Ryanair Boeing 737 seen in Seattle before delivery. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

Ryanair Boeing 737 seen in Seattle before delivery – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDL Multimedia

When people think of flying Ryanair it seems to conjure up images of despair and misery, along with endless delays and flight cancellations. Surprisingly,  Ryanair claims to have an on-time rating of 92%, although other sources are skeptical of this.

BONUS: The Economy Class Flight Review

Most people that know me will consider me somewhat of a travel snob, and I am not afraid to admit that I do spend exorbitant amounts of money to make the most out of my travel experiences (such as flying the Emirates A380 in first class), especially when it comes to air travel. It came as somewhat of a surprise to my friends and work colleagues when I announced that I had booked my first Ryanair flight. To make one thing clear, I did end up booking a “Business Plus” fare; after all, I had to satisfy the inner snob in me even when traveling on the world’s most infamous low-cost carrier.

Here we go! My first time flying on Ryanair hoto: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Here we go! My first time flying on Ryanair – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Ryanair’s Business Plus fare is a relatively new product for the airline. It is a direct result of brand development to suit business travelers, and includes the additional premium perks (by Ryanair standards) of checked luggage, seat selection (extra legroom and exit rows seats included), as well as priority security screening and boarding. And it doesn’t stop there; Ryanair recently announced their intention to offer connecting flights (currently, they are solely a point-to-point carrier), as well as the rumored upcoming launch of a  frequent flyer program.

Checking-in the "old fashioned" way in Gdansk Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Checking-in the “old-fashioned” way in Gdansk – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The reason I had come to book my Ryanair flight was simple: convenience. I had to get from Gdansk, in northern Poland, to Krakow in the south, and the best option was to fly. I was able to get a single one-way Business Plus ticket for about €20 when I booked a little over a month before flying – a bargain considering the taxi to the airport cost more. The standard truly “no-frills” ticket would’ve cost about €5. This is a great deal for a one-hour flight.

Being a low cost carrier, there are plenty of advertisements throughout the cabin Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Being a low-cost carrier, there are plenty of advertisements throughout the cabin – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

As most people who have flown Ryanair will tell you, make sure you check-in online and print your boarding pass at home to avoid the airport check-in fee (sometimes in excess of €100). One of the perks of the Business Plus fare was that it included airport check-in. Even so, when I arrived at the check-in desk, the agent had to check my reservation to make sure I really was entitled to free airport check-in.

Fast-track security is another perk of the business class fare, sadly the lane was closed in Gdansk Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Fast-track security is another perk of the business class fare, sadly the lane was closed in Gdansk Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The agent also informed me I was entitled to use the fast-track lane at security. Unfortunately, when I get to the screening point, the fast-track lane was already closed for the night. Given that it was the evening rush, this meant a wait of about 10 minutes in the main line (which probably sounds lovely to Americans right now). Not a big deal, but it would’ve been nice to have the fast-track.

Ryanair is able o achieve its very quick turn-around times thanks to the use of the aircrafts in-built "airstairs" Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Ryanair is able to achieve its very quick turn-around times thanks to the use of the aircrafts in-built “airstairs” Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Boarding for the flight commenced even before the aircraft had reached the parking stand from its inbound flight. Having priority boarding meant that I passed through the gate and into a “holding pen” and, after about 10 minutes, the doors opened and we were allowed to board the aircraft. Despite Ryanair having introduced allocated seating, there was still a classic “mad rush” to be the first to board. For boarding via the front door, Ryanair uses the aircraft’s built-in “airstairs” — this is another smart initiative to minimize costs and ground turnaround times.

Our flight had 154 passengers out of a possible 189, so a pretty good load for a Friday night flight within Poland! Despite the decent load, boarding was completed a full 15 minutes before scheduled departure! We pushed back from the gate some 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Who says 25-minute turnarounds on a 737 are impossible?

Legroom is very generous in row 1, thanks to the lack of a bulk-head Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Legroom is very generous in row 1, thanks to the lack of a bulkhead – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Another perk of the Business Plus fare is that exit row seat selection is included in the price. Being the travel snob that I am, I selected 1A. I was fortunate enough to have the whole row to myself, and unlike some airlines, there is no bulkhead at row 1 so the legroom is quite generous.

Shortly after departure, the in-flight (buy-on-board) service commenced. As I found out from the very friendly crew, Ryanair caters their aircraft only prior to the first flight of the day, as there simply is not enough time to cater them during the 25-minute turnarounds. This means that on late night flights such as mine, the selection of food and beverage is extremely limited. I was looking forward to trying their infamous French fries, but unfortunately it was not to be, so I settled for a rather stale ham & cheese panini. There was not even any beer left to wash it down. For an airline like Ryanair, where the bottom line is influenced so much by ancillary revenues such as those from in-flight sales, I find it very surprising that they are not able to re-stock the aircraft at least once during the day. All it would take would be to extend one turnaround from 25 to 45 minutes. Surely this move would bring in more revenue at the expense of a further 20 minutes on the ground?

As this was the last flight of the day, the catering selection was very limited. Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

As this was the last flight of the day, the catering selection was very limited – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Soon enough it was time to land in Krakow. Following a quick taxi to the gate, we deplaned and walked maybe some 50 meters into the terminal. On a side note, I am a huge fan of the design of Polish airport terminals, they are all very modern and exude a bright and airy feel; if only all airports were like this.

Ryanair got me from A-to-B (on-time) without any frills and for a very competitive price. Despite some minor issues such as the lack of fast-track on departure and the limited catering offering on-board, it is a great way to fly if you are on a budget and do not care for the little perks that the more traditional full-service airlines offer. I think the experience is best summed up as “you get what you pay for, nothing more, nothing less”. I would not hesitate to fly them again in the future, but the price would have to be very competitive over any other options.

And no, you do not have to pay to use the lavatory on-board — well, for now at least….

The use of the lavatories is free, but for how long? Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The use of the lavatories is free, but for how long? Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

SENIOR CORRESPONDENT - PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC A native of Australia, Jacob’s interest in aviation first came about as a child going on a long-haul flight between Australia and Europe to visit relatives. In addition to being a pilot himself, he has worked in operations for a charter airline, been on-the-ramp handling aircraft, worked as a slot coordinator for major airports, and currently works as an aircraft charter broker for corporate and VIP clients throughout Eastern Europe. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys photography, plane spotting, and travel. Email: [email protected].

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16 Comments

Ryanair is the ultimate example of needing to match your expectations to the price of the ticket. Your seat is cheap because you don’t get any perks, or legroom (unless you get the upgrade which looks good). They get a lot of stick for their perceived cheapness which to me is misguided as you can’t expect champagne service on a beer budget! I haven’t flown them since 2008 and back then I knew what I was getting in to and found that the service was friendly, even though the seats are cramped and uncomfortable. For 20 euros and a flight only an hour or so it was perfectly tolerable.

Obviously the legroom at emergency exits is very good. What is the actual leg room between the seats, economy class? You mention “free” toilet facilities, do you pay on some airlines to make use of the toilet facilities?

No pay toilets on any airline yet, that comment was a reference to a story a few years ago where Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary publicly mused about potentially making the lav’s on their aircraft pay toilets. It wasn’t a serious idea but it generated a lot of publicity and got Ryanair’s name in the newspapers. O’Leary is big on the idea of ”Any publicity is good publicity”

Jonathan MILLER

Mr O’Reilly has also suggested that his planes do not need co-pilots as a flight attendant could be trained to land the plane in an emergency. And has said he could lower fares even more if passengers would agree to travel standing up. I think these are examples of a wicked sense of humour (and a flare for PR) although with O’Reilly you cannot be sure.

Phoenix

Michael O’Leary is one of the most hated airline execs in Europe, if not the world. So many of Ryanair’s corporate decisions were made “because it would piss off x”.

There is change afoot though, they are being “nicer to customers” and being rewarded for it: http://money.cnn.com/video/news/2015/11/02/ryanair-interview-ceo.cnnmoney/index.html

Jonathan in France

Not hated by millions of people whose horizons have dramatically expanded.

For how bad he was, the passengers kept on coming.

David | AirlineReporter

Jonathan MILLER

Glad that finally AR has looked at Ryanair, which is a very large, very successful carrier that has basically reinvented low-cost travel in Europe with huge economic consequences. There’s a lot more to say about this company. It would be good if you could also take a long, hard look at some of the other challenger carriers in Europe especially easyJet and Norwegian. I do think though that you need to take more than one internal flight to make any kind of serious judgement. Generally, I’d suggest that your European coverage is pretty weak. I really read very little about the big European carriers and their challengers. There are plenty of avgeeks in Europe and I’d guess a lot of them have yet to discover AR, not least because it contains rather little of relevance to us. Anyway, keep up the good work.

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for your comment. I am the AR guy based in Europe, it is a growing market for us and we are going along at a steady pace to increase stories from the region and readership. Sadly my “real” job prevents me at times from giving the coverage we would all like 🙂 but we do what we can.

With Kind Regards,

Jim Benner

Noticed the “Sales by date” on the Ham Pannini sandwich has date of Feb24,2017. Guess they mass produce them and freeze until needed on board. You said it was stale tasting, so it probably had been defrosted for awhile. just curious about how much sandwich and drinks cost at Ryanair.

Hi,

You are correct the items are mass produced and then frozen. The cost for the sandwich was about 5EUR and the drink about 3EUR so not the cheapest options.

John Cunningham-Smith

It is a factor (sad or good, depending on where you stand) that Ryanair and Easyjet have revolutionised air travel in Europe. Ryanair being the one to provide a perfectly acceptable product given the fare price. Easyjet and Ryanair have found their respective strengths and the more traditional carriers are playing catch up by squeezing seats into cabins and dumbing down service aspects.
British Airways have introduced hand luggage tickets on short haul and under the new leadership of Alejandro Cruz de Llano from Vueling Airlines, is looking to remove complimentary food from European Short Haul and team with a British, middle/upper class supermarket to provide a premium buy on board snack service. This isn’t set in stone but would seem a good place to start for a minor cost cutting exercise. Ryanair and Easyjet have been in the game long enough to ‘tweak’ their parameters with fares, baggage cost, family initiatives etc.
The likes of BA may actually try to hard to cut cost much to their detriment whilst getting things right although IAG do have experience in low cost via Vueling.
From my own personal experience of booking with BA on one of their franchise carriers on a European flight, you either take a hold baggage fare or a hand baggage fare. You’ve got to get your booking requirements absolutely correct because if you want to add hold baggage to a hand baggage fare, the cost is almost prohibitive, almost like a punishment. Ryanair are refreshingly flexible and dare I say, since the recent changes, quite accommodating and reasonably priced when it comes to adding baggage to a flight.
In summary, What you see is what you get with Ryanair. The paying public will and will carry on flying to secondary airports given the cheap fare. If they can fly to a primary airport, even better.

On another note, look at the Use By date on that Panini: Thats’s Natural…… I think not!

Best regards to all at AR.

As the highly experienced flyer that Jacob is, he should already know that Buy-on-Board foods are likely the single worst ‘in-flight’ food source available to anyone, even at 2200 or 2300. You simply will not win. Ever.

It seems to me that air stairs – make it impossible for disabled customers to board.

In India quite a few airlines have a ramp which drives up to the aircraft allowing disabled access. LCCs like Indigo also use this

Of course, Ryanair is the largest and cheapest airline in Europe, but if we talk about the airline’s service, it’s a complete catastrophe when I use Ryanair services, such a fuss that I’m not on the plane but on the bus …
Although complaining is stupid, because it’s all the same budget airline and if you want luxury, then it’s to Qatar Airways and Emirates…

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