RyanAir. The airline that can get you from one country to another for ridiculously low prices. The airline with no frills, just service to get you from A to B. The airline with the most on-time flights out of all its competitors. What’s not to love about RyanAir?
A lot, actually. To be fair, the budget airline is a novel concept that the United States is just now trying to adopt (with less ease because of the huge mass of land that is this country). It’s perfect for traveling around Europe, especially if you are a student, and especially if you are a study abroad student trying to see a lot of the continent while there.
You just get what you pay for.
First of all, RyanAir rarely flies into main airports (i.e. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle) and usually lands in airports in the middle of nowhere. For example, my friend once bought a flight from Bristol to France for 7 euros, or about 10 dollars. But the flight was landing in Dinard, France. What? Where the heck even is Dinard, France?
That’s an extreme example of RyanAir’s random destinations, but even flights going to London will land at Luton or Stansted, which are significantly farther away from the city center than Heathrow is. The problem is that while your flight is cheap, the public transportation (taxi, train, or metro) that you inevitably have to take will cost extra bucks and time – and time really is money if you only have a weekend to explore a city. If you’re not careful, you might just end up paying the same or more as you would have flying a higher-priced airline into a main airport.
Second, RyanAir has an extremely strict check-in process. For one, their bag drop closes exactly 40 minutes before the scheduled time of departure. And I mean exactly – I once tried to check in my bags 38 minutes before the scheduled time of departure and was declined, even though I had already pre-paid to check in my bag when I purchased my flight.
This might be fine with a regular airline, but RyanAir also only allows one carry on item including your handbag/purse, and that one carry on must not pass the size and weight limits (or you may have to resort to taking out and wearing some of your clothes before boarding). So, if you miss the deadline to check in your bag and are then left with two, you’ll be forced to check in one of them at the gate for a 50 euro charge. And if your carry on bag doesn’t fit the required dimensions, then there’s another 50 euros to check in that bag. They are strict. What’s more, if you have any unapproved items in the bag you meant to check in before security (like a handblown glass wine bottle opener from Florence), you’ll have it confiscated.
Finally, the stewardesses sell items during the entire flight. They will start selling at takeoff and stop at landing because they receive commission. This obviously won’t cost you any money if you don’t make any purchases, but when you think the stewardess is going to ask for your complimentary soft drink order and she tries to sell you smokeless cigarettes instead, you begin to wonder how many more money traps RyanAir needs.
But don’t let these things deter you from flying RyanAir. It’s almost a rite of passage to make it onto one of those crappy planes and live to tell the tale (I may be a bit dramatic). Personally, I’ve had both painless and nightmarish experiences with the airline because it’s a combination of planning and luck.
I’ve found out firsthand that as much as you plan and plan, you can’t always control your travel conditions. If the train you want to take is broken or your coach to the airport is delayed (or if you just miscalculated the time it takes to get somewhere – it happens in foreign countries), just roll with the punches. It might cost you an extra 50 euros or so, but sometimes that’s the price to take home a memorable travel story from abroad.