The Truth About Budget Airlines

Posted on September 8, 2011


Each semester, we hear innumerable rumors about Ryanair among incoming international students. Is it dangerous? Will they drop me in the middle of nowhere? Aren’t there insane hidden fees? Before you listen to such rumors, take it from the experts (that’s us!) that Ryanair is undoubtedly your cheapest and best option for exploring Europe.

By Peter Langlois

While there are few things you should be aware of before you book, you’ll find that with a little extra research and some insider knowledge, you’ll come to love Ryanair simply because it saves you so much money.

To start, here’s what you definitely DO NOT need to worry about:

  • The Best Price: Ryanair flights are the cheapest in Europe, hands down, even with their extra fees (see below for more info).
  • Safety: All airlines adhere to the same strict safety guidelines. A Ryanair flight that costs 20 Euros is just as safe as a Luftansa flight that costs 200.
  • Losing your bags: Ryanair boasts one of the lowest rates of lost luggage in the industry. Don’t worry on this front.
  • Late arrivals: Ryanair boasts the best on-time record in comparison to all European airlines. Over 90% of their flights arrive on-time.

Here are some other things points you should consider (and perhaps research) before you book:

  • Arrival City/Airport: To save on costs, Ryanair often arrives in secondary airports that are up to 2-3 hours from the destination city. If you travel to Barcelona, for example, you’ll actually land in Girona, which requires a 2-hour bus ride.
  • Transfer costs: By arriving in distant airports, you’ll have to pay an extra transfer fee to get to the city center by bus, subway or train. This usually costs between 5-20 Euros. A quick Google search (for example, “how to transfer from Girona airport to Barcelona”) will reveal your options, cost, timetables, etc.
  • Hidden fees: First, you’ll pay the standard airport and country taxes, but these will show up before you check out. Next, you’ll pay baggage fees (15 Euros per bag each way). Next you’ll pay a credit card processing fee (5 Euros each way). Finally, if paying with an American credit card, you’ll pay a poor exchange rate, usually 5% higher than the actual day’s rate. But don’t worry, you can actually check a little box before you enter your bank info that allows you to use the day’s standard rate instead of Ryanair’s increased rate. Definitely check the little box.
  • Seat sizes: Ryanair seats are quite cramped and they don’t recline.  This makes it difficult to nap without a window seat. Bring a book!
  • Seating on the plane: It’s unassigned, so if you want a window seat, you should line up at the gate at least 30 minutes before boarding.
  • Poor customer service: It costs up to 1 euro per minute to call their customer service line, even if the problem is Ryanair’s fault. If your credit card is double charged by their website, for example, they will charge you per minute to fix it.
  • No Frills: Don’t expect anything free onboard. No drinks. No Snacks. No Water. You have to pay for everything.
  • In-flight sales pitches: They advertise everything from bus passes and scratch tickets to perfume, steak sandwiches and smokeless cigarettes. The flight is like one long commercial, so bring your ear plugs!
  • Check-in Closures: If the gate closes 30 minutes before boarding, you’d better be there 30 minutes before boarding. Ryanair is renowned for being unforgiving.
  • Deceptive advertising:  They almost always advertise insanely cheap flights, but it seems impossible to actually find them. Fortunately we’ve published an article explaining exactly how to find 9-euro flights.
  • Strict on Baggage: one piece of hand luggage means one piece of hand luggage. Everything you carry must fit inside your bag, no exceptions.

So now you have it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly about Ryanair. In the end, we still think it’s still the best option. As long as you know what you’re up against, you’ll learn to appreciate it as well!

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