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Lyn from Go to Travel Gal snagged an outstanding price when flying discount airline Ryanair within Europe! And she wants to help you do the same…but there are a few drawbacks to dodge!
Lyn: While we used miles and points to purchase the majority of our flights to Europe and within Europe, we did have one leg of our trip – from Paris to Bologna, Italy – that we paid out of pocket. When considering our options, which included train travel or renting a car, we decided flying a discount airline between these two destinations would be quickest and least expensive.
I’d heard both good and bad things about Ryanair, so I was curious to try it for myself. I’ll share our experience, as well as the pluses and minuses of flying this discount European airline.
Review of Ryanair 2017
Ryanair is one of several discount airlines that fly within Europe. Based in Dublin, the airline has 2,000 flights daily to 33 countries. It is known for its inexpensive flights, which sometimes start as low as ~$12 each way. Depending on the fare you choose, checked bags, seat selection, and snacks are charged as an extra fee.
Ryanair had a record month in July 2017, carrying 12.6 million passengers and making it the first European airline to transport more than 12 million passengers in a month and the first European Union airline to exceed 1 billion passengers.
The airline also says that it is more on-time than British Airways or competing discount airline EasyJet, which has a 90 percent on-time rate.
Where Does Ryanair Fly?
Ryanair tends to fly from smaller airports in major cities. So do your research to understand the location of the airport and how far away it is from your destination. The biggest downside for us in flying Ryanair was that their “Paris” airport, Paris Beauvais, is an hour outside the city and not really in Paris.
We had to take a special shuttle bus that runs from the main Paris bus station to the Beauvais airport for ~$19 per adult and ~$12 per child, which dropped us off at least a 10-minute walk from the airport. This all added time and cost, though it still was quicker and less expensive than our other options. It’s just not ideal to ride a bus for an hour, drag your luggage across a parking lot and then have to board a plane. 🙂
We also found the Paris Beauvais Airport to be extremely confusing, crowded, and small. It took us 20 minutes to get our bearings and figure out where to drop our bags, as it was not very well marked. The security line had tons of people squeezing through, and there were not good options for a pre-flight snack or meal.
As long as you know this ahead of time, you can plan to ensure plenty of time to spare so you can complete all required activities.
Ryanair did fly into the main Bologna, Italy airport, which was convenient for our stay in downtown Bologna.
Booking My Ryanair Ticket
I am usually not a fan of airlines that have a lot of a la carte fees for checked bags and seat selection, but we found booking Ryanair to be fairly simple. We chose to book our tickets on their website, but you can also choose to book via the Ryanair app, which now accepts ApplePay.
When booking your flight, you can choose from several fares that include:
- Standard – Lowest fare, check-in 4 days in advance
- Plus – Priority Boarding, 20kg checked bag, priority boarding, standard seat
- Flexi Plus – Flexible tickets (change flight time or destination within 1 day before or after scheduled departure), optional airport check-in, 20kg checked bag, fast track, priority boarding, priority seat
If you purchase a Standard fare, the cheapest, you separately pay for checked bags, priority boarding and seat selections, which tend to be inexpensive. The cost to choose your seats ahead of time ranges from about ~$2 to ~$18, depending on the amount of legroom you require.
If you are flying with children, Ryanair requires that you have a reserved seat; however, they provide up to 4 children ages 4 to 12 with a free reserved seat with every adult seat booked. We booked our seats ahead of time and were glad to know we would be sitting with our kids.
Our flight for 4 from Paris to Bologna cost ~$325 and included:
- Standard reserved seats
- 4 20kg (44-pound) checked bags
- Priority boarding for 4
I thought that was an amazing deal!
It’s cheapest to pay for your checked bags in advance, though it can be a bit tricky to know how many and what size bags you’ll be bringing. Each passenger can purchase up to 3 checked bags of either 15kg (33 pounds) or 20kg (44 pounds). Be careful about this, as other airlines like Aer Lingus allow you to bring bags up to 50 pounds, so you may need to pare down prior to this flight or ensure your bags are 44 pounds or less the entire time.
Ryanair offers half off for a child’s (ages 2 to 15) 15kg (33-pound) bag for up to 2 children per paying adult. We chose to pay for one 20kg (44-pound) bag per person just to be safe. Checked bags cost between ~$12 to ~$59.
If you purchase bags by calling Ryanair or at airport ticket desks, you will pay a higher fee.
All passengers are allowed a 10kg (22-pound) carry-on bag and 1 personal item like a purse or laptop bag for no additional fee.
2. Family Options
The airline is also family-friendly, and in addition to the discounts on checked bags and seat assignments, it provides:
- Reduced fee for infants between 8 days and 23 months of ~$24 each way
- 2 pieces of infant equipment free
- Free 5kg (11-pound) cabin bag allowance for infants
- Car seats allowed on board – subject to certification for aircraft use
- Allows bottle warming
3. Priority Boarding
On a different flight, a woman from Ireland advised us to book Priority Boarding with Ryanair to avoid what she said was a “cattle call.” We did as she recommended, though ultimately, I did not think it was necessary.
We were first to board the plane. But because we had assigned seats and did not have any large bags to stow, that was not helpful. Ryanair’s planes hold approximately 90 cabin bags, so if you need to ensure you have overhead space for your bag, priority boarding is probably smart.
4. Pre-Flight Experience
Prior to departure, you can check-in online or via the Ryanair app, as well as at the bag drop area. But if you choose to check-in at the airport, you’ll have to pay ~$59 per passenger (unless you purchased a Flexi Plus fare). No thanks!
You can begin checking bags at the airport 2 hours prior to your flight’s departure and no later than 40 minutes prior to departure. Otherwise, you may not be allowed to board the plane and you will not be given a refund. So get there early!
The boarding gate opens 30 minutes prior to departure and closes 20 minutes prior to departure with little to no wiggle room, so be ready board quickly within that 10-minute window.
We purchased Priority Boarding for our flight from Paris to Bologna. And while we were the first group to board the plane, it was not the smoothest experience. We were basically ushered to three different areas – in fairly chilly weather – to wait ~3 minutes before being moved to the next holding area before finally boarding the plane from the outside.
Ryanair In-Flight Experience
While it was a bit of a hassle to get to the airport, get our bags checked and wait to board the plane, flying Ryanair was very comfortable.
The best seats on Ryanair offer 40 inches of legroom while the cheapest seats offer up to 30 inches. We chose standard seats. We were all comfortable, even my husband, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, on this under 2-hour flight and felt it was similar to flying on Southwest.
The airline says it will launch a new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in spring 2019 with new slimline seats that allow 31 inches of legroom, more than British Airways and Lufthansa economy seats, according to Ryanair. They will also add an additional 8 seats per plane.
There was no in-flight entertainment. But we were content to read and watch movies on our personal devices. There was also a snack service to purchase food and drinks for a fee though you can also bring your own food and drink on board.
I chose a reasonably-priced ham and cheese croissant. It was not wonderful, but did the trick to fill me up until we could get to the Bologna airport and enjoy some authentic Italian brick oven pizza. They offer a variety of hot and cold snacks and sandwiches and reasonably-priced waters, sodas, and alcoholic drinks.
Pay for Your Ryanair Flights With Points!
What’s better than scoring a cheap flight around Europe? Not paying for it!
Don’t forget, some cards offer a statement credit toward your flights, including:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – $300 annual travel credit
- Citi Prestige® Card – $250 statement credit for airfare & baggage fees each calendar year
- U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card – $325 annual travel credit
Ryanair is a good choice if you want to quickly and cheaply get from one major European city to another and don’t mind not flying in luxury.
Aside from the location of the airport an hour outside of Paris and the hassle of checking bags and boarding the plane, I would certainly fly Ryanair again for ~$300 for 4 people if booking with miles or points was not an option. It definitely saved us time and money and was worth a small amount of hassle for the price.