That’s right, people, it happened! Last weekend, I flew Ryanair with my buddy Dan. It was a quick weekend getaway from Frankfurt to London. We’re here in Germany on a semester abroad, and neither of us had been to the United Kingdom. Before coming over “the pond”, we knew it was on the list of places to visit.
It all started on a Wednesday afternoon. We booked the trip a few weeks prior, and we were counting down the days. We all know Ryanair. They’re known for having the cheapest airfare in the industry; making the airline beloved here in all of Europe. The Dublin-based air carrier offered us each a forty euro (yes, you read that right) roundtrip from Frankfurt to London. That’s a huge deal, flying between two major European markets.
I knew after a deal this unbelievable, there’d be some sort of catch. In the end, there definitely was. Left and right, we were advised we had to pay for everything; printing off boarding passes, seat selection, food, etc… Being cautious of something like this, we came well prepared with food and boarding passes already printed off, so we managed to avoid all the imposed fees.
The day finally came, and we were on our way. To our surprise, however, the airport we flew out of was FOREVER away. It was one of the biggest catches we didn’t realize until our journey. The airline flies into the smaller and medium-sized airports in order to avoid the hefty landing fees imposed by the major international locations. This is completely understandable – we all want to save money whenever we can, right?
Getting to the airport was an adventure in itself. We had an hour-long train ride, followed by an hour in the cab. Since we’re here studying, we already have our semester-long train and bus passes. Thankfully, that part was free. But on the other hand, the cab ride was about one hundred Euros! I could just feel the money being pulled right through my wallet. As I sat in the car, I laughed to myself knowing I just paid more than double my airfare.
Our flight was scheduled to leave at around 10:30pm. The stores in the terminal were already closed down, or starting to do so when we arrived. It felt like a ghost town, but hey, that’s what happens when you take the last flight out.
Something that caught me by surprise was that we needed to have our boarding passes and passports stamped at the Ryanair ticket counter first – only to have them checked and stamped again at security. Lots of stamps and check marks, but I appreciated it in the end. This showed the extra amount of caution they were willing to take, giving me, the passenger, a better sense of security.
After we got through airport security, we noticed there was plenty of time left before our flight. Being accustomed to living in the United States, we arrived extremely early, seeing as it was an international flight. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport (HHN), where we flew out of, is a small facility. I was completely shocked in how fast the process was from entering the building to arriving at our gate, which was about thirty minutes later. It was about an hour and half before our flight was scheduled to depart, and we knew it was too early. There wasn’t a soul in sight for the longest time.
People started to roll into the terminal as the time got closer. When the boarding time was called, all of the passengers, including us, stood up to get in line. As we were doing so, the gate agent called for us all to show our boarding passes and passports AGAIN, for probably what was the fourth time!
As we were in line, I could hear jet engines outside on the tarmac. I looked out and saw our Ryanair Boeing 737-800 pull up to the gate. To be honest, I hadn’t seen a ground crew move that fast. The turnover, to get the passengers off the aircraft and get us on, was quite impressive; taking into account there wasn’t a jet bridge to walk down. Walking onto the tarmac, listening to the engines, and smelling the jet fuel was quite a moment, and always an enjoyable one for AvGeeks!
Now here’s another thing they did differently; although I can’t say for certain it’s just Ryanair that does this, but they divided the passengers into two groups. The first group boarded the aircraft using the doors in the front, and the second group boarded behind the wing!
After having yet another AvGeek moment of taking as many pictures as we could, we entered the back of the plane and got to our seats. Referring back to when the airline imposed fees left and right, Dan and I decided to skip seat selection, and let it be completely random. I was happy I scored a window spot.
Once I sat down, I was taken by surprise as to what I saw in front of me!
That’s a first for me. Above the safety instructions on each backseat, there were food advertisements. I liked it. This was a different idea, a new way of advertising to the flying customer. It was thinking outside the box…or plane.
Once we were on the aircraft, the flight attendants were on speed-mode in getting the cabin ready for departure.
The First Officer got us airborne pretty quickly on rollout by doing a rolling intersection takeoff (which is when the plane doesn’t taxi all the way to the end of the runway). We exited the apron, and went for the next entrance to the active runway. We were quite impressed.
The flight to London took no time. To be exact, it was about an hour long, but it seemed like twenty minutes. We snacked on food we bought at the airport, and messed around on the iPad. Before we knew it, the captain came over the intercom and notified us of our initial decent into London. I’m used to doing the Cleveland-to-Chicago route every now and then, which is also about an hour long, but this leg just flew by’¦literally. Once we landed in London, we taxied quickly to the gate and got off in no time.
I researched this later on, and discovered that London Stansted International Airport (STN) is the air carrier’s largest base, with over forty aircraft stationed there and flights to more than one hundred locations.
We entered the terminal and went through customs. Dan and I shared a conversation with two other students studying in Frankfurt as well, who had also taken a small vacation to London for the weekend. We got up to the desk for our stamp of approval to enter the United Kingdom.
Our hotel was downtown close to Big Ben and the London Eye, so we had to take a train from the airport. We purchased our trip to the city, and back to the airport in one transaction. Price in total was about 50 Euros. Dan and I met up with another good friend of ours, Zacch, whose currently studying abroad in Scotland at the City of Glasgow College.
The weekend was quite enjoyable. We caught up with a great friend, made some new ones, shared a long conversation with a street magician (sorry, no photo for that one), shared stories on living abroad, missed our university back home, and did all the touristy things as well!
The flight back to Frankfurt was quick, just the same as flying to the U.K. We were exhausted at the end, but had an adventurous trip flying Ryanair. Despite their hidden fees for almost everything, we enjoyed it. In the future, I wouldn’t mind flying Ryanair again. Maybe just plan farther ahead for the cab ride.
In 2008,my son,his friend and I flew on Ryanair Valencia to Pisa
Fare 4.99 EUR,19.22EUR Taxes,fees & charges,5.EUR passenger fee:Airport check in and 5.00EUR passenger fee CC Total 34.21EUR paid.
Then Pisa to Stansted, Fare 0.00Eur(that’s right, zero)
plus the above fees except 19.57EUR taxes,fees and charges for a total of 29.57EUR paid.
I kept all the receipts,couldn’t believe it.
When I was trekking around Europe in 2008, the repote airports were my biggest gripe with Ryanair. It was more affordable for me to fly Aer Lingus from Dublin to Paris becasue it is easier (and cheaper) to get from CDG to the city centre than from Beauvais. I had made the mistake when I went from “Brussels” (Charleroi) to “Glasgow” (Prestwick). I think I spent twice as much time on trains as I did on planes to make that journey
I loved your story about Ryanair! I am currently working on my MBA in Aviation at ERAU online and writing a discussion about economy pricing. I chose Ryanair and found your article.
Looking forward to more of your adventures!
Vickie Smith, fellow AvGeek…..
Hi …just one question….you might as student be interested in answering.
If the passengers does not pay for the tickets – where does the money come from – giving these companies gigantic profit rates…….
I guess: tax payers……….
You save money on the tickets but get the bill by the taxes…..locally and stately
That was a lovely story on Ryanair. regarding all the paperwork etc., thats an “Oirish” thing. but there is no doubting Oirish efficiency, ask any American, dont ask British, they wouldnt understand or might they.? There is a good story doing the rounds in Oireland this week about Trip Advisor…, an Hotel in Britain somewhere, and a customer who was fined a 100 Ster for writing and publishing an unsavoury report on his stay in the said Hotel. Fair enough, but when an Oirish reporter, travelled over from Dublin to get the Hoteliers side of the story, as you should do,for the sake of balance, and of course nothing better to do at home, the Hotelier asked him what was ” his side of the story worth”. Michael O”Leary take note.
The biggest gripe with those bargain airlines is lot of ‘hidden’ surcharges that add up faster than Concorde during the Mach 2 flight.
I often fly with Lufthansa because of its €99 and €119 all-inclusive return. That includes one 20-kg luggage, seat assignments, fees, taxes, boarding passes, etc.
The only caveat here: you have to book the direct flights between the originating city and the city you want to visit (that means no transfer or any stop); and you have to accept the nominated flights, especially the first flight of the day.
Lufthansa waiting rooms at German aeroports are often stocked with free coffee and hot beverages as well as local newspapers for your peruse. The free beverages and decent meals are provided during the flight.
That is why I decided against flying with bargain airlines and sticking with Lufthansa for many flights within Europe.
I had not realised how innovatory Ryan Air is to those living in the USA – I guess those of us who use it often are just used to their approach. There are lots of complaints about them but I have found that if I follow the rules – bring my own food, do not check luggage, stay within the luggage size and weight limits, print off boarding passes, plan the cheapest way to the airport (Frankfurt is the furthest away from its named town of any of their airports), check-in as soon as it opens etc etc, flights are very cheap and invariably on or ahead of time. A 20 minute turnaround time is the norm and almost all of their airports. It is an airline which many people love to hate but also love to use.
As an American who has been living in Europe for over six years now I am an avid supporter of the European low cost model. In fact it has been a driving factor allowing me to start my own business something that given the US model would have been cost prohibitive. Although there are times when I still you traditional carriers usually due to the wasted time when transferring from certain airports to my final destination, the two that stand out for me is Frankfurt Hahn and Paris Beauvais. I have learned a number of things about flying low cost here in Europe which Americans might not first recognize.
Generally all of the airports used by low cost carriers have some kind of organized transportation system that is relative cheap to the center of the city they are intended to serve. Often this comes in the form of a bus trip and I know Americans mind go straight to Greyhound, however in Europe buses should not conjure these images(often an option includes free WIFI). Specifically for Frankfurt Hahn i know there is a relatively cheap bus that leaves from Frankfurt central station and heads first to Frankfurt Int. then on to Frankfurt Hahn. All of this information is usually available on the airports website in this case i know its possible to book tickets from about 15€.
Secondly for weekend trips often no further fees need to be paid, however it is important to check your carriers specific policy as they differ drastically what is considered a carry on item (this goes for traditional carriers as well).
Third non EU/EEA citizens must have their documents checked at the check in counter no matter if they have already checked in or not (no fee necessary as far as i know).
The last thing Americans should know about the European low cost model is that American carriers have only adopted their worst practices. So yes you have a pay as you go model, but at the same time its often possible to fly at much lower prices than in the US. For example this summer I traveled to Barcelona from Sofia (Bulgaria) a distance of 1100 miles (roughly the same as Cleveland to Dallas) for a total of €55 each. I almost forgot the best part for avgeeks the majority of time low cost carriers have you board directly from the ramp instead of using a jetbridge allow you to bask in the Jet-A fumes and hum of the APU.
It is the worst airline that could actually exist. I and my brother where stranded in Ibiza airport. We left for Ibiza being assured about our id. My brother forgot his passport but was carrying another id but we were allowed to board the plane in Barcelona to Ibiza but while returning we were stopped and said we cannot board the plane. As my brother had a flight next day to USA we had to reach Barcelona that night. The staff was extremely rude and told us to fuck off and lodge a complaint. We eventually had to buy tickets of another Airline and reach Barcelona. How can you make your passengers stranded in an Island. They should not have allowed us to board the flight in Barcelona, but they did and abandoned us in Ibiza without a way to return. This was inhuman and cruel.
While I was in vacation in Spain with my sisters and brother in low, I choose to fly from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca with Ryanair. The flight tickets for 4 of us was 531.37$. Being in vacation, and having no internet connection, I wasn’t able to check my e-mails. When we got at the airport we were charged 45 euros per person for not checking online. This is the very first company that charges money for printing a ticket. I ended up paying 185.48 euros in order to get in the plain, and the person at the counter was really rude with us…telling me “take it or leave it”! When we got in the plain, it was really dirty, they didn’t vacuum at all. I understand this in a low cost company, but its a shame!!! I will never choose to fly with them again.
great article! I found this review to be helpful as well for anyone else curious about flying budget airlines like Ryanair. https://www.eco-wanderlust.com/blog/post/a-guide-to-budget-airlines-in-europe