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This past August, I took an epic Euro trip with a group of friends — from Santorini to Mykonos to Venice and finally on to Puglia in Southern Italy. When it was time to finally come home, I checked for the best options to fly home and I had the option of flying from Rome (FCO) to Newark (EWR) in United first or Rome to Frankfurt to New York in Lufthansa first. Guess which I picked?
In order to catch my flight in Frankfurt, I needed to get from Brindisi to Rome. I was having such an amazing time at Villa Borgo Ignacio, which I highly recommend, and I wanted to extend my time there. Lo and behold, the best way to accomplish that was by flying Ryanair at 11pm. I shuddered at the thought since I swore off ever flying the super low-cost carrier after my bad experience in 2013 when I had to pay $96 to print my boarding pass on a $99 ticket. Re-reading that post, I realize how precious I am/was!
I love a nice hotel suite as much as the next person, but renting a luxury villa can make a lot of sense with a big group. This week I’m in #Puglia with 11 friends in a 6th century Italian villa. Daily chef and fitness instructors are a fraction of what we’d pay for meals in hotels. We used luxuryretreats.com who have been phenomenal (fyi no paid endorsement). $12k for the week for 6 huge bedrooms, beautiful pool and grounds.
As mentioned in the comments and on social media, flying Ryanair is a game, and you need to be prepared to play it. If you approach the experience like you’re flying a US legacy carrier, you are sure to lose. Like what happened to me in 2013 when I waited until 2.5 hours before departure to check-in, a time when Ryanair purposely locks you out, makes you pay obscene fees and forces you to go through a rigmarole process of paying in cash and then waiting in a bunch of lines. I clearly lost and wasn’t happy about it. Bless my precious and naive self for not going in prepared.
This time around, I wouldn’t lose. I would play by Ryanair’s rules and, surprisingly, they weren’t that difficult — that is, if you’re willing to pay, which I was. I paid for the carrier’s business service, which includes a checked bag (heresy on Ryanair!), free airport check-in and premium seating. I booked the day prior for $232, which was better than the alternatives — spending more and flying Alitalia and having to leave early or spending half the day on Trenitalia crossing the country.
I decided to test the limits of the business fare, so I showed up to the airport without a boarding pass and a huge piece of luggage (I was in Europe for nearly three weeks!), and I think the check-in agent nearly had a panic attack. He actually had to call a supervisor to see how he would check someone in without a boarding pass and how it was possible to check a bag and not charge a fee. It was challenging everything he knew as a Ryanair check-in agent. I enjoyed this process immensely.
My bag was above the check-in weight slightly, but he let it slide — I think I had temporary god status to him, and he wasn’t willing to challenge me. I had effectively neutralized that famous Ryanair “gotcha” feeling — I had won! By simply paying up front for the services I wanted to use — who would have thunk it?
I went to the gate and lined up on the priority side of the barrier, and the agents boarded us in three zones. And trust me, if you didn’t have priority boarding, you were not allowed in that area. Enforcement was strict and merciless, and we were all shepherded out on the tarmac to wait for the passengers to deplane. Not 90 seconds after the last passenger was off, we began boarding. Ryanair is no joke about turning planes around quickly.
Despite all the excitement, I managed to capture quite a bit of the trip on Snapchat, which you can see below:
I had selected an exit row aisle seat and it had legroom for days whereas the London to Santorini flight in British Airways Club Europe that I had taken at the beginning of my trip was misery. My knees hit the seat in front of me and I had to wedge myself to fit — in business class!
The crowd on this flight was also particularly attractive (in my personal taste) — think sun-seeking, budget-minded Italians. My seatmate was easy on the eyes (and no, for obvious reasons, I didn’t take a picture), making it the cherry on top of my Ryanair experience. The flight left early and landed early in Rome, and I deplaned with a very good impression of Ryanair for the following reasons:
Most passengers are cheap and don’t select the extra options like priority boarding and premium seats. So even the day before I arrived, I was able to select the best seat on the plane. Try doing that in the US, when every elite member snatches the best seats weeks in advance.
Priority boarding is enforced. Even when flying Lufthansa First Class, the boarding process is unregulated and like a zoo. Most people trying to board early on flights in the US are allowed on, too. That’s not the case with Ryanair. Agents patrol priority boarding like no other airline I’ve flown, which is a good thing if you’ve paid for that perk. And no, there are not legions of Ryanair credit card holders also jockeying to board early!
Leaving late isn’t an option. Boarding the aircraft is a simple science on Ryanair, and people are loaded on and off like cargo since even carry-on bags are monitored in advance at the gate — you don’t have people trying to stuff body bags in the overhead compartments. This simplified boarding process allows flights to deplane and board quickly. At the end of the day, time is money and Ryanair has great on-time arrival rates.
4. Eye Candy
On my flight, there were plenty of hot passengers. OK, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’ve seen a lot of hot passengers on my flights and this is my blog and I can write what I want!
5. Lack of Entitlement
Everyone knows you have to pay for everything. You won’t find people throwing a fit because they don’t have fresh lemons for their complimentary tea. Ryanair is bare bones and there are no bones about it, and the in-flight experience is every man (or woman) for themselves. As a whole, it’s kind of refreshing from flying the entitled, elite skies for so long!
6. Cool Routes
Ryanair doesn’t have a hub and spoke network, so it flies a lot of secondary markets, meaning more nonstop options and less connecting via hubs. Just note, many of the airports the carrier services are actually far outside city centers like I learned in college when flying to Paris Beauvais Airport (BVA), which sounded chic, but is really a shack that’s 90 minutes outside of Paris.
7. Better Glutes
Ryanair doesn’t splurge on gates, so you’ll usually have to take stairs to board the plane, which makes for a firmer derrière.
8. Get Rich Quick
Ryanair sells lotto tickets on board. What other airline can get you rich while flying cheap?
9. Underpromise and Deliver (Sometimes Even Overdeliver)
Most airlines overpromise and underdeliver — not with Ryanair. You know you’re in for bare bones and that’s what you’ll get. Sometimes you might even get a pleasant experience like in my case when Ryanair allowed me to savor every last drop of my Italian vacation and get to Rome early, comfortably and cheaply.
10. Bragging Rights!
Have you flown on Ryanair? What are your thoughts?
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