Welcome to the first blog post in my new series on Lea Bella Blogs; Flying With.
In this series of blog posts I plan to share with you my experiences of what to expect when flying with different airlines all over the world. I will also be accepting guest posts for this series, so, if you have an airline that you particularly loved (or hated!) please do not hesitate to share your story with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flying With: Ryanair
I am here to spill all the beans, good and bad, about what it's really like to fly Ryanair.
Ryanair are an Irish low-cost airline who were founded in 1984 (that's older than I thought!) and it's primary hubs are based in Dublin, Ireland and London Stanstead, UK. They have currently 225 destinations, and growing, making Ryanair a firm option for cheap getaways for many passengers across the UK and Europe.
Low-cost travel is certainly my cuppa-tea, as I'm sure it is for many of my readers, so I use Ryanair from Stanstead regularly. Just this year alone I have flown four flights with them, and I'm here to tell you what you can expect from their check-in process to boarding, the cabin crew and on-board service, and finally landing and disembarking.
**DISCLAIMER** All opinions are my own and I am in no way affiliated or associated with Ryanair in any other way other than being a passenger.
Checking In: Before Arrival At The Airport
Ryanair's slogan is 'Low Fares Made Simple', which implies two things:
1) Low Cost
2) A simple process and easy experience by using Ryanair.
Let's put that to the test.
Checking in online is easy with Ryanair. The simplest way to book a flight with them is via their app. Once you have paid for your flight then the app will save your flight on the home screen like below:
Online check-in usually opens anywhere from 30 days before your flight is due to depart. You can still check in up to 4 hours before departure too, however, it is important to know that if you have not paid extra to book your seats you cannot check in until 4 days before. I think this is quite generous as with other, more major airlines, you cannot check in until 24 hours before! More on this in another blog post...
Once you have checked in, you will be sent to a screen to save your boarding passes to wallet (if using an apple iPhone) or to be emailed them. I use an iPhone so I store all my boarding passes into the wallet app and so they are easily accessible once getting to the airport. You can always ask the Ryanair staff at the check-in desk at the airport to print off hard copies for you should you wish (be warned - they may charge you for this, some do and some don't!).
If you have paid extra for hold luggage to be checked in, from my own experience, the staff at London Stanstead Ryanair check-in desks are super quick and helpful, even if a little miserable. This is a good thing as no-one likes a great big long que in the airport!
Boarding the Flight
If you have flown with any airline in the past, then you may already know that as soon as boarding is called at your gate, everyone rushes to the front of the que like there's no tomorrow.
With Ryanair, there are two ques. Priority and Non-Priority. I don't think either of these ques make the slightest bit of difference to be honest. Priority passengers are those who have paid for their hand luggage up to 10KG, for example a small suitcase. I believe the exact measurements are 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. You can carry on one small bag for free (which would make you a non-priority passenger) and the measurements are 40cmx 20cm x 25cm. Although I've never seen anyone check, but y'know - those are the rules.
Ryanair have a running trend (I've noticed) of calling people to the gate to stand around for ages. The staff do call the priority passengers on first. The only one time I've felt the benefit of this was on my return flight from Naples, where I was actually seated on the flight a good 30 minutes before the other passengers joined. At least I got my bag in the overhead locker... But other than that I've never really noticed the difference between priority and non-priority boarding. Most people who are city hopping around Europe for quick short breaks usually only take hand luggage with them so, everyone ends up being a priority passenger anyway.
When you make it through the gate and make your way to the airplane, I've noticed that you might need to catch a bus, or, walk along outside regardless of the weather. Ryanair do not have any fancy tunnels to walk down to the plane on, oh no. It's good old fashioned steel stairs which, if the wind is blowing hard enough will make you feel like you are going to blow over the higher you get, or slip and fall right the way down if it happens to be raining. So be vigilant.
This is one way that Ryanair keep their costs down. They do not hire any 'unnecessary' equipment from companies such as Swissport to assist with their flights, and a lot of it is done in-house by Ryanair employees rather than subbing it out to other aviation groups. In the grand scheme of things, this is a little thing that is neither here nor there, but clearly makes a difference to Ryanair when keeping down costs to allow people like me to travel the world for cheap. So be my guest Ryanair.
On-Board a RyanAir Flight
There is no denying that Ryanair has a reputation for being basic. But, its not all as bad as you may think. Some of you who know me, or have been following my blog and vlogs for a while will know that my husband is a very tall man, I mean 6ft10 tall. Usually we must pay for extra leg room seats on a flight because otherwise he would really truly struggle. However, on one flight we did with Ryanair, extra legroom was unavailable and he was sat in a window seat. In all honesty he wasn't completely comfortable, but there was more room for him that what he had experienced on other airlines! Which is really surprising, you wouldn't expect a decent amount of leg room on these such flights. Well done Ryanair.
The seats themselves are average, but definitely not really bad. Yes they are thin, they don't recline (no one wants a seat reclined in front of you on a flight anyway!) there is no pocket in the seat in front for your books or bottles of water, but it is OK for the usually short amount of time you are on the flight for and for the low money you usually will have paid. We cant have everything! There is definitely no entertainment system - take your iPad, tablet or a book.
The colour scheme of a Ryanair flight is to be desired. The bright yellow overhead lockers are a shock to the system when your eyes haven't yet adjusted from the darkness outside on an early/late flight. The seats are a blue leather. If you're lucky, you'll be on of the newer planes and the seats are pretty tidy. On the older planes you can expect cracked leather and the odd piece of foam hanging out somewhere around the headrest.
There is an on-board service including drinks and snacks. This is all to be paid for whilst on-board and is not included in the price of your flight ticket. Meal options vary but can include hot drinks and snacks, breakfast options and more. it is tradition for us to get a cuppa tea and a twix. Ha-ha.
Ryanair Staff: The Good, The Bad And The Miserable
I have experienced Ryanair staff in 3 countries over several different trips. Let’s start with the check-in staff, otherwise known as the ground staff:
> Miserable and non-engaging, yet quick and efficient. I suppose not everyone wants to chat at 6am. They get the job done but are reluctant to interact with you. This can be said for Naples, Stanstead and Valencia staff.
> There seems to be a requirement for all Ryanair staff to be miserable. The cabin crew that I have experienced are far away from the ‘trolley dolly’ stereotype that you half expect. They all usually look tired and as if they are going to flip their s**t at any given moment. BUT (and I suppose the most important part) is they are extremely efficient when something goes wrong. On one flight a woman took ill behind me and the cabin crew dealt with her fantastically and really quickly without any other fuss. I was really impressed by this.
Captains and First Officers:
> OK, so they are flying the planes. No one really sees them until after the flight has landed and they might come out and let you thank them. I’ve met two pilots that have (thankfully) landed us safely BUT they are really scruffy. And young too! Usually a pilot is dressed very smart, trousers and shirt, stripes on show. Not Ryanair pilots. Imagine the old school uniforms.... now add a scarf. Yep.
Overall the staff are clearly trained well and do their job, I think if a few of them added a ‘how are you?’ And a smile, it might just help lift the reputation they are gaining for looking miserable.
landing and Disembarking
In all honesty, every Ryanair Lansing I have experienced has been well controlled and smooth.... right until the last minute when you bounce down the runway. In fairness, I’ve landed in a storm once, high winds, rain and that can’t be easy to land a plane in so a bit of a bounce is acceptable. At least we landed safe!
Disembarking is simple and straight forward, usually the flights are turnaround flights so the quicker they get you off and the new passengers on the better for everyone. This is something they are good at, no ques here!
Would I Recommend Flying With Ryanair?
Regardless of Ryanair being voted the worst airline in the UK for the last six years by Watch?, I would not necessarily totally agree with that title. I have flown with airlines who have far, far worse attributes than what Ryanair have.
For the price you pay to fly Ryanair, you shouldnt really expect the Ritz, and you will get a ‘no-frills’ service. But as long as it continues to fly its passengers safely all around Europe at bargain prices, who are we to really grumble? I’m certainly not.
I am due to fly Ryanair again in the very near future to Frankfurt, and I can’t say that I’m dreading it. If cheap and easy travel is what you are looking for to make your way around this world of ours, then Ryanair have got you covered.