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.