If you've dedicated yourself to a lifetime of constant travel it can seem pretty sweet. You always know the next country you want to cross off of your bucket list and are often the first to have your time booked off at work as you prepare. You are always learning new things about the places you visit which also makes you a pretty fascinating person to know and decent conversationalist.
The trouble sets in when you look at your bank balance and realize that by golly this travelling business is expensive!
Enter the budget airline.
It knows you like to travel and it has a plane that can get you there for a fraction of the cost. It seems too good to be true! And well, it kind of is or can be depending on your standards for traveling.
If you're comfortable in cramped quarters carrying your bare essentials and can thrive off the high of travel alone, then budget airlines are probably your very best bet! If you require a bit more attention (read:service) than you'll want to shell out the extra bucks to fly with the big planes. If you feel like you're somewhere in the middle and are toying with the idea of booking your next flight with popular budget carrier RyanAir, we've compiled a few things to consider to prepare you.
Let's start with the PROs:
20 PRO: CHEAP AS CHIPS
If you are as planned as a traveller usually is in attaining a holiday, you will know pretty far out in advance that you want to get out of town. As long as you know more than a month ahead of time, you're looking at incredibly affordable flights. Like almost cheaper than a bus cheap. However, think of RyanAir as a bit of a travel stock market because the prices jump quite continuously. If you're unsure of your travels and plan to 'keep your eye out' you can see a price jump as much as 50% over 1-2 weeks. The moral of the story is to be decisive and scoop up the unbelievable prices when you first see them hit your screen.
19 PRO: GREAT REACH WITHIN EUROPE / UK
As stated by the RyanAir corporate website, it operates in 37 countries, 33 of which it claims to reach in just 24 hours. With 2,000 flights per day, it does not seem entirely implausible that they have this reachability, but with recent mass cancellations that have plagued RyanAir customers in recent years, I'm sure that these figures should reflect differently than the averages listed.
That being said, there are quite a few options and not just in major airports, which means that you get the opportunity to investigate niche pockets of the continent. With 1,800 routes your biggest challenge will be deciding where to go!
18 PRO: ACCEPTS ALL MAJOR CURRENCIES
This can be helpful if you feel most comfortable completing transactions in your native currency. Even as a Canadian purchasing tickets while in Europe, RyanAir defaults to charging me in Canadian Dollars once I've plugged in my credit card details.
While it can also help to budget when seeing the price change to a currency you can easily understand, it should be noted that RyanAir does inflate their exchange rate. Depending on your credit card transaction fees, it may actually be cheaper to run the transaction in its original currency. At the end of the day, it's what you're most comfortable with.
17 PRO: BRAND RECOGNITION
There are quite a few budget airlines coming out of the woodwork nowadays, so it can be tempting to give them a go. The problem is they're untested and that can often mean unanticipated travel day let-downs.
The (sort of) safe thing about RyanAir is that they have been around since 1985 when it started out as a family business. Since then it's been steadily growing to the full fledge corporation of 13,000 in-flight staff that it is now. So whether you've had a mildly decent or mildly underwhelming experience with RyanAir you can count on a lukewarm experience that you know well. To put it proverbially "better to choose the devil you know than the devil you don't know."
16 PRO: ADD ONS AS YOU PLEASE
As travellers, we all have different requirements to feel at ease and comforted during the in-flight experience. The benefit to RyanAir (and the budget model in general) is that they don't lump unnecessary add-ons into your base fare and paint every traveller with the same brush stroke. There is the fare for flight and fuel and then the rest is up to you to select, a la cart.
This allows those who have greater needs to go ahead and meet them while other no-frills travellers can get away with the bare bones cheap rate they prefer. A win-win all around.
15 PRO: EQUALITY IN THE CABIN (PRETTY WELL)
Maybe it's just me but I've found the segregating of passengers by most big box airlines a bit transparently skeezy and a straight-up money grab.
Yes, of course 1st class has always been a thing and I understand that gap in experience and fare to match.
What has become rather ostentatious is the need to characterize passengers by priority, very important priority, red carpet Beyonce level priority, etc.
Are we on the Titanic or just taking a flight to London? What's really nice about RyanAir is that everyone is on the same playing field more or less. The fanciest it gets are those who choose to bring their bags on the plane with them versus being forced to check them and that is totally liveable.
14 PRO: INCLUDES HAND BAGGAGE
The nice thing about flying with RyanAir is you have already accepted that in order to meet the cost effectiveness you will be flying with the bare essentials. This not only makes it a lot lighter to travel (and in many senses less burdensome) but you can expect that the cost of hand luggage is built into your ticket.
With some other budget airlines you don't figure out the cost of hand luggage until after you've already done your happy dance around the apartment after uncovering the low fare.
By the time you add on the bare minimum luggage of anywhere fro 30-5o euros for your tiny bag, it can seem less exciting.
13 PRO: THEY AT LEAST PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT YOUR TRAVEL STRESS
As we've covered so far, with a budget ticket with RyanAir you are not expecting a luxe experience so when things do go wrong (and they often will) you may feel a bit panicky as the costs associated with delays, missed connections, surprise tariffs can throw off the whole budget portion of budget travel. RyanAir has multiple venues to get in touch. including an online form, live chat service and toll line where you will be charged by the minute to call in with your queries.
So while it's not exactly top shelf service offering, they have at least taken some time to create the appearance that they actually care about solving your problem.
12 PRO: MAKES TRAVEL ACCESSIBLE
RyanAir is probably one of the most innovative companies when it comes to travel and tourism because it made travelling far more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Before RyanAir there was the rail pass (which for a lot of travellers with buckets of time, may still be the preferable choice) but you have to sit back and admire how this company has single handedly challenged the competition to revisit how they price out flights. While it's by no means a perfect system, it definitely can get you where you need to go without breaking the bank and that's pretty great.
11 CON: OFTEN DELAYED
RyanAir has a pretty braggy statement on their corporate page that states they've had 88% punctuality in the past 12 months. It's hard to confirm whether this is accurate or which 12 months it's referring to exactly, especially considering all of the difficulties as a result of the current strike.
That being said, budget travel tends to be less reliable which should signal a different approach to booking holidays. None of your transfers should be booked according to 'arrival time' of a RyanAir flight, if you are taking a train or bus from your destination it's probably best to purchase your ticket after you have arrived for the simple fact that RyanAir is pretty unreliable.
Also, in order to be reimbursed, the flight will have to have been delayed for more than 3 hours. If you re flight was delayed for 2 hours and 59 minutes, don't expect to see a penny.
10 CON: ODDLY UNAWARE THEY ARE NOT CONSIDERED AS A 'REAL' AIRLINE BY MOST TRAVELERS
This is only half true because RyanAir definitely knows they are no frills (so to speak). If you purchase a flight with RyanAir they will bombard you with marketing that promises you 'great rates' on car rentals and/or accommodations. This is something that most airlines do once you've hit that 'pay now' button and they have sneakily forced you to accept their terms and conditions so they can 'keep in touch' (e-mail you on the hour).
However given RyanAir's business model I think we all know that we aren't getting incredible deals on any of the stuff that they are plugging, it's usually even difficult to get the advertised rate for the flight. This con exists because Ryanair's marketing ploys appear unhelpful, disingenuous, and frankly annoying. This brings me to my next point...
9 CON: POOR EXCHANGE RATE (CAN EASILY BE MISSED)
If you are planning to pay with your native currency (say you are an American who wishes to pay in USD or a Canadian who prefers to pay in CAD) RyanAir will make it appear (as a default) that they are doing you a solid by automatically converting the price into your currency.
At first it feels nice, like "RyanAir! Thanks for noticing the currency of my country!" However, it has been my experience that their exchange rates are intensely padded so that you are paying anywhere from $10-15 more on the exchange just by accepting their default setting.
It can be a cost-cutting move to uncheck the box that approves this change and be charged in the foreign currency. Depending on who you bank with, conversion is usually accurate if not honest. I wish we could say the same for RyanAir!
8 CON: YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GETTING BUT YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
There is no surprise and delight equation with how RyanAir approaches its customers. Instead there's a bit of an air of 'what did you expect?!' So if you're used to getting the royal treatment as a loyalty or points credit card holder, you will notice the difference.
It all starts with an air of, if you want to fly with us you better play by our rules. While it's nice to not have to deal with the snobbery factor, sometimes it's a real game changer when a flight attendant offers you sweet tea on a plane, or a hot towel for your hands, or well, anything at all that makes you more comfortable.
Unfortunately RyanAir flights are less croissant with coffee and more cattle call-like in nature so you'll have to forego those fantasies.
7 CON: A LOT OF ADD ON FEES
So let's say you're one of those high maintenance travellers who enjoys a meal, perhaps, checking in with a gate versus shlepping your bags across the tarmac. Well you can certainly add on the former but even if you pay to check your bags on a RyanAir flight you are going to be cruising across the runway, ascending up the stairs and into the plane like everyone else.
If you add on a breakfast meal (Dublin outbound flights only), seat reservation, and checked baggage you're looking at another 50-100 dollars roughly. Not to mention hidden fees of checking in at the airport, or ringing their customer service line to ask a question! When you do the math, depending on your destination of course, sometimes the difference between RyanAir and a regular flight is no more than $200 and sometimes that $200 is worth it for the peace of mind and support alone.
6 CON: SEAT LOTTERY
Considering most RyanAir customers are either broke students, travellers on their gap year or simply quite frugal, they are not often paying extra for silly seat selection option. This is good news for us all because it can mean winning the seating lottery! Since the airline tends to reserve the best seats for those who are willing to cough up the cash, if no one claims them it means that someone will get them for free and it could very well be you! Can you imagine?! Extra leg room for free, hip hip hooray!
So whether you're convinced that RyanAir is for you or if you're still sort of fence-sitting, these next points should make it clear. You get what you pay for, now here are the CONS:
5 CON: CONSTANTLY CHANGING BAGGAGE RULES
RyanAir is an airline that has proved itself as a stickler for the rules. They aren't one of the rumoured air lines where you can bat your eyelashes and talk your way around it. So the rules part is a pretty standard aspect of air travel, the difficult part with RyanAir specifically is that they are always changing their rules!
You used to be able to get 2 bags on board but that's just not the case anymore. If you want to bring your carry on luggage into the cabin that is now oddly considered a premium feature.
To offset the bizarre and backwards way of RyanAir's baggage policy, they've reduced the cost of a checked bag and increased the allotment to cover 20kg (from 15kg).
4 CON: CUSTOMER SERVICE / RESPONSE TIME
Did you have a negative experience that you felt compelled to share with RyanAir directly? Well, don't bother.
Their customer service 'chat' and Twitter are some of the best examples of what not to do with irate customers.
You would be better off cutting your losses and spending your time elsewhere for anything less than 200 bucks. The amount of energy you save from not being totally and utterly exhausted and frustrated would be worth it alone. If you truly felt that you're owed money, you might be better off contacting an ombudsmen than any of the aforementioned methods.
3 CON: THERE ARE A LOT OF NITPICKY RULES
Do you appreciate a bit of flexibility around the rules while you travel?
Well, some of the intensely upheld rules for RyanAir may include the time windows for which you may (and better!) arrive for your flight so that you don't get the boot or watch furiously as they sell your ticket to the highest bidder. Or how about the mandatory visit to the visa office to get an additional stamp on your boarding pass/passport before you can go through (for some reason still unclear)?
They try to decentralize in-person interactions at the airport, so by using what would be considered a normal and routine service at the airport like check-in counters, instead you will be made to pay.
Essentially they will tax you wherever possible to make up for that 30 dollar ticket to Dublin.
2 CON: ARCAHIC INCONVENIENCES
RyanAir is just less convenient, period. Flights are at odd times of the day that make it difficult to get to the airport if you are going international. Arriving in your destination you may be thrown to realize that the airports are super far from any semblance of the city that was advertised, causing you to shell out extra cash on a taxi which may or may not make your 'budget friendly' option worthwhile. There are no pockets on the back of the seats which may seem like a small thing but when you're confined into a squishy seat for a few hours, that pocket can do wonders to secure your book/tablet while you stare out the window for 2 and a half hours straight.
The closest thing you'll come to in-flight entertainment is the obnoxiously Celtic branded music played at take-off and landing, obviously no movie screens anywhere in sight. In this day and age, some of these oversights can seem a bit archaic and not always worth the cost-cutting.
1 CON: LOTTERY TICKETS, LASAGNA, & OTHER SALES PITCHES
This really just feels like a desperate attempt to get every last penny off of their (obviously frugal) passengers and the '2 for 1 specials' on lottery tickets just make the whole ordeal seem in poor taste. There is no reason that you can't enjoy the lottery, heck I love me some scratch BINGO! All I'm saying is that there is a time and place, people!
I've never been hustled so hard in my life as I have, start to finish, during the customer experience with RyanAir. I'd much prefer that the flight attendant is ushering water (even tap!) to passengers than flailing about in a desperate attempt to push slices of lasagna. The jig is up Karen, we aren't here for the lasagna.