If you find a cheap flight in Europe, chances are it’s with RyanAir. RyanAir is wildly notorious for their numerous fees and strict rules. More than one carry on? A teensy bit over weight/size limit? Didn’t print your boarding pass? Forget about getting on the plane without forking over a lot of cash.
So why do people consistently fly with them? Simple- the tickets are DIRT cheap. The average round trip ticket price is around 60/65 USD, but if you book ahead of time or catch one of their frequent deals you can often find tickets flying to most places for around 10-20 USD (I know, it’s almost too good to be true- hence the exorbitant fees).
For example, I flew round trip from London to Copenhagen for about 19 USD but a last-minute trip to Dublin set me back around 60 USD. If you really want to get the cheapest of the cheap, departures between Tuesdays to Thursdays are your best bet. Mostly though, I’ve found that there’s no rhyme or reason in waiting for a particular time for prices to drop, so if you find a cheap ticket, go for it. RyanAir can be extremely convenient when you’re prepared.
Here are some tips to survive your first trip with them:
- CHECK-IN ONLINE/PRINT OUT YOUR BOARDING TICKET (Pay special attention if you’re a non-EU citizen)
- RyanAir lets you check-in for free online a week before your flight departs (30 days in advance for a fee), and you MUST PRINT OUT YOUR BOARDING TICKET. They will charge you a fee for checking in at the airport. Strangely enough, it is listed as €45/£45 (50/65 USD) so you’re paying a bit more if departing from the UK. Unlucky!
- IMPORTANT: if you’re an EU citizen, you have the option of printing out the ticket or using their mobile app (unless your destination is Morocco), but if you’re, say, an American, you need to go to their counter and get a visa stamp. They will be very disgruntled/possibly not let you onto the flight if you do not have it stamped. At the very least it will severely delay things.
- Some airports (Dublin, London Luton) have printing stations if you’re in a rush but I would strongly advise printing it out well in advance
- If your trip is longer than a week and you cannot print out/check-in for your return trip ticket, make sure your hostel/hotel/AirBnB host can print it out for you (or google the nearest Internet cafe)
- Find out which airports you arrive/depart from
- Most budget airlines do not depart from a big city’s main airports, so make sure you arrive on time. For example, in London, RyanAir departs from Stansted, Luton, and Gatwick with no flights leaving from Heathrow. In other cities it operates under similar parameters, arriving at secondary airports- so do your research ahead of time!
- This might also affect how cheap your journey actually is when you factor in bus/train/taxi connections (My flight to CPH was 19 USD round trip, but my Thameslink train ticket was £15.5, which is ~22 USD)
- Make sure your luggage meets requirements
- RyanAir has a strict luggage policy. You are allowed one free cabin carry-on (max. 10 kg and up to 55cm x 40cm x 20cm) plus one small bag (up to 35 x 20 x 20cm)
- If you can’t cram it in or they deem it too large, you will be forced to pay the €50/£50 fee (57/70 USD)
- You can also check-in up to two bags. If you do decide to check-in your bags, do it online beforehand. This will save you £10/€10
- Since my budget airline trips are usually spontaneous and never longer than a week, I just travel with a large backpack and a tote bag as my carry-on luggage
- Bring headphones
- Flying a budget airline is never comfortable. The seats are weirdly plastic-y and my legs feel cramped within the first 10 minutes. They also have insanely loud announcements throughout the entire flight. The best thing you can do is put some headphones in and suffer through it because you’re a broke student who is also lucky enough to see Europe!
Another well-known airline along the same vein is EasyJet, which is RyanAir’s main competitor. They’re basically the same, although RyanAir is a bit more ubiquitous. I would also recommend flying with them with the same amount of planning.
The most expensive budget airline ticket I bought was quite justified, since it was all the way to Iceland (~270 USD). We flew with WOWAir, and although with most budget airlines customer service is at its bare minimum, they were very accommodating (in true Icelandic spirit ☺). It was a virtually painless flight from London to Reykjavik.
In summary, don’t take the horror stories too seriously- just make sure you get everything in order online before you get to the airport and you should be totally fine and ready to splurge that extra money on a souvenir!
You can find a complete list of RyanAir’s fees on their website.