Surviving Ryanair


Ryanair and I have a complicated relationship. Specifically, I simultaneously despise and love the cheapest airline in Europe. I love it because it enables my travel addition. See my Semana Santa plans, roundtrip airfare to Eastern(ish) Europe for 140€. However, Ryanair takes “you get what you pay for” to a whole new level. Yet for all the headaches inherent in Ryanair, if you know what you’re getting into, you can avoid needless pain and suffering, or unexpected 50€ surcharges. Because, yeah, Ryanair is staffed by sneaky jerks.

Before you get to the Airport

Where is the airport?!
First before you even buy that awesome looking 14.99 ticket, take a second look at the airport names. And then GoogleMaps the name. One of the ways Ryanair keeps prices low is by flying of tiny/regional/military airports in the ass-end of nowhere. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but they deliberately mislabel the airports listed on their website. For example, Frankfurt Hahn is 75 miles from Frankfurt and 14€ for a shuttle. Paris Beauvais is 60 miles, or over an hour BY TAXI, from Paris. Barcelona Girona is 60 miles, or an hour by taxi, from Barcelona. (Notice a common theme here? Well, expensive and hour-long taxi rides happen when you run out of time to get to hidden-away airports).
A rule of thumb? Whenever the airport’s name is two words long, it isn’t in the city you think it is, and you need to add on shuttle fare and time to your travel plans. Actually, when dealing with Ryanair you should ALWAYS assume you’re dealing with nowheresville airports and do some serious Googling, before the day of your trip.
Note: Spain and Portugal are mostly immune to the RyanairPort phenomenon, with the exception of “Barcelona” Girona and “Barcelona” Reus.

Hidden Fees
Ryanair will nail your ass on two things: boarding pass and checked bag fees, 50-60€ each. Makes your cheap flight shoot up real quickly. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to avoid these extra payments if you have a clue what you’re doing.
First, PRINT YOUR BOARDING PASS AT HOME. Seriously people, check-in online as soon as possible, print the pass and sick it with your passport because it’s that important. And no, there won’t be a printer at the airport. What there will be is a Ryanair employee who will happily print your pass for you, for 60€. This is a simple, easy way for the company to make more money and I’ve watched so many people have to pay this fee because they had no clue.
Second, baggage. Checking bags is extra, so most people go the carry-on only route. Which means you must comply with Ryanair’s restrictions. Just assume you will the most anal retentive jackass with a power complex measuring your bag and plan accordingly. The dimensions are not flexible! If your bag is a centimeter too tall, and sticks out of their stupid box by that much, they can and will make you check it (which costs an extra 50€). The same goes for being overweight. I’ve only had my bag weighed once, in 3 years of flying but I still keep it well under the 10 kg/22 lbs limit. Because Murphy’s Law of Ryanair states, if you’re trying to pull something, you will get the biggest dickhead in the company. So, use a suitcase that’s within Ryanair restrictions, OR my preferred method: a small backpack. For some reason, the clerks rarely look twice at backpacks, though you should still keep yours within the 55x40x20cm dimensions.
Of course, you can stretch your suitcase further by wearing your coat and stuffing your pockets (after passing security of course).
And girls, make sure your damn purse fits into your bag. Trying to hide it under your coat only works if the flight attendant is really hungover.

At the Airport

Passport Stamps
Are you European? No? Go check-in .
You checked in online? No, too bad. You still need a passport check.
Why? Because Ryanair can make you do it, that’s why.
This is surprisingly easy, depending on the size of the airport. Simply look for any Ryanair desk, or failing that, your flight’s check-in desk (hint, the main desk usually has a shorter line and they can check you too). Some flunky will look at your passport, the boarding pass and maybe your face before stamping the paper. Fun job, no?
This step is obligatory.
They will not let you on the plane without this stamp.
Americans, if you have made the risky decision of buying a connecting flight with Ryanair, you will have to walk all the way out of security and get another stamp, before re-entering. Trust me on this.
By the way, “connecting flights” don’t actually exist in RyanairLand. You can easily buy one flight to Madrid and another from Madrid to “Paris,” but the airline does not recognize them as being bundled. In fact, their official policy on missed connections, whether due to weather, mechanical difficulties or general incompetence is–“Sucks to be you!” Keep it in mind when you try for that 50 minute connection in Barcelona.

Lining up like a Sheep
No matter how early you get to the gate, there will be a line. See, Ryanair seats on a first come, first served basis (except for the non-broke people who paid extra for reserved seating). If you want a window seat or to sit next to people who you know and like, by all means line up early. As for me and the people who prefer NOT waiting for the privilege of being stuffed into a brightly colored tuna can, we’ll be sitting at the airport bar, laughing at your for the next hour until the plane is almost full.
*Note: This may not end well if you have neglected to get the abovementioned passport stamp.

On the Plane

Basically, bring earplugs or at least put on your headphones as soon as possible. Ryanair will try to sell you everything from lottery tickets to bad perfume. The flight attendants will repeatedly bang into your elbow and waving cigarette cartons under your nose. So the best thing to do is tune them out.

If you make it through Ryanair alive and without incurring any extra fees, congratulations. Welcome to the ranks of the broke travelers of Europe!


One thought on “Surviving Ryanair

  1. It seems that we have similar feelings for Ryanair… I highly disagree with their approach on advertising, customer service, PR, etc. but at the end of the day, when it comes to a cheap flight, I come back to them… why? simply because nowadays, price matters more than anything else.

    I have written a blog article on how Ryanair uses conflict in order to appear in the media and how they manage to stay on top even though their relationship with customers is extremely poor. I would be really keen to see your comments on the issue 🙂

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