When in Europe, your best flight friend is Ryan Air. Yes, even if they decide to change their cabin luggage and seat selection policies (and even the flight cancellation fiasco)...
Ever since we travelled in Europe in 2012 during our university exchange, we have taken Ryan Air countless times. Being carry-on luggage only travellers, low cost carriers are a great way to get to our destination quickly and at a fraction of the cost. Although sometimes there are instances where RyanAir airports are much further than usual, in most countries, there are brilliant transportation options to help you get to the city.
The thing is, there are a whole lot of people who continues to complain over and over about how they have to pay extra for not printing Ryanair boarding passes, pay extra for their cabin baggages, et cetera; but if you actually bother to read through all the fine print and their policies, flying with RyanAir can actually be a breeze!
In fact, in our most honest opinion, is actually quite similar to flying with other European carriers (just frankly, a lot cheaper!). In Europe, you could fly full-fledged carriers like British Airways, SAS, FinnAir, LOT, but these full-fledged carriers are not full-service carriers. What that means is that a lot of times, you are not served food, you have no in-flight entertainment systems, and sometimes you even have to pay for your check-in luggage.
All in all, even with the many complaints people have with RyanAir, it is still one of the cheapest way to fly when you are in Europe. So while everyone hates on it, we will keep flying with RyanAir!
Here's my ultimate guide to booking and flying with RyanAir, helping you avoid any miscellaneous or unnecessary fees.
Booking RyanAir Flights
It can't be that hard booking Ryan Air Flights right? Yes, it certainly is fuss-free but there are just some things that you might want to take note when purchasing your tickets.
Don't get too excited when you see prices like these:
While I usually use Skyscanner to sieve out the cheapest tickets, do bear in mind that the price reflected for RyanAir are the cheapest of the cheapest and the 4.99 pounds one-way ticket you see up there usually doesn't include a regular-sized cabin luggage. You would get that price if you are able to fly with just a handbag or a daypack but that usually isn't the case for many of us. Hence, do head over to the RyanAir website to check for the final price of the tickets and compare them with the other carriers.
Let's just use the 4.99 pounds Value Fare from London Stansted to Aalburg for example.
Once you have selected your desired day and time of travel, you'll soon realise that 4.99pounds looks too good to be true! Although you could possibly add 20.85 pounds more to get 10 kg cabin bag and your choice of seat, here's how to save even more if you don't mind having random seats!
Go on and click 'Continue with Value Fare'
Log into your Ryan Air account / Sign up / Just key in your Salutation and Names
You will then arrive at the seatmap and should you not want to pay an additional 4 pounds, click 'Random Seat Allocation'
You will then arrive at the Cabin Bag Selection Page
If you're going to have carry-on only, this is where you'll click 'Priority & 2 Cabin Bags' add-on (Did you notice that it only costs 10 pounds instead of the additional 20.85 pounds Regular Fare?) Here, you should also take note of the dimensions of your small bag and your cabin bag. It is actually slightly smaller than regular cabin luggages.
If you need check-in baggage, it only costs 25 pounds for 20kg here as an add-on.
With that, all that's left is to skip through all the car bookings and travel insurance pages on Ryanair (because most of the time you'll have your own options like DiscoverCars and WorldNomads) and pay for your tickets!
A note about Priority & 2 Cabin Bags vs Check-in Bags
While we know many who has expressed their shock and amazement whenever we tell them we travel all the way to Europe, and in winter, with just carry-on cabin bags, this has worked out very well for us. With just carry-on luggage, we could purchase the Priority & 2 Cabin Bags option and we'll have a special Priority Queue in which we get to board the plane earlier than the rest. This ensures we have sufficient space in the overheads for our bags :)
For the check-in bags option, the 10kg bag essentially has the same measurements as the Cabin Bag (55x40x20cm) but it costs 15 pounds instead of 10 pounds. You also do not get priority boarding. So if you have just a small cabin bag, we definitely recommend the carry-on option.
If you have a much larger luggage (119x119x81cm) then you'll have no choice but to take the 20kg for 20 pounds check-in bag option.
Download the RyanAir App
The next thing you should do is to download the RyanAir App. We all know how annoying it is to have to print your boarding passes while you are on your travels. To have your hotel reception to print for you is a plus, but you'll also have to key in your passwords onto the hotel serves or public wifis, which may not necessarily be the most secured networks.
Downloading the RyanAir App then is extremely useful as you could check-in using the App and save yourselves the trouble to print* these boarding passes.
* There are however, some exceptions. For non-EU nationalities (ourselves included), there may be some cities in which you'll still have to print the boarding passes. When that is the cases, there's absolutely no choice but to ask for help from your friendly hotel receptionists!
48 hours before your flight
About a decade ago, even if you were to choose random seating, you would normally get to sit with your travel partner or companions as long as you check-in online early. However, in a bid to make their customers pay for a seat, they now have algorithms to ensure that you're always seating apart. And by apart, I mean, sometimes up to 10 rows apart! In the past two years, we've taken about 3-4 RyanAir flights and we have ZERO occurrences of having seats together with the random seating. It is kind of annoying, but with the cheap fares, it is okay to seat away from your travel companions for that short flight.
Unless you are travelling with children, or if you are on honeymoon and there is absolutely no way to get you and your partner apart, there is just one more hack you could use!
48 hours before your flight, if you choose not to purchase your seat, you'll be able to check in and a seat will be randomly allocated to you for free. When most of the time it will be apart, you could actually buy a seat next to your partner if it is available. That would save you some money as instead of purchasing two seats, you will only need to purchase one.
There are, however, some downsides to this hack as you do not get a choice in where your seats are. For example, the cheapest available seat next to any one of you may end up being the most expensive seat (there was once where we both got an exit row seat and to pay for the available seat, it costs us 14 pounds). That works out to be way more than the 4 pounds each if we booked our seats earlier.
2 hours before your flight
As a rule-of-thumb, we would advise travellers to be at the airport 2 hours before their departure time. Especially if you would be checking in your bags, the queues may be long...
The RyanAir App would also be extremely handy here as if you have checked in online, have no check-in luggage, and have your mobile boarding passes ready, you could go straight to the gate.
This is also the reason why we would always only travel with one carry-on luggage as that means fewer queues and more time on better experiences (like exploring the airport or having a longer time to enjoy our meals).
With RyanAir, boarding time could be quite inconsistent since most of the planes are scheduled to arrive and fly back-to-back. That said, it means that delays are not unusual. Fortunately, we never ever had to wait more than half an hour for our flights thus far and we would say that RyanAir has been quite punctual in all our experiences.
The Flight Experience
You can't expect too much if you are only going to pay 15 pounds for a flight ticket. The seats are acceptable, even though sometimes you may have older flights with older seats.
Because RyanAir is a smaller plane, be prepared to have a bumpier ride when facing turbulence. Other than that, for the usual 2 hour flight, the entire journey is a rather enjoyable one. Should you feel the need to drink or eat, the in-flight menu is reasonably-priced and you could pay by either card or cash.
All in all
We hope that with all those tips, you will venture out to take that flight with RyanAir, not just because it is the cheapest, but also because it really isn't that bad a way to get around Europe!:)
Have you flew with RyanAir before? Share with us your experiences!