They are cheap for sure but they are also impressively adept at causing normal, sane people to lose it and go a little bit crazy. If you want cheap but also sane, here are a few pointers.
Ryan Air, for far away readers, is a well known European really-really-budget airline with Irishman Michael O’Leary (of any press is good press fame) at the helm.
I fly with Ryan Air a couple of times a month. My last flight was about 7 minutes ago.
I think the Ryan Air powers that be have been watching public opinion, and at the tipping point when enough was enough and an “I’d pay double thanks very much to not fly with you” rebellion was about to start, they have started to slowly get their act together. It was reported in the Financial Times today that niceness is paying off and there’s been an upgrade to the annual profits forecast. Nice AND profitable?
I’m not saying it’s wonderful, but there has been a little whiff of an OK you are not a herd of cattle, you are human, in fact customers, blown over the whole process. Enough, possibly, to make the switherers stay and pay for what is, without a doubt, cheap as chips (IF YOU KNOW THE TRICKS) air travel. But, only if you know the tricks.
Sometimes Ryan Air are the only ones who fly the route I want, so I decided to learn how to play the RA game. It will soon be available in all reputable department stores.
Buying a ticket online
DON’T even contemplate buying one or god forbid amending one over the phone or you will have to pay millions of pounds and you will be out of the game.
The important TRICK WITH ONLINE BOOKING is to clear your cookies EVERY TIME you do a search for a ticket. For any even less computer-literate-than-me readers, ask someone under 16 how to do that if you don’t know.
It basically stops Ryan Air knowing that a little while ago you were interested in buying two tickets to Riga on the 14th of February for you and your girlfriend/partner/sibling/mum. You can literally see the price DOUBLE if you pop over to the bookcase to find out where Riga actually is, and make a second enquiry when you get back to the computer. The swivel chair won’t even have stopped swivelling. Don’t take my word for it – try it and see. This move is called “holding your nerve and killing your cookies”. If all else fails, you can always try Thessaloniki instead of Rigi. Your girlfriend/partner/sibling/mum will never know.
Another top tip is to do a search for say 20 tickets on your chosen date to see how many are left at that available price. Obviously ticket prices rise as the plane fills (although there can be blips in the middle if sales slow down). If you are have to book a day or two before a flight (which can happen with life) you are basically subsiding the rest of the passengers’ weekend break.
ONLY Hand luggage
ONLY take hand luggage. If you can’t do that, fly with another airline, or if you are a big family, pool one case (still has to be within the 15 or 20kg weight limit). That’s where Ryanair make a lot of money. And for them they really want the hold empty for the big commercial stuff.
Throw caution to the wind and only pack 4 pairs of knickers no matter how long you are away for. They’ll wash and be dry even before you get back out the bathroom of your hotel.
Recently, and in what has been the biggest improvement for me by far, Ryanair now allows you one piece of hand luggage (same size as before) PLUS ONE HANDBAG. Rather than the sizes which you can look at on Ryan Air’s website…….
…..this is what a case and a bag that size looks like.
Although the 10kg hand luggage limit exists on the website, on the ground it seems to have vanished. I’m not overtly suggesting you risk the odd sneaky kilo more; a capital offence were it up to ground staff a few months ago. But I have been know to take that risk and survive. Heavy things can go in the extra handbag anyway which can weigh more than a tonne* if you can carry it. *again exercise reason here or the plane won’t take off.
Wear your bulkiest, heaviest clothes. Ditch the laptop if you need one with you and buy a tablet (you will recoup the cost after a few non-hold luggage flights).
One other tiny luggage tip. If you are one of the last to board the plane you might find your hand luggage will have to travel in the hold. Your own seat in the cozy, oxygenated part of the plane will thankfully still be available, but you might not see your case until it’s winding it’s way (or not) round the luggage collection conveyor belt. How important that is to you depends upon how much free time you have at the airport at the other end. Inevitably, collecting hold luggage takes longer than walking out with what you have with you onboard.
Even the man on the luggage size board is now smiling…..
Printing a boarding pass
Although less draconian than a few months ago, there are still hefty charges if you don’t print one off (for each passenger) at the latest within 2 hours of your flight. Pesky old Ryan Air have been sneaky about the introduction of allocated seating. Whereas now you can print off your boarding pass up to 30 days before you flight if you want to pay extra and choose a seat, you can only print it off 7 days before if you want the free allocated seat.
Basically they want you to get a bit panicky and say, sod it, I’ve been on the computer an hour getting to this point – I’ll buy the goddamn seat I’d get for free if I just waited till 7 days before.
Hold your nerve and don’t do it. Stick a post-it note on your computer and press the print button 7 days or less before you fly. The only annoying thing is if you’re on a fortnight’s holiday, you might not want the hassle of printing your boarding pass whilst you’re away from home. Good one RA. Hell will freeze over before I click that print early button although I absolutely appreciate there are more sane and less-tainted-by-the-old-RA-tricks travellers out there than me.
I assume that if you buy tickets at the same time for yourself and little’uns that you’ll be seated together automatically, even with the automatically allocated seats. Surely. But if you know differently do get in touch.
Allow time to book – and book early
The number of clicks to a completed booking has apparently dramatically reduced recently. But there are still lots of screens to click through and you need a bit of time, unless you want to accidentally booked a 4×4 with baby seat and collision damage waiver. See above for rough amending charges – just take it easy and click on the right buttons first time round. Have all the wine you like to celebrate once the booking process is completed.
Ryan Air will try and sell you bags and hotels and cars and double glazing (I’m sorry that last one is not true. Yet.) – just remain strong and you will be there in no time.
Paying by credit card is not as expensive as it used to be. I think RA might have got a big corporate slap on the wrist for that extra.
I saw a sign on the wall at Stansted Airport recently which said that even RA passengers would now be allowed a FURTHER duty free purchases bag in the cabin. It’s easy to get swept up in the wild and crazy things happening with bags at Ryan Air. You can almost do a whole house flit via an RA flight now. That’s happened for a reason.
The new Stansted owners (this is RA’s main airport) have massively increased the size of the duty free section and put in sparkly diamond floors so that you are swooning with consumer joy. If you can’t take it on the plane, you won’t buy it. So a deal’s been done.
After all that, is Ryan Air worth it? Yes the seats are about as close as they can be without air dropping passengers into place, which would be just ironic on a plane. Staff could be a little nicer (and that can happen on big non budget airlines too). But the flights are almost always on time and it’s not unusual to pay under £20 all in for your ticket. IF you pay attention to the extras when booking.
I think most people who’ve ever flown with Ryan Air have by now seen this song, but here it is anyway….