Review: Ryanair, the Best-known Low-cost Airline?
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Covered in the Article
- Ryanair - the Biggest Airline in Europe
- What Is Ryanair Like?
- Our Ryanair Experiences
- Bottom Line
Ryanair - the Biggest Airline in Europe
Ryanair is an airline from Ireland. It is one of the oldest low-cost airlines in the world and is currently also the biggest airline in Europe. Ryanair has been developing its low-cost business model progressively and now even traditional airlines copy Ryanair's inventions. Ryanair's business idea is to sell extremely cheap tickets and make a profit from expensive extras.
Ryanair is not the only low-cost airline in Europe but there are many similar competitors. A few of them to mention: easyJet from the UK, Wizz Air from Hungary and Norwegian Air Shuttle from Norway. Nowadays, even traditional airlines have many similar elements to low-cost airlines.
Ryanair has a few subsidiaries: Ryanair UK, Lauda Europe, Buzz and Malta Air.
Ryanair UK was founded to overcome the Brexit restrictions. Lauda Europe used to be an independent airline which was bought by Ryanair. The same story is found behind the Polish Buzz and Maltese Malta Air.
What Is Ryanair Like?
Ryanair operates their flights mainly with Boeing 737-800 fleet. The older fleet is slowly been replaced with new Boeing MAX aircraft. Ryanair has also one Boeing 737-700 for training purposes and many Airbus A320 aircraft that came with the acquisition of Lauda Air.
Ryanair has a wide route network in Europe and the areas nearby. An average route is short and thus flown fast. Aircraft are more profitable when they can fly many routes in a day and return to the base in the evening. That is also a way to avoid the crew's accommodation costs and daily allowances. Ryanair does not have long-haul destinations.
Ryanair has almost 100 bases and more than 200 destinations. The top destinations are London, Dublin and Milan.
Ryanair prefers flying to smaller but distant airports. By flying to secondary airports outside the cities, the airline reduces airport-related costs. For example, Ryanair flies to Paris Beauvais-Tillé Airport which is more than 85 km from Paris or to Barcelona Girona-Costa Brava which is 98 km from Barcelona. A passenger's public transportation ticket to a distant airport may cost even more than the flight ticket itself.
Luckily, Ryanair has started using also major airports. For example, Ryanair has opened a route from London Stansted to Helsinki Airport which is the biggest airport in Finland and less than 30 minutes from the Helsinki centre. We believe that Ryanair has got many new customers after starting using also centrally-located airports. The tickets have got more expensive but are still cheaper compared to the competitors.
Ryanair, like almost all airlines, charges for check-in luggage. The fee depends on the luggage weight but the charges are higher than with many other airlines. It is difficult to find good justifications why to check in luggage on Ryanair's flight because the extra fees can multiply the ticket price.
Into the cabin, you are allowed to take only one small bag free of extra charge but this bag must fit below the seat in front of you. If you wish to have also normal-sized cabin luggage with you, you need to pay a large cabin bag fee. With this fee paid, you can take normal-sized cabin luggage stored in the overhead bin plus another small item below the seat in front of you. Passengers who have bought larger cabin luggage are allowed to board the aircraft first.
If choosing between the two, we recommend purchasing a larger cabin bag instead of check-in luggage.
Tickets and Pricing
The average price of a Ryanair flight ticket is extremely low. Ryanair sells only point-to-point connections which keeps the operating costs low. You do not get benefits by purchasing a return ticket. We find this practice good because it makes combining tickets from different airlines easier.
As the ticket price is cheap, all other services cost a lot. The extras tend to be even more expensive than with traditional airlines. You pay a lot for luggage, seating, and other services onboard.
Cheap tickets are a marketing tool for Ryanair. The airline sells also more expensive tickets but the majority of the profit is generated by selling countless add-ons like priority boarding or seat selection.
Ryanair has been known also for controversial and misleading advertisements in the past, used as strategies to overcome their competitors. There were even rumours telling that Ryanair charges for using a toilet and offers standing tickets but that is not true. Ryanair just wants publicity by letting controversial stories spread.
Seat allocation is one of the most annoying policies of Ryanair. Passengers travelling in the same group (=booking) can't sit together without selecting and paying for adjacent seats. For passenger groups who refuse to pay for seating, Ryanair chooses random seats and most likely, friends and family members will then sit far away from each other. We do not know any other low-cost airline doing the same.
It seems that most passengers accept the separation. But when friends are sitting far away from each other, they are less likely to purchase drinks but the flight is just a way for them to move from one place to another. That may harm onboard sales.
How to Find Inexpensive Flights?
Follow our simple checklist to find a good deal:
- Compare flight prices on Skyscanner on different dates.
- Choose the most suitable schedule and price.
- Decide whether to book directly from the airline or via an Online Travel Agency (OTA)
- Let Skyscanner to forward you to the chosen booking site.
- Go through the booking process and avoid buying unnecessary extras.
- Double check all the details CAREFULLY before the payment.
Our Ryanair Experiences
We have flown multiple times with Ryanair. In August 2022, we tested a brand new route from London-Stansted Airport to Helsinki Airport. Stansted Airport is situated far from Central London but Helsinki Aiport is strategically well located and fast accessible from Helsinki City Center.
Normally, we book our Ryanair flights on the company's website. The booking process is simple but annoying. The airline tries to sell multiple extra services and the majority of them are just unnecessary. You need carefully to deselect all of them.
This time, we used an online travel agency (OTA) to buy the tickets. This was a little risky because Ryanair does not like reselling their tickets. However, the purchase process was successful and we got even cheaper tickets than on Ryanair's website.
We needed to buy also larger cabin luggage but we bought it directly from Ryanair. Usually, OTAs charge more for extras than airlines themselves.
Having your check-in for Ryanair flights at the airport is not free. That is not a big issue as many airlines are also charging for check-in done at the airport.
The most practical way to check in is to use Ryanair's mobile app as we did. You do not need a computer and a printer to get boarding passes. You may save the electronic boarding pass as a screenshot or save it into the Ryanair app or even to Google Wallet and access them easily as needed.
Checking in already at home for a return flight is a practical idea. That would be possible if the check-in opened early enough. However, Ryanair's check-in opens only 1 day before the flight if you have not bought a pre-allocated seat. With a selected seat purchased, the check-in opens already 30 days before. Luckily, mobile roaming in Europe is cheap and the Ryanair app works well. You can easily check in on the road with your phone and there is no need to print the boarding passes.
Our flight from Stansted departed on time and also landed in Helsinki on time. It was performed professionally in every aspect so we do not have anything to complain about. As Ryanair is a low-cost airline, not any free services were offered onboard.
Food and Drinks
As a low-cost airline, Ryanair does not provide anything free during the flight. You may pre-order food and drinks while booking the tickets, during the check-in or purchase items on boards. The selection is usual and quite expensive.
We had preordered a Sprite can. It was distributed right after the take-off but the crew had to replace Sprite with Fanta. It was a bit disappointing that the airline was not able to load the correct drinks from its Stansted base.
After the distribution of the preordered meals and drinks, the normal cart sale began.
The cabin is tightly packed with brightly coloured seats but nothing more. There are no magazines, entertainment systems or anything else than just the necessary things. You feel like flying on a low-cost airline.
There are no other onboard services than the cart sale. The selection is usual: drinks, food and simple products. Aircraft do not have WiFi.
If you manage to ignore Ryanair's aggressive marketing and avoid buying extra services, you may end up getting an extremely cheap ticket. Ryanair is one of the cheapest ways of travelling in Europe. Our flight from London to Helsinki was less than 50 euros/per person which is an excellent price.
Ryanair does not offer any special services but even the basic extras cost a lot. Provided services work well but there are no WOW effects. Because the ticket prices are extremely low, the overall price-to-quality ratio is high.
We feel that Ryanair operates professionally. The flight product is what is promised and a ticket does not cost a lot. You can travel safely from one point to another. For all extras, you need to pay more which is just a fair model. Low prices make Ryanair one of the best options for a budget traveller.
- Is Ryanair cheap?
- Yes, Ryanair is often a cheap way of flying.
- Does Ryanair use major airports?
- Ryanair has started using major airports on some routes. Quite often, the airports are far from the centre.
- Can a group of travellers in the same booking sit beside each other?
- Yes or No. Yes, you can guarantee to sit beside each other only if you purchase paid seat selection. Otherwise, Ryanair will separate the group.
- Is there WiFi onboard Ryanair aircraft?
- No, there is not.
- What onboard services does Ryanair offer?
- There are only cart sales. No magazines or other in-flight entertainment are provided.
- How tight is Ryanair's seat?
- The seat is tight but big enough for an average-sized man.
- Is a cabin bag free?
- Only a small cabin bag is free of charge.
- Where to buy Ryanair's tickets?
- The best place to buy Ryanair tickets is the company's website. However, remember that you can always compare prices on Skycanner.
- Is an overhead bin cabin bag free?
- No, it is not. You have to pay an extra fee for that. Together with that, you will get Priority Boarding.
- Is check-in luggage free?
- No, it is not. Check-in luggage cost a lot and the weight limit starts from 10kg.
Now and then, we book flights with Ryanair. The reason is simple: the airline has often the cheapest tickets. Since we believe that travelling does not have to be expensive, Ryanair is a good choice for budget travellers.
It is important to understand Ryanair's business model. The airline flies only point-to-point connections, sometimes from distant airports. The basic price includes only a flight and a small bag. There are no free onboard services and you need to pay for extras. If you accept this model, you will love Ryanair's cheap fares and you can always increase your personal experience by purchasing those extras.
Have you flown with Ryanair? Comment below why you recommend the airline or a reason why people should avoid it.
Flown many times with Ryanair and can't fault them. They get you from A to B safely and generally on time. Excellent service. I'm old enough to remember when it cost a week's wages to fly from Dublin to London and three week's wages to Athens. That all changed because of Ryanair.
Well said. Ryanair does the basic thing, flying, really well. They have always taken us to the destination as promised.
Good points there Caroline. Indeed Ryanair pride itself for the airline's punctuality and good safety records.
Thanks for the comment. Sometimes, we just realized as the saying says, "quality has its price", though it doesn't mean, we should always pay for the expensive tickets. We just be deligent to find great offers from differrent airlines to save on flight tickets.
Thank you very much Ceasar for your answer,
With Finnoy Travel was everything ok. With Ryanair I can not say the same...
Very bad experience flying with them, they are waiting for your faults, and if you dont pay abusive extra bills, you dont fly. Never again, at the end, cheaper with any other company. Always the same, lets see if I learn it and remember this for next time. 55 euros the paper in black and white that I show you, printed in seconds. Pay or you dont fly