Flying Ryanair used to be an adventure full of (at times nasty) surprises. Mainly because passengers could not be bothered to check the terms and conditions, and were expecting a service like in first class, during the heyday of PanAm ... nope, on Ryanair you fly to Ireland (and all across Europe and Northern Africa) with no frills. So expect less, and you won't be disappointed/
Ryanair - Who Are They?
Ryanair is one of the worlds largest airlines in passenger numbers - and one of the original budget or no-frills airlines. Driven with profits in mind and providing a basic service it is a cash-cow for its shareholders, and an affordable alternative for short-haul travelers.
What Services does Ryanair Provide?
Only short-haul flights within the European and Mediterranean region - sometimes to airports you might not have imagined to exist. In Ireland a number of airports are serviced by Ryanair, with Dublin being the most used hub.
Ryanair's Fleet consists exclusively of Boeing 737 jets, full-stop. These are well-maintained and generally fairly new (time-wise, with a high number of take-offs and landings), their cabin layout is maximised for profit. That means no comfy seats, low leg room, and the on-board entertainment consisting of the flight attendants selling snacks, goods, and raffle tickets.
Can You Expect Problems With Ryanair?
Yes and no - it all depends on your capability to read and digest information in 95% of the cases. Ryanair for instance claims to fly to Frankfurt in Germany, the actual airport is Hahn (a former USAFE air base, a good ninety minutes motorway journey from Frankfurt), causing confusion for geographically challenged travelers. Also Ryanair's online booking and pricing system requires your full attention, otherwise you may opt for unwanted extras or incur additional charges. The latter has been improved in recent years, but you still need to pay attention.
My personal travel experiences with Ryanair on flights to Germany, the UK, Hungary, and Italy was as expected - a cheap flight in acceptable (but not overly comfortable) seats, on time, luggage unharmed. For the price paid, I could not ask for more.
Criticism of Ryanair - Warranted?
"The Ryanair flight was terrible!" "Why?" "They charged me for a coffee!" I can’t help but feel sorry for anybody paying peanuts for a flight across Europe, and then complaining about the price of buying a pack of peanuts on board. Like all budget airlines, Ryanair provides a no-frills service at a keen price. If you want extras, you pay for them. Or fly with another airline to Ireland. Where is the problem?
So, what are the main points of criticism waged against Ryanair?
- Ryanair Prices and Advertising - true, Ryanair will advertise low prices and you will occasionally have a hard time finding a flight to suit your requirements at this price. Doesn't everyone?
- Ryanair Luggage Restrictions - Ryanair has the target of reducing check-in baggage to zero to save on costs, baggage handlers and the infrastructure cost money, more baggage needs more fuel. Check-in baggage will incur charges and there is no effort made at hiding this fact. But with 10 kg of hand luggage and an additional bag most passengers should be well covered.
- Ryanair Check-In Closures - check-in desks serving Ryanair flights do cut off at exactly the time when you are told they do, a simple matter of understanding that when Ryanair say "half an hour", they mean 30 minutes. Despite being an Irish company, Ryanair is not run with the happy-go-lucky ethos of "Ah, shure, it'll fit!"
- Ryanair In-Flight Catering - no point discussing the gourmet quality of food and drinks on Ryanair flights, I had better, I also had worse. Many people still complain that Ryanair actually charges for food and drinks. Coffee and sandwiches are simply not part of the flight price, get over it.
- Ryanair Sales Pitches and PR Spins - flying Ryanair can be like watching a home-shopping channel late at night, even on a short hop from Dublin to Glasgow. You’ll be offered all sorts of things at "great prices", including raffle tickets. Depending on your mood and outlook on life this can be amusing or annoying.
- Priority Boarding - priority boarding (charged as an extra) is only useful if you want to make sure you carry-on is near you in-flight. With allocated seats it has become all but obsolete.
- Nationality of Ryanair Flight Attendants - here we enter dangerous territory, as criticism of Ryanair in Ireland and the UK often mentions the fact that flight attendants are "foreigners" with an iffy grasp of the English language. While it is true that many use a very heavy accented English, to a non-native speaker this would not be much different from a Connemara accent. I sometimes cannot help but wonder whether all this talk isn’t more about xenophobia than anything else.
- Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary and His Publicity Stunts - dancing nuns, underwear as headgear, reclining in an engine nacelle, presenting a "beds and blowjobs" service, or using everyone and everything from Carla Bruni or failed drug smugglers to 9/11 for his publicity stunts, O'Leary is the Simon Cowell of the airline industry. The man you love to hate. If Ryanair were selling a dartboard with his face on it, this might be a bestseller. Then again O'Leary's almost Faustian character and frequently obnoxious behavior can be safely ignored when you are shelling out a mere tenner for a flight. And he is not sitting next to you anyway (though he might load your luggage in a pinch, a real hands-on CEO).