Ryanair offers low-cost flights in Europe, but are the savings worth the hassle?
If you’ve traveled to Europe on a budget, chances are, you’ve flown Ryanair.
For over a decade, the airline has reigned as the continent’s king of cheap flights. From Rome, one can buy a round-trip ticket to Marrakech or Riga, Krakow or Rhodes for less than €100, or sometimes less if you catch a sale.
And for most travelers, nothing spikes the wandering imagination as much as an interesting city that is affordably reached. But traveling on the budget airline entails some sacrifices.
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If you are a Travel Belle who has been wondering if you should use Ryanair during your next trip within Europe, try to weigh the benefit of the airline’s cheap prices against the hassle that passengers must put up with.
When I first began to fly with Ryanair, I didn’t care about the hassle or the sacrifices; I was too struck by the airline’s low, low prices. I questioned the sanity of people who voluntarily paid more to fly to, relatively, the same place.
Now, after five years, my ideas about Ryanair’s value have changed completely.
The major complaint I have is about all the hidden fees. There are the usual ones that show up on the ticket: taxes (often more than €25/$31), levies (€2.25/$2.80) and an online check-in fee (€6/$7.50 – or if you forget, €40/$50 at the gate).
There is the checked luggage fee of €15/$19, essential if your bag doesn’t match up to their measurements of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.6″ x 15.7″ x 7.8″) – or if you can’t fit your purse into your carry-on, which is what many women try to do while waiting in line to board the plane.
Ryanair is notoriously strict about carry-on. If your one piece of luggage is too big, it will be checked in and you will be made to pay a €40/$50 penalty fee.
Then there are the additional fees that the Ryanair website seems set on tricking unassuming customers into accidentally paying.
Beware! Travel insurance, Samsonite luggage and a Hertz rental car are optional, but appear necessary. And at the end of the whole process, after entering credit card info, an administration fee of €6/$7.50 appears.
Once the tickets are paid for and the day of the flight has arrived, there is the characteristic jostling to be endured while waiting in line to board. Without assigned seats people get nervous that they won’t be able to sit with friends or have space to store their carry-on pieces.
It’s often a justified anxiety. And as a result, waiting becomes something like a high-adrenaline competition.
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While the flight is in progress, there are Ryanair’s advertisements to sit through. Ryanair blasts passengers with prerecorded advertisements for food, scratch cards and shopping, in intervals throughout the flight.
If I’m trying to read a book, take a nap or don’t have headphones, the frequency and loudness force me to abandon my attempts to pass the time. Not that flying is ever a peaceful oasis, but on other airlines, ears are generally left alone.
And finally, whenever flying with Ryanair, you must anticipate the distance between the airport and the city you wish to visit, often connected only by a private company instead of public transportation.
From Ciampino airport to Rome’s center, it’s about 45 minutes; from Eindhoven to Amsterdam, the journey takes more than an hour. With all these cons, the cheapness of Ryanair’s ticket prices becomes relative.
The best thing I can say about Ryanair is that despite my complaints, I still treat the airline as an option when planning a trip somewhere in Europe. Because it’s always the least expensive option, I will most likely fly with Ryanair again, albeit reluctantly.
Next time though, I will be sure to pack headphones and like always, a lot of patience.
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*Photo by Pauls imaging
11 thoughts on “The Pros And Cons Of Flying Ryanair”
I completely agree. If there’s another option that’s not much more expensive, I take it. I didn’t use to mind so much, but standards seem to have fallen. The real low was when I saw the cabin crew put my bag in the toilet for take-off (they thought I hadn’t seen) as there was no space in the overhead bins due to the price of checked luggage (meaning that everyone travels with a big carry-on). The lengths you have to go to in order to get your bag approved at the gate are ridiculous – I once changed my shoes for 2 minutes just so I could fit my handbag into my carry-on & get it past the staff! For some more unusual destinations though, it’s the only option if you want to take a direct flight, sadly.
I like the idea of Ryanair but I’ve read and heard the complaints. I’ve flown on other budget airlines in Europe but not Ryanair. Here in the US, they have now forced airlines to include all mandatory taxes and fees in the price of the flight online. No longer can they hit you with it when you check out. Maybe Europe could use this as well.
As for all the fees, I think this is something everyone is tired of. Here in the US, we now have what I called the Family Airline Fee where people have to pay to sit together. All this frustration inspired me to write a post called “An open letter to US airlines” detailing all of my frustrations with flying.
To be fair, airlines have done some good things over the last three decades. However, flying is now an experience people dread rather than enjoy as they once did. Ryanair is an example of the good (lower airfares) and the bad (most everything else).
It’s worth remembering though that travellers to Rome who arrive at Ciampino can get to the centre in 45 minutes (maximum, in my experience it’s often less) for a return fare of only €8. Travelling to Rome on the Leonardo Express from Fiumicino, which takes approximately the same time and is often late, will cost you €28 return. Ryanair is also, as it never hesitates to tell us, the most on-time airline, unlike the more expensive alternatives for Rome-UK travellers, particularly Alitalia, which are notoriously unreliable. Finally, in Ryanair’s favour, O’Leary’s brutal attitude towards cost-cutting has had a significant knock-on effect throughout the industry, with prices for short-haul flights falling across the board. I can remember having to budget for months before booking flights between Rome and London. Thanks to low-cost carriers, principally Ryanair, I was able to travel back to the UK once a month for more than five years to visit my parents, soething that would have been impossible 15 or 20 years ago.
As a non-EU passport holder, I can’t do online check-in, a fact hidden in mouse-type on some obscure part of the website. Arriving in happy ignorance for our first Ryanair flight, my husband and I waited with everyone else, holding our strictly weighed and measured bags, and then as we attempted to board, we were refused entry. There was no time to return downstairs to check in before the plane took off. We were annoyed at missing the flight, and furious to discover they wouldn’t honor our tickets; we now had to buy new ones – which were suddenly costing 300 euros. We flew with someone else that day, and avoid Ryanair whenever possible.
Worst European airline to work for.Think before you buy into the exploitation of young workers…
I agree completely!! I’ve flown them numerous times but it is a constant stress and hassle. I choose them now ONLY if it’s for a last minute trip for a short time so I don’t have to pay for checked baggage.
Amber! Thanks for writing this article. I was talking about Ryanair with a friend of mine yesterday and we said the same!
Unfortunatelly our national airline, Malév went bankruptcy in February and somehow the next day Ryanair announced that they open a base in Budapest. Low cost airlines are not low cost anymore. Buying ticket on their website is very tricky. You have to be very careful otherwise you will be pay a lot!
In Budapest Ryanair let people to walk to the airplane. It sometimes takes 8-10 minutes. Even if it rains or snows or you’re 75 years old you have to walk. It wouldn’t be a problem if they inform the passengers ahead on the website: Hey, you have to walk 10 minutes to the airplane so be prepared. You have to face with it when you board the plane.
Losing a national airline made Hungarians very sad. It was very irritating from Ryanair announcing the opening the next day. Hungarians were mourning their national airline and someone came and said that Malév went bankruptcy because of bad business policy. Hello, who the hell are you, Ryanair?!
that’s so sad, Zita! Hopefully things will look up as far as air travel both in Hungary and other parts of Europe:)
This is the national song (kind of anthem) of Malév Hungarian Airlines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAB3TBkCZfY. I still love it so much! 🙂
I have used Ryanair twice. The first time was a couple of years ago and then it was OK. The second time they’ve added these ad ons, like pay extra for the luggage etc. Then you always have to consider the airports where they fly. I travelled from Tampere, Finland to London and they fly to Stansted airport where arrival time is close to midnight. If you miss the last train to the city you end up paying taxi fees or spending the early morning hours at the airport. The train costs quite a lot to the city, but if you use some other airline and fly to Heathrow, you can take the underground to the city, which is much cheaper and than the train from Stanstead. And you arrive in civil hours of the day, not in the middle of the night which is not nice time to arrive in any city!
Ryanair is not so cheap anymore when you count all the costs of your travel together! Besides it is like flying in a over-grouded rush-hour bus!
I’ve never flown Ryanair and never will. You often need to get the airport at stupid ‘o clock in the morning – the trains aren’t running yet so you need to get a taxi. What about the time taken to get to the far flung airport? This in addition to the train or taxi means that flying the likes of British Airways, KLM, Swiss & Lufthansa are often a cheaper option for me.
Love or hate Ryanair… you really should watch Fascinating Aida’s Cheap Flights