had the chance to fly Ryanair but it was not something that I was rushing to try. 🙂
My First Ryanair Flight Experience
If you read my previous post on the subject (found here), I was actually “connecting” from Etihad’s Apartment class to Ryanair. Not exactly the airline transition everyone makes, but it worked for me. 🙂
I decided to fly with Ryanair because they were the only option for a non-stop from a London airport to Thessaloniki and I needed a non-stop, same-day flight. Not only that but the flight itself was $40! That is a pretty good deal, especially for a flight that was around 3 1/2 hours long. Plus, it gave me an “opportunity” to have the Ryanair flight experience. Hopefully, some of the things I learned about them can help you if you ever fly with them.
Checkout this page for the Ryanair fees
The Check-In Process
Ryanair will actually charge you if you check-in at the airport (€70/£70) or you need to reprint your boarding pass at the airport (€15/£15). So, it is best to remember to check-in well before the departure time. Ryanair actually is quite generous with the time they allow for you to checkin. It is possible to check-in as far as 30 days in advance and right up to 2 hours before the flight’s departure.
If you pay for an advanced seat assignment, you can check-in up to 30 days before departure. If you just want a seat to be automatically be assigned, you can check-in from 7 days to 2 hours before departure. Check Ryanair’s page here for a guide on the check-in process.
I checked-in a few days before departure and the seat map was really quite open. To get a seat that had extra legroom would have cost me €21 while an advanced, preferable seat would have cost €14. I considered the extra legroom seat for a couple of reasons – one, the extra 4 inches of legroom, but more importantly the chance to be seated near the front of the plane so I could get off the plane quicker. But, then I thought it would be better to experience the basic Ryanair system instead. 🙂
Be careful when checking in online! They added a bunch of extras by default to my “order” – things like airport transfers. You will need to remove those if you do not want to be charged for them!
The Airport Process
I had not really looked at my boarding pass that much before I reached the airport. When I did get there, I noticed that it said at the top left that I needed to go to the bag drop counter to have my travel documents checked and verified before I boarded. If I did not do that, I would be denied boarding. Not sure if this is something that is standard for all airports or if this was a Stansted airport thing. I do wish it had been made a little more plain because I could have easily missed it (but I don’t know what they would do to make it more clear since it was on the ticket and a few signs in the airport!).
The bad part about the document check is that you are required to go to the bag drop counter – even though I had no bags and the line was about 100 people long with bags. I went to the customer service counter because I was not entirely clear about the whole situation and they directed me to the business/priority counter to just be checked and stamped. They were very kind and quick about it and I was on my way.
The Departure Area
Since this was only my first flight with Ryanair, I am not sure if this is standard in all Ryanair-heavy airports or if this was just Stansted but we had to go from security to the “departures lounge.” The lounge was really a wide open space with a bunch of benches and monitors. The monitors advised that gates were 12 minutes away and to continue watching for departure information. Gate information pops up about 40 minutes before departure so you just wait in the area until it tells you what range of gates you are departing from.
Again, not sure if this is all Ryanair-heavy airports or just this one. I know that the airports in Greece just have regular gates for Ryanair like all other airlines. So, your mileage on this part may vary depending on the airport.
The Boarding Process
I made my way to the gate where there was already a long line getting ready to board. Boarding did go fairly fast as we boarded from both ends of the aircraft. I was in row 23 so they directed me to the back door.
Once on, I was able to find some space in the overhead for my bag (which space disappears very fast so try to get in the boarding line quickly). I was in an aisle seat so I had a little bit of leg room with the aisle.
The Seat and Service
Sorry for the poor pictures – lighting was not good and I didn’t think it was a good idea to pull my bigger camera out for photos onboard. 🙂
None of the seats on Ryanair recline so no seat-rage is present with them! The seats themselves are certainly not the most comfortable I have ever been on, especially when compared to other “low-cost” airlines like JetBlue and their fabulous leather seats.
The legroom is very minimal. As a 6′ 1″ guy, it was kind of cramped but still doable. It was not the type of room that made for a comfortable trip but it was just okay.
The funny thing was seeing all of the advertising all over the luggage bins. You can definitely tell they try to save money and cut corners with expenses wherever they can. For instance, they put the safety chart on the back of each seat (along with an advertisement for their onboard purchasing). Having the safety chart there eliminates the need for making a separate pamphlet as well as having a seat back. Ryanair does not have any seat back pocket on their seats – another cost-cutting measure.
The flight attendants come through the cabin often to sell stuff. I figured it was going to be like many flights in economy when they try to sell food in that most people pass on it. That was not the case! All of the people around me were ordering with the average cost about 13 euro per person! You do not get any snacks on board at all unless you pay for it, so either buy something in the airport or be ready to pay. You can pay with credit card but the card has to have a chip. You can also pay with cash but they did not like to make change for anything larger than a 10 unit note.
The only thing I bought was water – that’s right, you need to buy water! It cost 3 euro for a small bottle of water – I had so wished I had remembered to grab a bottle before boarding! Make sure you bring your own on board or be prepared to pay!
Ryanair does a good job as a basic air transport provider – it gets you to where you are going and it does it on time. It does not give anything of comfort but at that price, I would not expect that much comfort. For tickets that cost less than many taxes and fees on award tickets, it is a good deal. Considering that most of the flights you would probably use Ryanair for are short-haul, it should be easy to deal with.
Just be prepared for any extra fees – food, drinks, losing your ticket and needing them to reprint it, checking in at the airport, baggage, seat selection, etc. Other than that, it was about what I figured it would be and it got me back safely.