Ryan Air is the low-cost carrier in Europe—and by low-cost I mean it makes Southwest Airlines look like hopping the Concord. Fares from Seville, Spain to Marseilles, France, were $110 round trip (up from the lowest fare of $60) and since you can’t even fly LAX to Vegas for that, the economics felt pretty good. But what you don’t know about Ryan Air CAN hurt you–badly–so here are a few tips.
1.) Your carry-on bag better fit–and not the “stuff it into the overhead bin” kind of fit. A centimeter more than 55 x 40 x 20 (no bigger than a breadbox) and you’ll be swiping that Visa card for another $90 at the airport to check your bag. And if your bag weighs over 10 kilos, a dedicated bag checker lies in wait at the boarding gate to nail you. Pay up or start throwing away your underwear.
2.) Don’t make the mistake of thinking your teeny-weeny purse/camera/fanny pack rides for free. A flight attendant made me get down on my knees, open my bag, and stuff my Nikon inside. ”ONE carry bag!” she warned, shaking one finger in my face in case I didn’t speak English.
3.) BYOE–Bring Your Own Everything. You can buy food on board but lunch will cost roughly the price of your ticket. And you might as well drink beer since water costs nearly as much– $5 for a small bottle.
4.) A seat assignment can be yours—or you can pre-board–for a price. Depending on how early you want to get on or what seat you want, it’ll cost you between $40-$60. Otherwise, get in line and prepare to bum rush the gate with the rest of us sheep. And if you lose that boarding pass? The “airport boarding card reissue fee” is $80.
5.) Do you have a baby under two years old? It’ll cost you $67 for the little sweetheart to sit on your lap (this includes the fee for storing the infant seat).
6.) If you’ve entertained yourself previously by reading the in-flight magazine and safety card in your seat back pocket–or drawing on the barf bag–you’re going to be bored because there is no seat back pocket. But you can occupy your time reading the advertisements on the panels and overhead bins. But don’t even think about reclining your seat to take a nap because the seats don’t recline–even a little.
7.) If you’d like your name to grace the fuselage of a Ryan Air jet, no problem. It’s $28,000. ”Comunitat Valenciana” (the community of Valencia, Spain) was the logo on our plane to France and “City of Nyköping” (a Swedish city) owned the ad space on the way back.
8.) If you miss your flight, they will put you on the next one–IF you’ve got an extra $150 (but make sure you spell your name right when booking on-line because Ryan Air’s “Name Change Fee” is a whopping $215).
9.) Good news for smokers and gamblers! Electronic cigarettes are for sale on board for $15 a pack–choose from three different flavors! And $3 lotto tickets give you a chance to win free air travel. Our investment was a bust.
10.) When a Ryan Air jet lands, the “Bugle Call To The Post” song booms through the cabin (you know, the one played at horse-racing tracks?) and people (at least the people on our plane) yell Ole!. “You have arrived on another Ryan Air on-time flight!” announces a recorded voice. ”Last year, over 90% of Ryan Air flights arrived on-time, beating every other European Airline! Ryan Air—for the lowest fares and the best on-time record!” I swear, whoever conceived this airline is a genius.
Conclusion: IF you play by the rules, there is no better, faster, cheaper way to travel. We found Ryan Air to be über-efficient; by the time we were off the plane and walking down the long jetway, the next flight was already boarding. And since most of the 160 destinations they fly to sound exotic to my American ears, Ryan Air might just be the ticket to experience them all.