Is flying with Ryanair worth the savings?

If you’ve traveled around Europe, you’ve no doubt heard about Ryanair. Their very low fares are often a great temptation. They made a reputation for themselves for not only offering low fares but for charging fees for practically everything. At one point, I think there was even discussion of charging a fee to use the lavatory.

With all of the recent bad press, Ryanair has decided to make some changes to their policies. Rules for things like allowable baggage are now clearly indicated during the reservation process and are easily found on their website.

Some interesting charges still remain, though. For example, if you don’t print your boarding pass after checking in online, you’ll have to pay €15/£15 (up to just over $25 USD) to have it reprinted at the airport. Don’t feel like checking in online? No worries, you can still do it at the airport for the painful fee of €70/£70.


My experience with Ryanair

After a few years of reading so many complaints about them, I ran into a bit of a predicament—They were offering a killer airfare deal from the UK to Portugal. It was significantly lower than any other airline or destination. I decided to bite the bullet and give them a shot.

When I made my reservation, I paid careful attention to all the fine print. I was surprised that things weren’t hidden like I had read about. In fact, it seemed like they wanted me to be aware of any fees.

On the day of our flight, I was quite nervous. We were flying with only carry-on luggage, and I had heard that Ryanair can be quite difficult about luggage. There are many people who have shared experiences of having all baggage carefully measured and weighed, and any overages were exorbitant.

Even though we had checked in online, non-EU passengers have to have their boarding pass stamped. This was a bummer as it meant we had to stand in line even though we had a boarding pass and weren’t checking bags. However, the agent was friendly, didn’t weigh our bags, and we were on our way without incident.

I let out a deep sigh of relief as we walked away, but I knew we still had to get past the gate agents who apparently are notorious for deciding something exceeds their limits and dinging you with a huge extra fee.

But we encountered none of this.

The leg room on the flight seemed about average, and the flight attendants were quite friendly and helpful. Actually they were some of the nicest we’ve had.

When it was time for another flight, once again Ryanair showed up as being the cheapest. I decided to give them another go and had a similar experience with one caveat—the flight landed 20 minutes early at our destination. Yeah, no complaints there!

When they showed up as being the cheapest option for our next flight, I didn’t even hesitate to book, and once again we had no issues.

Ryanair tips

Other experiences

I decided to reach out to some other travel bloggers to find out their experiences. Here are some of the good and bad they shared.

Heidi of Wagoners Abroad had the following to say: “We have flown with Ryanair a few times as a family of 4. We found that if you follow the rules, the process runs smoothly. The seats and plane amenities are very basic and budget, but they have great ticket prices and you can’t beat that.

“My husband is 6’5″ and he does have a difficult time being comfortable on the flight. It seems as though the seat width and leg room distance is slightly smaller than a standard airline. With that said, that slight difference makes all the difference. He would prefer not to fly them on any flight length longer than 90 minutes. That is about all his comfort threshold can handle. For the rest of us, it was fine.”

Ashley of Amsterdam Blog was left with a sour taste after this incident: “I was flying back to the UK from Amsterdam and when checking our bags in my friends and I got charged (something like €30). When I asked her what it was for, she got annoyed, and when I told her that we hadn’t paid on the flight out there the customer service lady offered to charge me for that too. I was so angry that I haven’t flown with them since.”

Fellow single-parent family traveler Theodora of Escape Artistes had this experience: “All low-cost airlines need to keep costs down, but my experience was that they were aggressive, and the CEO makes no attempt to hide his contempt for his customers. They tried to charge me €60 because their machine couldn’t read the boarding cards I’d printed out. Then I had to repack everything at the boarding gate so that my handbag fitted into my carryon.” [Note: This policy has changed, and handbags don’t count as your carry-on anymore.]

Dale from the Angloitalian blog shared this interesting observation: “…perhaps some people demand too much from low cost airlines (that they should be getting the same service and conditions that you’d expect from the big companies) just because they’ve seen it on TV or in films that you get treated like royalty on a flight. You get what you pay for, and if you pay little you should expect little. All I want is to get from A to B with Ryanair, I’m not expecting anything more than that. No need to butter me up with niceties or free drinks, just get me there.”

Tips for flying with Ryanair

There were a lot of mixed comments from people about their experiences, but some solid tips emerged from the discussion:

  • Remember that you get what you pay for so modify expectations. You may not get first class service. You won’t get free drinks or food, and you’ll have to pay for pretty much any extras like choosing your seat, checked baggage, etc.
  • Ryanair is famously strict about their baggage policy, and they’ll be the first to admit it. If you’re checking baggage, double check that the dimensions and weight are within their policy. Pay for baggage online before the flight, and you’ll save some money.
  • Only the first 90 carry-on bags are guaranteed to be allowed into the cabin. If you are after that allotment, your carry-on will be placed in the hold free of charge (provided it meets weight and dimension restrictions), and you’ll have to retrieve your bag from the carousel after landing. A handbag, daypack, etc., can be brought on, however, and doesn’t count against your allowance. They also allow a duty free bag.
  • Checking in online will save you a lot of money. Just make sure to print your boarding pass before going to the airport, and make sure it’s a clean and clear printout.
  • If you are traveling with a non-EU passport, you will have to go to the ticket window to get your boarding pass stamped. If you don’t do this, you may be denied boarding.
  • Ryanair makes it clear that they are a “point A to point B” airline. If you are using them as part of a connecting flight and have any issues, they will generally not provide any assistance. In fact, they recommend you don’t use them as part of a multiple-leg journey. Even if the connecting flight is with Ryanair, they may not help you.
  • Read the rules and follow them, and you’ll likely have no trouble.

Have you flown with Ryanair? What was your experience?

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  1. Ryanair clearly seems like a love or hate relationship. Personally, I’ve never used them. However I have had experiences with a super budget airlines in the US where you have to pay to get a seat- not change a seat, but to actually get a seat on the plane. Since there’s no option to stand, this “fee” seems ludicrous.

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    • I know in the past they had lots of issues. I think people just haven’t got past them. With them if you don’t pay for a seat, they just assign one to you. For a 1-1/2-hour flight, it just isn’t a big deal. Now, for that 10-hour flight I have coming up, I’ll probably pay extra for a premium seat if I can.

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  2. Great article. I think this is a bang-on assessment of Ryanair. We’ve flown them a few times, and they can be a stellar deal as long as you’re very careful of their requirements; especially your baggage weight and size. To be fair, I found that they do list everything you need to know fairly clearly on their website. For the price, I’ve been pretty happy with them.

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  3. I’ve flown Ryanair 20+ times over the past years and honestly have never had an issue, except for the few times I’ve had to eat a flight due to my own errors (ie. booking travel on the wrong weekend). Just try to plan ahead, and remember that some add-ons can (at least could) be added at check-in still for the at-booking price. We’ve often going with one checked bag on the outbound, with a duffel packed inside, and added the second bag on the return leg for the one-way price if we knew we’d be buying stuff at the destination. Hard to complain on such short flights at such low €€.

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    • Definitely need to match the expectations to the price one is paying. Can’t expect Cadillac service from a bus fare price. 😉

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  4. We’ve never had any problems with Ryanair. Especially when we lived in London and they guaranteed a cheap weekend away on mainland Europe. We’re still waiting for their standing-only flights which they announced they’d introduce if there was enough public interest. We’re pretty sure they didn’t make this statement of intent on April the 1st.

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    • After all the LCCs in Asia and Oceania, and my experience with Wizz, yeah Ryanair is a piece of cake. lol

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  5. I’ve never had too many horror stories with RyanAir. My luggage did once inexplicably end up in another terminal of the airport at baggage claim and my friends and I forgot to check the location of the Frankfurt-Hahn airport only to arrive there super late at night and realize Frankfurt was over an hour away (but that was our fault). What I think is amusing is that they always add on extra time to a flight and then proceed to announce at landing that they arrived “early” by 10 minutes. They never arrive early, they knowingly tack on extra time to flights to claim they are really punctual and on time. I’ve flown with them a lot and I caught on to these sneaky tactics right away. And I’m sure other airlines do this, I think that Easyjet may do this too.

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    • I guess it all works out since really that landing time is only really important for planning on transfers, etc.

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  6. RyanAir is great if you follow the rules. Period. In my humble opinion anyways. I’ve only encountered one issue with them. I flew into Madrid late one night, spent the night in the airport at my gate for my flight out the next morning, and when boarding the plane the next morning, they said I had to go out and get my boarding pass stamped even though I had already passed through security and everything to get to that point. After running through the airport, I ended up making the flight. I look at it as my fault though. The rule doesn’t make sense to me, but it was my mistake by not following it.

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  7. You definitely should have added ‘Don’t clap at the end of the flight’ on to the tips 😛

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    • LOL! That isn’t just Ryanair, though. I still don’t totally get it. Maybe people are just so relieved they landed in one piece?

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  8. I especially want to reiterate your second to last bullet point of advice, that they are STRICTLY a point A to point B carrier. I tried to create myself a connecting flight last winter and got screwed by a 3 hourd delay on their behalf, causing me to miss a 2nd flight. They only refunded the money for the flight that was delayed (if they are over 3 hours delayed you can get a refund or go on the next available flight), but my money from my point B to point C flight was lost. Worst travel day of my life! I will definitely never try to make a connecting flight with RyanAir again, though I do appreciate their low prices and have used them many times from point A to point B.

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    • I think you aren’t the only one who has been caught up in that considering they now spell it out clearly. Definitely only rely on them for point A to B. If you don’t, make sure you have good travel insurance to reimburse you if things go awry.

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  9. I don’t love RyanAir, but they fly to loads of destinations from my home base of Seville. Without them and other budget carriers, I wouldn’t have been able to see so much of Europe and even Morocco. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, no problem.

    That said…I am concerned about their safety issues. My partner is a pilot and has friends who have gone to commercial lines, and they tell him about half-full gas tanks, about firing pilots who go over fuel limits, etc. I still fly with them on occasion, but prefer to pay a bit more for a smoother flight.


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  10. I think, as with anything in life, you get what you pay for. Whenever booking with a budget airline, I like to add up all the costs to see the “real” ticket price. I’ve found, sometimes, flying with a more expensive airline works out as cheaper, or the same price, for a better service.

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    • You definitely have to factor in everything before hitting the purchase button, including the cost of airport transfer since they don’t always fly into the most convenient airports.

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  11. I say you get what you pay for. If want to pay next to nothing for your flight don’t expect to be treated like Royalty. Some of these budget airlines have fares that work out cheaper than taking a bus to the same destination (and much quicker) but you wouldn’t hear anyone complaining about the lack of service on a bus. I’ve flown Ryanair and other low-costairlines numerous times and haven’t had a problem. I just read the fine print and make sure I follow their rules with luggage and boarding times etc. If I need to take a lot of luggage I simply choose a different airline, and pay the price.

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  12. I felt the same way the first time I flew with Ryanair (to Barcelona) but they’re now my favourite budget airline. The legroom is better than others (I’m pretty tall – 5ft8), their fares are hard to beat and they often land ahead of schedule. I flew to and from Tallinn, Estonia the other week and I have nothing but praise. Their old website was hideous and not user friendly but the new one is really easy and clear to use.

    Note: if you don’t pay for a specific seat, you’re now allocated one when you check-in online, rather than a free-for-all once you get on it, you already know which seat you’ve got, which reduces the mad riot somewhat!

    As long as you follow their rules, which are the same as all other UK budget airlines, then you won’t have any issues. Ignore the rules (forget to print your boarding pass, case too heavy etc) then you will be penalised. Simple! 😉

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    • Completely true. I was so relieved when I found out they do assigned seats now. I hate the free for all.

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  13. We’ve used RyanAir a few times in the past and didn’t have any issues. We were a little apprehensive the first time after reading all the horror stories however everything was fine and we were never charged anything ridiculous. That said, we triple checked our baggage weights and sizes and ensured we were within the limits and had everything printed out correctly beforehand.

    I would say the craziest thing we found about them is while boarding. We couldn’t justify the cost they charge for priority seating (which is a scam as far as I’m concerned) so twice we ended up stuck in the middle of a stampede frenzy as people rushed to their first come first served seats.

    With two small kids in tow it was a little ridiculous. I was surprised at how chaotic it was.

    From the moment they started letting people through the gate there was a palpitation running through the crowd and everyone was getting ready for the mad dash to the plane. It felt like we were at the starting blocks to a race, not boarding a regulated flight.

    Other than that and their ridiculously bright yellow seats the flights were great! We would totally fly with them again.

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    • We experienced that with Wizz Air. I absolutely hate it. Now they assign seats, though, which is good. I agree the priority seating thing is a scam. So dumb.

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  14. I haven’t flown with Ryanair but we fly with Air Asia all the time. They are extremely low cost (I’ve flown for $8 Penang to Singapore) so I figure they are in the same category. We never have any problems with Air Asia, have never had trouble with our carry on and the staff have always been pleasant. Not sure why one can do it and one can’t!

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    • I always enjoyed AirAsia, too. As long as your baggage is within weight limits, you’re fine. Pretty comfy seats, too.

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  15. Agree about managing and adjusting your expectations! When I lived in the UK I flew plenty of times with RyanAir on ultra cheap tickets… £25 return from London to Italy! You just can’t beat that. I’m prepared to pack light, rush for a seat and be squished for that price. 😉

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  16. You get what you pay for, no frills and follow all the restrictions or you get dinged for any infringement or upgrade. Service is usually prompt and the flights are also on time and sometimes early from my experiences.

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  17. I think both you and Dale hit the nail on the head by saying that, it’s a budget airline designed to get you from Point A to Point B, nothing more, nothing less. As the saying goes, Pay peanuts, get monkeys!

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    • That’s really what it comes down to. You can’t pay 25% of the price and expect Emirates business class service.

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  18. Honestly, I think for the price you kind of get what you pay for with Ryanair and, as long as you follow the rules, I’ve never had any troubles flying with them. Sure, it’s annoying when they come down the line before boarding to see which baggage they can put in the hold, and their website is a total minefield, but the price is sometimes too good to resist. In March I flew return from London to Gdansk (Poland) for £58 which is pretty good considering it costs me £34 to get the train from London to Lincolnshire to see my parents.

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    • I think their website is much improved. It’s a lot cleaner, more clear how to deselect options, etc. And you are so right about the difference! It’s often cheaper to fly with them than take a domestic train, esp in the UK! Just crazy.

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  19. I’ve flown with them 4 times and never had a problem. I call them “the big school bus in the sky” since the seats are rather packed in, but I do like their little crackers and cheese snack (8 pounds) you can buy on-board. I’ve also never flown more than 3 hours at a time with them, so it’s bareable and I’m a small person.
    The only deviation we had was we had to land in Agadir instead of Marrakesh, due to fog, but within an hour, they provided buses to transport us back to Marrakesh.

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