If you’re a budget traveler, odds are you’ve heard of RyanAir. It’s an airline in Europe that offers outrageously low prices on flights across the continent and beyond. We’re talking one-way flights for as little as $5.00. Who’s ready to jump on that?! Well, aside from the prices, RyanAir is also known for its poor customer service. I’ve heard stories of passengers flying with RyanAir being nickel and dimed for every possible thing, and stories of absolutely horrendous flight attendants.
Needless to say, when I entered the details of my credit card online and clicked purchase on my RyanAir flights, I was nervous. I scoured the internet reading horror story after horror story. After a while, I decided to just pull on my adventure panties and see if this RyanAir was really as terrible as people made it seem. I would discover the truth about flying with RyanAir.
After three flights with RyanAir, I did not have a single issue. No extra money was charged. I didn’t have anyone threaten to take my luggage away. Nobody tried to deny me entry to the plane. In fact, I found it all pretty much what I expected- a no frills, get you from point A to point B kind of flight.
And while I won’t bestow upon myself a badge of ultimate RyanAir expertise, I will happily share some tips, and everything I did to help my time with RyanAir run smoothly.
My three basic rules of flying with RyanAir
After flying with RyanAir, I have narrowed the process down to three key rules:
- Know the Rules and follow them
- Don’t expect to be pampered
- Go with the flow
The biggest way you can CYA is by reading the rules and policies of RyanAir and make sure you follow them. All of RyanAir’s policies are outlined on their website. Even throughout the booking process, make sure you’re reading everything that’s presented to you. RyanAir isn’t trying to trick you. Just educate yourself on how they operate.
RyanAir is a budget airline. You can’t expect to have a first class experience here. If that is what you are expecting, then yeah, your time with RyanAir is going to be upsetting. But in this case, you really pay for what you get. So if you paid virtually nothing, expect virtually nothing.
Things work a little differently when flying with RyanAir, than with most other airlines. Many airports won’t have your gate listed until close to boarding time. At boarding, you won’t be called up in zones or by section. You won’t be served beverages or snacks unless you pay for them. And you may have to listen to sales presentations through the flight. You’re just going to have to go with the flow of all these different procedures. It’s going to be okay. You can do it.
Read ALL the fine print
Like I mentioned in Rule #1, you have to read everything. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t just assume you know everything because you’ve flown on a plane before, or because you’re a seasoned traveler. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to violate a policy and have to pay for it (literally…). Some good places to start are their FAQs page and their Fees page.
Like most other airlines, RyanAir charges a hefty fee for checked luggage. If you have no problem paying this fee, hey, great for you. But I suspect that if you’re flying with RyanAir it’s because you’re trying to save on that cash money. So, obviously, I’m going to encourage you to go the free carry-on luggage route. BUT! You have to know the rules. [EDIT: RyanAir has since changed their baggage policy, and carry-on bags are no longer free. Check out their fees page for up-to-date baggage costs.]
RyanAir is known for being very strict with their carry-on luggage sizes and weight. It says on their websites that all carry-on bags need to be 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and at a maximum weight of 10kg. Now, I’d recommend trying to fall under these numbers, to leave room for error. I’ve heard that some airports will weigh your bags to ensure they follow this rule. They also have little baskets near the counters and some airports will make you put your bag in the basket to prove that it is the proper size. I never had to do either of these things, but you better believe I was prepared for them!
The good news is, you can also bring a free personal item, as long as it’s 35cm x 20cm x 20cm. I also noticed, in my online research and during my experiences with RyanAir, that those who were carrying on backpacks rather than actual pieces of luggage had fewer issues with weight/size checks.
This is what I took onboard my RyanAir flights
To Pay for Seats, or to Not Pay for Seats
RyanAir offers the option to pay to choose what seat you want. Different sections of the plane cost different amounts of money ranging from $5 to $20. If you choose not to pay for a seat, one will be randomly selected for you on the day of departure. In this case, you can pretty much guarantee being put in a middle seat. If that’s not a problem for you it may be worth it to save those few dollars.
When flying with RyanAir, I chose to pay for my seats. I paid a total of $20 to choose seats for my three RyanAir flights. The main reason I did this is because if you choose your seat, then you can check into your flight 60 days before departure and print your boarding pass. While traveling in Europe, I didn’t know when I would have access to a printer, and if you don’t print out your own boarding pass, the airline charges €15 to print one for you at the airport. Therefore, by paying to pick my seats and print my passes at home, I actually ended up saving over $30.
How about that App?
RyanAir has a useful app you can download onto your smartphone. With it, you are able to keep track of your reservations and flight schedules. You can also pull up your boarding pass on the app, and not have to worry about printing it or paying for it to be printed. However, you can only use the app for your boarding pass IF you are flying out of an airport that accepts mobile boarding passes AND you are an EU/EEA National. So, because I’m from the United States, I was not eligible to use the app for my boarding passes. The only real use the app was for me was to make sure my flights were on time.
The best way to check in for your Ryanair flight is online. Like I mentioned earlier, if you pay to choose your seat ahead of time, you have the ability to check in a whole 60 days before your departure. If not, then you can check in online 4 days before departure. You can also use the RyanAir app to check in. Otherwise, you can check into your flight at the airport, but they charge a whopping €50 per person. So it’s much better to check in online and save all that money.
The Visa Check
You guys, this one is SUPER important. So many people have been screwed over on RyanAir because they missed this important rule. If you are a non EU/EEU passenger, you MUST have your travel documents (your boarding pass and passport) stamped BEFORE you go through security. You will need to stand in line at the ticketing counter and have someone stamp your boarding pass. Basically, they just want to make sure that you are legally allowed to be flying into your destination country.
If you do not have this stamp on your boarding pass when flying with RyanAir, you will not be allowed to board the plane. You will have to go back to the ticketing counter, get the stamp, and go all the way back through security. Most likely, you’ll miss your flight and have to pay to rebook a new one. That’s more $$$ spent.
Make. Sure. You get. The stamp.
The early bird gets many worms
It is super important that you show up early for your flight. If you have to get that visa stamp, it means you have to stand in line at the ticket counter. This means you may be standing for a good amount of time before you get to security. Once you’re at your gate, keep an eye on when people start forming a line. The line will start forming before any boarding announcements are made.
The biggest reason to stand in line early is to ensure that there is space for your carry-on luggage in the plane. If there is not, it will have to be stowed underneath the plane. There have been accounts of passengers being charged a fee for this. So the best way to avoid it is to line up early. I found this to be a great time to have a book on my phone that I could just read to pass the time in line.
Headphones are a passenger’s best friend
As with many low-cost airlines, flying with RyanAir means that you are going to have to sit through multiple sales pitches on your flight. The best way to combat this is to bring along your headphones and use your music to drown out the sounds of airline staff trying to sell perfume. Not to mention listening to music or podcasts can help the time seem to pass more quickly.
Let’s be real here. I’m not guaranteeing that by following all these tips, you are going to have a perfect, stress-free experience with RyanAir. But by following the basic rules and knowing what to expect, your time with RyanAir likely to run much smoother. Don’t waive off those cheap flights as too good to be true! And don’t be scared off by the RyanAir horror stories. Give them a try with zero expectations, and discover your own truth about flying with RyanAir.
Have questions about flying with RyanAir? Leave a comment or send an email!