Written by: Thomas
Ryanair is Europe’s leading low cost carrier. While it has a loyal following they also tend to have a lot of haters too because of their exorbitant fees for overweight carry on baggage and other things, visa/passport checks for non-EU citizens, inefficient boarding processes, and the fact that you must have pre-printed your boarding passes.
For all its faults, I don’t think you can argue that it is definitely the cheapest way to get around Europe. Where else are you going to find a flight going across Europe for 15 euros? While I don’t love Ryanair, I am able to tolerate it for what it is – a means to a destination. That said, we are extremely budget conscious travelers, and we don’t need the extra frills that a full service airline offers for such short flights.
We took 5 Ryanair flights in total within a span of 2 weeks throughout Europe so I think based on the law of averages we had both good and bad experiences covered.
If you are planning on traveling with Ryanair, make sure you aware of the following things!
1. Cabin Baggage
At the moment Ryanair allows cabin baggage weighing up to 10 kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, and recently have began to allow 1 other small personal item up to 35 x 20 x 20 cms.
This is actually really good in comparison to other low cost carriers that we have experienced. In most of Asia, they only allow 7 kg (e.g. AirAsia, JetStar, and HK Express).
If your bag is over 10kg or does not fit into their sizer, you have to pay between 15 to 45 euros depending on weight and season. For a couple of our flights, they actually offered free checked baggage at the counter for some reason (maybe due to low season).
Also, they only guarantee the first 90 bags to be stored in the cabin. Sometimes they will make you gate check your bag (for free) if the flight is too full.
2. Online Check-In and Self-Printed Boarding Passes
Online check-in opens up for all flights 1 week prior to departure. Make sure you check-in online and print off your boarding pass. They charge you 70 euros to print it off at the airport.
This was a little bit annoying for us as we were on the road, and had to find internet cafes in Europe to print them off.
3. Visa/Passport Check
If you are not a citizen of the European Union, you must get your passport checked at the check-in / baggage drop counter prior to going through security. They will stamp your boarding pass which then allows you to board.
I’ve read about people who were not aware of this, and were sent back to the check-in counter when they were about to board at the gate. Don’t let this happen to you by making sure you get your boarding pass stamped.
4. Lineups for Boarding
Ryanair does not employ a boarding by zone process at this time and requires passengers to line up at the gate about 10-20 minutes prior to the actual boarding time. I would advise you to get to the gate a little early so that you get cabin baggage space.
5. Food and Beverage
It is not a surprise that Ryanair does not serve complimentary food and beverages, as is the case for most low cost carriers. They do offer sandwiches, snacks, coffee, and drinks on board though for a fee ranging between 1 – 5 euros or so. It’s not the best but does the job if you need it.
Just pack a snack and you won’t have to resort to paying for their overpriced food and drinks.
Ryanair flights have non-stop announcements from safety demonstrations at the start of the flight, to food and bevarage sales, to duty-free sales, and the infamous scratch card sales. Bring ear plugs or a pair of noise cancelling headphones and you will be fine.
Ryanair does not always fly to the main airport of each city. Most of the time they fly to the ‘alternative’ airports within Europe, such as Brussels Charleroi and Oslo Rygge (both 60 minutes away from city centre).
Make sure you have a transportation plan to get to the city centre or wherever you are going.
I realize these 7 things sound pretty terrible, but that’s what you get when you’re paying as low as 15 euros, and they are really not that bad. Perfect for euro tripping when the train is not a feasible option!
Just take it for what it is, enjoy your cheap flight, and look forward to your destination. Also trust me when I say that it is far better than some of the other low cost carriers we have taken in Asia (e.g. Air Asia, and HK Express (which does not even allow you to bring outside food and beverages)).
This post is #2 in a series of Airline Reviews. Read about my review of Air New Zealand here.