To cash-strapped, bargain-hungry travellers, Ryanair needs no introduction. It’s the National Express of the skies. It’ll get you to your destination perfectly safely and quickly, but if you want the perks of yesteryear (an in-flight cup of tea or a checked-baggage allowance) you’ll have to pay for them.
Ryanair took what was once “bundled” in sales speak – baggage allowance, in-flight food, a seat allocation – and unbundled them. You want it? You pay for it.
The Dublin-based airline operates more than 1,600 flights each day. From 72 bases around the UK and Europe, Ryanair connects 189 destinations in 30 countries.
Its prices are almost always the lowest. And playing the Ryanair game is a lot more flyer-friendly than it used to be. In 2013, the airline decided to reform its no-compromise culture and introduce a Business Plus “class” for business travellers which offers flexibility on ticket changes, unlimited flight changes, a 20kg baggage allowance, fast-track airport security and free airport check-in.
If you want to fly as cheaply as possible and you’re not a businesss traveller, here’s the insider’s guide to flying Ryanair.
Know where you’re flying to
The airports Ryanair serves are, notoriously, far outside the cities they’re named after. Brussels Charleroi is 29 miles (46km) outside Brussels, Paris Beauvais is 53 miles (85km) north of Paris so factoring in the cost of getting to your destination is key. Flight time is important too if you’re relying on public transport (proper public transport that is, not “tourist” public transport) to get you to your destination.
Take your time and get it right
The website has been likened to an obstacle course in the past. Happily, there’s a 24-hour grace period if you make a mistake during the booking process. You spell your name incorrectly or get the date or route wrong? You can change online or get assistance from Ryanair’s call-centre staff.
Never forget your boarding pass!
Forget this at your peril. Once you’ve checked in online, your boarding pass can be reprinted up to two hours before your flight departs. If you arrive at the airport without it there’s a Boarding Card Reissue Fee of £15.
Of course, there’s a mobile boarding pass too and they’re accepted on flights from the majority of airports on Ryanair’s network. You show your mobile boarding pass at the following points:
- Bag drop desk
- Security checkpoints
- Boarding gate
- Getting on the aircraft
Here’s how to check-in online:
Ryanair doesn’t offer a free baggage allowance so one way for fliers to cut down on costs is to travel with just a cabin bag. Passengers can take one cabin bag – weighing up to 10kg – free of charge. Maximum dimensions are 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. A small bag (up to 35 x 20 x 20 cm) may be carried too.
Confusingly, baggage fees are divided up into low season and high season. The high season is, essentially, Christmas, Easter and all of summer. Each passenger may check in a maximum of two bags and it’s always cheaper to do it online at the time of booking. Buying baggage allowance over the phone or at the airport is double the cost! Passengers are looking at about £15 to check in the first bag and £20 for the second – if they do it while booking.
There are higher baggage fees on International Canary Islands (excluding Spanish domestic) and all international Greek routes too. Our advice? Wear as much as you can on your flight and buy as much as you need at your destination.
Kiddies aged 8 days to 23 months (seated in their parent’s lap) don’t get a cabin-bag allowance despite their mums and dads paying £20 each way for them. Parents may take a baby bag (weighing up to 5kg) however in addition to their own cabin bag allowance. At 24 months children are deemed to be adults and they pay the same as mum and dad.
Ryanair never used to allocate seats on its flights, earning it the nickname of “cattle class”. Now, when you check-in online you can get a free seat allocation or buy yourself a premium (extra legroom) seat for £10.99 per flight (including priority boarding), a normal seat for £5.99 or even a seat for your wedding dress!
It’s not exactly roomy. Fliers get up to 30 inches (76.20cms) in the aircraft. In rows 1 A B C and 2 D, E, F and in the emergency exit seats (rows 16 /17) it’s a more spacious 40 inches (101.6 cms).
Drinks and snacks
If you’re a savvy traveller you’ll pack your own snacks and have a water bottle (that you can fill up post security). It’s hard to find value among the offerings of any budget airline when it comes to food and drink so our advice is to eat before you get on the plane and have your made-at-home sarnie on the flight. A cup of tea costs £3.
The airline’s menu is being transformed this year. Healthier choices and more “European” cuisine will be served from November.
Earplugs and headphones?
Take your own! Ryanair has a good in-flight magazine and will trial inflight entertainment and maybe even Wi-Fi on some of its flights this year.
Usual rules apply
- Ryanair has frequent seat sales so keep an eye out for them, avoiding, of course, the blackout dates (bank holidays, school holidays, major sporting events).
- Book as far in advance as you can. Research shows that 56 days to departure is the cheapest time to book.
- Look for early-morning or late-night flights but ensure that public transport will be running at that time.
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (until lunchtime) are always the cheapest days to fly. Fridays and Sundays the most expensive. On Mondays, you’ve got to factor in bank holidays and people taking long weekends.
- Rough it to save money. Only take a cabin bag, opt out of travel insurance (get your own annual travel insurance policy), don’t go for priority boarding or the premium seats and, of course, don’t eat, drink or buy anything on the flight.
- If you need to buy a baggage allowance add the cost of that to your flight. Compare the cost of everything! A legacy airline may give you a free baggage allowance plus carry your infant for free and a free in-flight meal. Add up everything you’re buying as part of your Ryanair flight and compare that to a legacy carrier.
(Feature image: www.SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr)