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This may shock you, but it’s true — I love flying Ryanair. Having lived in Europe for over a decade now, I can confidently say I’ve flown Ryanair over 100 times and will continue to do so. It’s obviously not the most luxurious airline, but it has plenty of upsides. At first, it may seem crazy to be so loyal to an airline that doesn’t award you points, has no business class and flies planes that are often compared to cattle cars in the air. But, hear me out — open your minds and listen to why I actually like flying Ryanair — you may just end up considering flying it too!
1. It’s cheap
When tickets to Budapest from Madrid cost 30 euros ($35) on Ryanair and 200 euros ($233) on Iberia, the choice is clear: I’m picking Ryanair! I’ll happily save 170 euros (almost $200) in return for spending three hours of my life on a Ryanair plane. I’ll use that $200 for a beautiful hotel, a memorable meal or another amazing experience instead.
First and foremost, Ryanair is inexpensive. These days, full-service airlines like Iberia have joined the basic-economy-fare trend and no longer offer a free checked bag or seat selection — even my American Airlines Gold (oneworld Ruby) status means pretty much nothing on the airline anymore. I’ll likely end up in a middle seat in the back with Iberia anyway (yes, it’s happened to me even with oneworld Ruby), but for just a couple euros (literally as low as 2 euros) I can select my seat as well as have priority boarding (as low as 4 euros) on Ryanair. I’ve flown for under $25 all-in with the carrier — by far the cheapest airline tickets I’ve ever encountered!
Plus, my Priority Pass lounge access (thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card) ensures I’ll be lounging in style before the flight, regardless of whether or not I’m flying with Ryanair. Plus, it’s always fun to enter the lounge, hand over my Priority Pass card and then flash my Ryanair boarding pass to the shock and confusion of the lounge reception staff.
2. It has an extensive route map
Ryanair flies to so many smaller, more obscure destinations that would otherwise be more complicated or expensive to get to, plus capital cities and big hubs. With Ryanair, I can get to Catania in Sicily, Italy; Marrakech, Morocco; Hamburg, Germany; Vilnius, Lithuania; Bucharest, Romania; or Toulouse, France, as well as hubs like London, Rome or Dublin from Madrid, among many others.
By offering over 220 destinations (some of them seasonal) people who couldn’t previously reach some of these smaller, off-the-beaten-path destinations now have the opportunity to do just that. I find it particularly empowering to tell friends that of course I’ll meet them in Pisa or the Canary Islands for the weekend without having to check flights or my bank account first — I know Ryanair will have something cheap and accessible!
3. It’s upfront about being no-frills
To be honest, Ryanair seats seem no smaller than in economy on any other airline flying a short-haul route. But at least Ryanair is upfront about the fact that it’s a low-cost carrier. The airline doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Meanwhile, larger, more expensive airlines are shrinking legroom, adding more rows, charging for food and drinks and worsening the overall flying experience in general — but still acting as if they weren’t.
I recently boarded an American Airlines flight from Dallas (DFW) to Miami (MIA) and my knees (I’m 5 feet, 2 inches) touched the seat in front of me when I reclined. I always think I’ll have a more comfortable flying experience when flying economy with airlines like AA, Delta, United, Iberia, Air France and Air Europa, but that’s often not the case. At least with Ryanair, I know what I’ll be getting and can mentally prepare myself. Oh, and PS — some Ryanair seats actually have more legroom than the comparable seats on AA!
4. I read the fine print
It’s frustrating when you arrive at the Ryanair desk to find your bag is overweight. Suddenly, you’re stuck paying — gasp — $45, more than the price of your ticket! Complain all you like, but simply reading the rules will allow you to avoid last-minute charges and surprises. The rules are quite clear, which brings me to my previous point of Ryanair being upfront. I read the fine print; in fact, each time I book a ticket with them, I re-read everything to ensure nothing has changed (it did recently change its carry-on regulations) — especially in the way of luggage (both carry-on and checked baggage) and the size and weight restrictions.
5. And do my homework
Here’s a list of things I do when flying Ryanair to make sure there will be no moments of panic at the airport, on board or upon arrival, and that I have an easy, comfortable flying experience:
- Weigh my luggage with a small, handheld scale before flying
- Book any checked bags in advance to avoid higher charges when doing so at the airport
- Decline the Ryanair insurance (I’ll book travel insurance on my own if I need it, but through another company)
- Check in as far in advance as possible (if you pay to book your seat in advance, you can check in weeks ahead of time)
- Print my boarding pass for airports that don’t allow mobile boarding passes
- Get my boarding pass stamped at check-in if I’m traveling outside of the EU (a Ryanair requirement for non-EU citizens)
- Find out which airport Ryanair flies into in each city and see if it fits with my travel schedule. For example, Ryanair doesn’t fly to Linate (LIN) or Malpensa (MXP) in Milan; it actually flies to Bergamo (BGY). But I know that you can take a bus for 5 euros ($5.80) from the Bergamo airport to Milano Centrale, which takes about an hour, the same amount of time as the bus from Malpensa, so I’ll happily fly there. But I won’t in Paris, because Ryanair only flies to Paris-Beauvais (BVA), which is simply too far from the city center.
- Never book any transport, hotels or cars through Ryanair, only flights
- Have a specific carry-on I always use with Ryanair that I know fits in its luggage sizer (including wheels) without effort (always measure!)
- Bring snacks and drinks — I know the airline charges for everything, so I’d rather shop from a better selection at the airport
- Pay extra for seat selection, priority boarding or Flexi Plus (more on that below)
- Bring a neck pillow, dress in layers in case the plane is too hot or cold, and block out any chatter with noise-canceling headphones
6. I’m always a priority flyer with Ryanair
Whereas I’m basically treated like a peasant on any airline I don’t have status with (um, Boarding Group 9 … seriously?), I always get priority with Ryanair. Why? Because tickets are so darn cheap, I can afford to pay the extra 4 to 12 euros ($4.60 to $14, depending on route and season) for priority boarding. Paying a bit more for a Flexi Plus fare also ensures I don’t have to wait in a long line at check-in (this fare class also includes seat selection, priority boarding and flexible change options). I’d rather spend way less on a ticket and then a little bit more to add on all the bells and whistles for comfortable travel.
Feature image via Shutterstock.com.
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