Love Song for Ryanair and Other Low-Costs

Flying geese and street lamp

I am in a long-term relationship with Ryanair – my love for those airlines will be 10 years this year. Recently there have been many flight cancellations and my Facebook filled with angry critique about this company. There also came many sarcastic jokes about how Ryanair is actually more expensive than a ‘normal’ airline, because you just have to pay for anything.

I cannot really say that I am loyal to brands. I lived through this period in my teenage years in Lithuania, when I was buying one particular girls magazine – very mainstream, the most popular one in the country. One day I opened my newest issue of this magazine with usual anticipation, preparing to enjoy my evening reading it. One of the first thing I suddenly saw was an advice: “Leave those lame glittery lipsticks to the girls of Russian minority.” A bit of the context for those who do not personally know me. I am from Lithuania and my native language is Russian, so yes, I could not help but understand that it was me they were speaking about here. I felt betrayed and stabbed in my back. I closed the magazine, took all my archive to the recycling container and tried to remember from that time that you cannot ever give your heart to a brand.

Ok, and what does it have to do with Ryanair? Because even though I am not brand-loyal, this one actually is the one which in a way changed my life.

Disclaimer: This is completely unsponsored post and my personal opinion with no money exchange involved anywhere. Although I know you suspected it, and I truly wish it was actually the case.

My travel background

When I was growing up, travelling by plane was a luxury. The price gap between Lithuania and the other European countries was quite wide, so staying in the hotels was expensive too. But my mom was (and is) really a travel enthusiast, so we would normally go on bus trips around Europe.

These kind of trips became very popular in the Eastern Europe in 1990s. You would go by bus to visit several countries. The bus would drive at night, and reach some visitable city in the morning, so you would spend the day sightseeing. And then spend the night on the bus again. For the whole week-long trip there would only be a couple of nights in the hotel, the rest you would spend driving.

We travelled this way to Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, France, Slovakia and other countries. I think Paris was the furthest point for me, although my friends went as far as Portugal (just check the map – it is a loooong bus drive away from Lithuania). We also had a couple of plane trips later, but those were luxury, to be saved up for and savoured.

And then tadam! Ryanair appeared. It did not appear in Lithuania, of course, and there were other airlines, who started to bring the plane prices down, but it still was a big bang. For me, this happened.

Above us only sky
Above us only sky

Low-cost flights for high-cost love

I moved abroad to Copenhagen to study and met a Hungarian man I really fell in love with. For a while we both lived in Copenhagen and it was beautiful. And then the reality stroke and he went back to Budapest to finish his studies. I was heart-broken for a week (and it is a long time, if you are really full-time heart-broken) and then someone told me: “Why don’t you just go to visit him in Budapest for a weekend?”

This was a revelation. Now you know my background, so you understand that in my head there was no concept of going spontaneously by plane for a very short time on a student budget. I checked the prices and yes, it was totally within my budget, even if booking just a couple of weeks in advance. So I went there. Fast-forward 10 years and many low-cost flights later: we are married and have a red haired son. Having in mind that none of us is red haired, I suspect it was some hidden Irish influence from all those Ryanair flights we took. And I blame the success of this relationship on that first flight – it was very timely and very needed.

But coming back to our love story. For a while we were stuck in different countries around Europe. The combinations could be the following: Lithuania (me) – Hungary (him), UK (him) – France (me), Hungary (me) – Luxembourg (him) and some others. And we managed to find amazing solutions, like flying Vilnius to Budapest though Dublin (once again, just check the kind of de-tour it is on the map) for 20 euro.

And that is why it is not surprising that we even got engaged in the airport at night, while waiting for a (very cheap) very early morning Ryanair flight from John Lennon airport. We celebrated it with eating our home-made sandwiches, of course. Which brings me to the next topic.

The mystery of hungry people on Ryanair flights

If you gave me a penny for each time I hear people complain about the fact Ryanair does not feed you during the flight, I could easily buy all the sandwiches and scratchcards they have onboard. Somehow the concept of having to pay 5 euro for your sandwich infuriates some passangers to the point that they forget the school maths. I regularly hear people saying: “If you count all the things extra you have to pay on Ryanair, it’s cheaper to fly Lufthansa.”

I cannot claim that I am all the European airlines expert, but I have been flying with many of them, so I speak from experience. Specifically Lufthansa, as it was the preferred airline of my employer and I did most of my work trips with them. On a flight of less than 2 hours (which many of the flights within Europe are) they give you a little packet of peanuts as a meal. True, those peanuts are free, but the price difference between similar routes within Europe of Lufthansa and Ryanair is well over 100 euro, which makes those peanuts mega-expensive.

If the height makes you that hungry, at least fly with Turkish Airlines – they have decent food.

Boarding Ryanair flight
Boarding Ryanair flight

Paying extra for everything – even the toilet?

This is my favourite anecdote about Ryanair. Some 8 years ago a rumour spread that Ryanair will start charging for the toilet visit while on the plane. At that time I was working in a company doing media overview. That means that my job was to scan through very many Swedish online newspaper articles based on the keywords, to determine, whether they are relevant to some particular client company. You would have the big main ones, but also tiny regional ones from far far North of Sweden, mainly reporting on moose or reindeer being hit by a sledge or vice-versa.

When the Ryanair toilet rumour came out, it reached each and every newspaper, even the most remote ones. I kid you not, for a week I went through hundreds of articles, letters from readers, editorials and comments, each of them having to describe in at least one sentence what Ryanair actually is.

After a week or so Ryanair issued a press-release, assuring the public that this was a hoax and there is no legal possibility to charge for a toilet on a plane, even if they wanted to. It was however the best (and totally free) marketing campaign they ever had – suddenly even the dwellers of the most remote corners of Europe and even outside Europe knew the name and the idea of the company. I secretly hope it was a genious promotion plan of the marketing department of Ryanair itself, to send out a rumour like that later to deny it.

And you have to pay for any bag you take with you!

Another process I liked watching was the on-board luggage restrictions. The ‘normal’ airlines before the Ryanair were rather relaxed about this, but the low-costs changed the rules of the game. Ryanair started imposing strict policy: only one bag, it has to fit into the special measuring device, if not – you have to pay extra. Over the time it seems that the criteria got more and more strict, and other low-costs followed the lead. For example, WizzAir reduced the hand luggage to a small backpack, giving you an option to pay for a larger one.

And then suddenly baaam – and Ryanair relaxes the hand luggage policy: you can have a little extra handbag and your camera, the bag is not checked that strictly whether it fits or not. As if they lead other low-costs into this race on purpose, and then abruptly removed themselves from it. Wizzair did follow the lead (again!) and relaxed the regulations back this spring.

Tips to make your trip with low-cost airline a success

Based on all the complaints about flying with the low-cost I hear, I start thinking that many people just do not know, how to use them properly. I am not even speaking about Ryanair specifically. As we now know, being brand loyal is the most stupid capitalist behaviour you can engage in. Do not do it.

Ryanair above Finland
Ryanair above Finland

I am sure this makes me sound pretentious, but I will share my golden nuggets of wisdom here, to make your travel cheap and enjoyable.

Buying the tickets:

  1. Be time and destination flexible – if you can. The tickets can be extremely cheap, if you are flexible. The ideal scenario for your low-cost booking is:
  • I know I have some days off in April. Let me see, where I can go cheap during those days.
  • I would like to visit my friends in London and I would like my trip to happen in autumn. Let me see, which dates are the cheapest.

There are generally cheap destinations: Belgium, the Nederlands, Germany and generally cheap months: February and March. There are also generally expensive destinations: Southern Europe and months: summer. But it is always worth checking a particular combination of destination and time.

2. Think of the extras. There are very few extra costs you actually need. Do you need a check in luggage? If you are travelling for a short time and do not have much stuff, the check in luggage can actually be more of an inconvenience, as you have to wait for it (sometimes long) in the airport.

Do you need to choose your seat? If you are travelling alone and have no strong preference for window or aisle, then why bother and pay extra? And even if you are travelling together, in my experience it has always assigned us seats next to each other, although we chose free random seat selection.

Priority boarding is the most curious purchase you can actually make. You pay extra for being forced to go through the gate and stand in a very cold or very hot corridor (depending on the season) stuck between other VIPs, with no place to sit and no access to toilet or water. At least in the most European airports. Buy it for the sake of experience, if you want, but not of your comfort.

Before the flight:

  1. Remember to check in online and print your boarding pass. That is not THAT difficult, come on! Otherwise yes, you will be charged a lot at the airport.

  2. Make that goddamn sandwich at home or buy a snack from the shop. As long as it is not a liquid snack, you can take it with you on the flight and eat it there. For the sake of other passangers, please do not get anything too smelly or crunchy. Or take your 5 euro onboard and buy that sandwich. It is actually cheaper than regular prices of some airports.

  3. Buy a bottle of water or fill yours from the water fountain after you have come through the security.

Evening flight
Evening flight

On board:

  1. If you are a fit person without children, check with the flight attendant, whether emergency exit seats are free. They have bigger leg space, and are usually let empty, if the flight is half-full. They can only be occupied by people, who in case of emergency can operate the doors, so children will not be allowed to sit there.

  2. If you plan to sleep, remember to check some earplugs. Most low-costs will annoy you with some commercials and other announcements throughout the whole flight and Ryanair especially is a champion for the most terrible ones.

Alternatives

Please remember that Ryanair is just one airline out of many. When you are looking for tickets around Europe, do check some others. Here is a short list of the main ones, where you normally can find good deals:

  1. Norwegian – cheap and very good quality. Has trans-Atlantic flights. Mostly connects Norway to other countries though.
  2. WizzAir – Check the loyalty card. It is valid for a year, so if you plan to fly with them at least twice, it will pay off.
  3. EasyJet – Good option for the UK, though slightly overpriced compared to others.
  4. AirBaltic – Expensive and bad. High chance to miss a connection in Riga. I warned you!
  5. WOW Air – Icelandic airlines with really wow prices to Iceland. I am still only planning to try this one out.

68 Replies to “Love Song for Ryanair and Other Low-Costs”

  1. Alexander Popkov says: Reply

    Low costters yaaay. Love cheap tickets, but hate everything related to baggage. I carry my dslr and lenses and laptop. Always close to overweight.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      True, travelling with the photo equipment makes your luggage so big! So it can really be a hassle with low costs. But I also realise that they only care about the size (measurements), not the weight of the carry on.

  2. You input valuble informations here , thank you for sharing this , love to read your text.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      You’re welcome 😉

  3. I have not flown Ryan Air, although I had heard of it back when I lived in Europe. I appreciate the low cost of flying budget airlines but the harsh luggage rules kinda make it hard for me to use them. But I agree with you, people should not complain about not getting the frills of luxury travel. You need to align your expectations with what you purchase.

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    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      I think both can be combined. After all, I use both public transport and taxi sometimes, and I don’t expect the city bus to take me all the way to my doorstep and other things which taxi does.

  4. After reading about how the first Rynair trip eventually pathed the way for you and your husband’s marriage and child I can totally understand how it was life changing for you. I know about the bus holidays although I have never been on one, when you have the ability to fly by plane and the cost is managable it opens up the world like never before 🙂 Same as Alexander, I also hate the baggage part of travelling. No matter how many times I weigh my suitcase before travelling the first part of checking in leaves me a wreck thinking that I’ll have to be on of those people desperately pulling out towels and lesser needed items for the correct weight!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      I actually realised that it’s only size that matter, not so much the weight for the carry on. I had mine much much heavier than allowed and it never was a problem. But you are right, if you are travelling with photography equipment, then it can really be a hassle.

  5. People can be so silly sometimes. We have two local airlines here in South Africa that offer cheap flights and both charge for meals. For goodness sake if the longest flight they have is only two hours, do you really need to eat. We always use them precisely because they’re cheap and they get you to your destination without all the bells and whistles.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Somehow flying makes people really hungry, right? 🙂

  6. I fly with Ryanair so often that I have started to get to know the cabin crew on my route. It used to be the same with Wizz Air a while ago, when I used to fly with them a lot. I love low costs because I know what to expect from them. And yes, what’s with all the hungry people on board? Bring a sandwich from home if you don’t want to pay for a meal. Nobody is going to stop you eating it. 🙂

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Your comment made me laugh so much! One friend of ours was flying between London and Vilnius every week for half a year (Friday to Vilnius, and Monday back to work in London). He also probably got to know the crew this way.

  7. I love the idea of just hopping on the computer and seeing where in world I can go for a set price during a certain month. I think we might try that. Our next trip is to Japan, but after that we are totally going to just see what’s cheap.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Oh Japan must be everything but cheap! I would love to go there once too, with normal airlines though!

  8. This is a good post for who is not an expert with airline companies. We used Ryanair different times and also with EasyJet, so we know how it works hahaha
    The first step before the flight is important, don’t underestimate it.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      How did you like EasyJet? I just tried it once and didn’t like it. But they don’t really fly in my direction, so not much chance of flying with them.

  9. I wish I could say that we have a company here that I could lavish my praise on. Unfortunately, I haven’t been flying much recently. But most of the flights I was on before were oppressive and uncomfortable. I would love to see one as what you described though!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      If you ever come to Europe, there are several of them. You can test and see if you like those ones 🙂

  10. Abigail Sinsona says: Reply

    I can definitely relate with you here. I tend to go for low cost airlines too, just because I couldn’t afford to splurge that much on plane tickets. I’d rather use that money towards activities that I can enjoy once I get to my destination. People who complain about budget airlines need to be realistic about their expectations. It is called budget airline for a reason and you have to adapt with their policies.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Yes! And sometimes people are fine with other budget things, but when it comes to the airlines, they suddenly want to have it all 🙂

  11. Cheap flights are great. Till i found out most airlines tacl on fees like baggage etc. How cute is an airport engagement?! Especially when you like to travel.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Yeah, the engagement was just our style. One thing was the airport, and another – that it was John Lennon airport. I am a big fan of John Lennon, so in that way it was just perfect.

  12. This sound like what Spirit Airlines is in the US? Very low priced and you have to pay for every little thing. People hate it, but they are still in business so I guess they fill a need!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Could be? I have never thought about those, but I didn’t really have a chance to travel much in the US yet. Will research them, thanks for mentioning!

  13. I definitely don’t have brand loyalty fo most things, airlines included. I try to find the most cost effective flight. I’m not a fan of having to pay for checked bags. I try to pack everything in one bag (free checked bag) & my carry on. I’ve heard things about WOW Air. I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland & definitely plan on taking WOW Air,

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Yes, Iceland has been on my list for ages! I really hope you can go soon, it must be such a unique place.

  14. Low cost airlines have revolutionize the way we travel. Many year ago, trevelling to another country would cost a lot of money but, nowadays people even spend a weekend abroad. It’s amazing. I travel a lot in low cost airlines.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Me too! They have definitely revolutionised my own way of travelling 😉

  15. Stephanie Jeannot says: Reply

    If I ever have the opportunity to visit your country, I will definitely try this airline. Sounds like it might be a good way to travel.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      It is a cheap way for sure. You can fly with them around all of the Europe, so check them whenever you are over here.

  16. Corinne and Kirsty says: Reply

    I am not really loyal to any brand or company either although I always tend to choose the cheapest. it happened many time that Ryan Air was not the cheapest so I went for another company. I had a holiday planned for a long time flying with them so i’d be quite upset if they’d cancelled my flight ahah

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      True, our friend also complained that British Airways are actually cheaper around Christmas. But to me it rarely happens. Sometimes Wizz air is a bit cheaper, so I go for them.
      And true, the cancellations are annoying. Although I wouldn’t mind receiving a compensation of 250 euro when my ticket price is usually around 50, haha 🙂

  17. I’ve never heard of this airline, But I like the concept. I’d rather pay less for a flight and only pay for amenities I’m going to use than to pay $100’s in extra for things that I’ll rather not need or use. I really do think this would be the better way to go

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      That is my point too! When I’m going on a short trip, I very often only take hand luggage anyway. So why pay all that extra just for the chance to have it?

  18. It’s nice of you to write something good for the airline when it’s not sponsored (though I’ve never heard of this airline!) and I definitely hope they notice you after reading your article!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Hahaha, with their attitude I think the maximum I can count on is a free sandwich onboard 😉

  19. Vanessa Delia says: Reply

    I am never worried about food on a plane unless it’s an extremely long flight. However, you can bring your own snacks so really, it’s still not a thought for me.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Exactly. And I was so disappointed when I though Lufthansa will give me a nice meal because it is a “proper” airline. And they gave me a mini-pack of peanuts 😀 At least in Ryanair I know what to expect and can buy something or bring something.

  20. The views from plane are the prettiest. I especially love watching sunsets from the plane, so beautiful!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      True! And the sunrises. I am flying very early in a couple of days, so the sunrise will be a compensation for the early rise.

  21. I love flying low cost airlines in Europe, wether it’s Ryan Air or Easy Jet. It is clearly NOT more expensive than regular airlines with those “things you have to pay”. You pay for the basic service, and honestly on a 2hours max flights, just a seat and a toilet is more than fine as a basic. People don’t mind paying 10€ a sandwich in Paris Airport but suddently it is a drama to pay 5€ in a Low cost plane ahah If they are better on normal company they should just let us be on the low cost we will have more space 😀

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      So true about the airport prices. I think maths fail people sometimes on a low cost flight 🙂

  22. Shubhada Bhide says: Reply

    I never heard about this Ryanair,but looks great. I’ve travel the world and tried different airlines.Maybe I’ll try this Ryanair soon,Love reading your article!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      If you are in Europe, definitely give them a try and see, whether you like it!

  23. I’ve never heard of the airline but I like it already! Love the idea of paying for what I get to use.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      I also see it this way, but I’m surprised by how many people don’t. 🙂

  24. I have not heard about this airlines but such a good read sharing and writing about that airlines. It will really helps other.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thank you!

  25. tararaquelfuller says: Reply

    this is such a nice post! it’s so rare to read something positive about the airlines these days – it’s fantastic when you read one has developed such loyalty in a person.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thanks a lot! I guess it is some kind of trend to be unhappy with airlines. Mind you, I’m also unhappy with most of the others 😉

  26. Your writing is very good. I love cheap. I’m just tired of waiting and arranging my luggage.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thanks!

  27. I have never heard about this airline. But if I ever have a chance to travel to your country. I will absolutely try this.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Sure, do try it when you are in Europe!

  28. We were in Madrid last year and thought because Tangier was so close, we HAD to visit. We few RyanAir and we had absolutely no issues. It was actually a fun flight over.

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    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      I actually never had any big issues with them, but many with other airlines. It is probably just luck, but yes, they are for sure not worse than others – and for such price!

  29. I really enjoyed this post, and I absolutely agree with your point of view. Low-cost flight are a bless, we Europeans are so lucky to have the chance to visit so many places for such a low cost! Finally someone wrote about it, so thank you! 🙂

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thanks for your comment! We are blessed, I agree 🙂

  30. I so agree with you. Everyone complains, but really, you get what you pay for! The flights are generally only an hour or two long within Europe; if you don’t want to spend any money, just wait till you land! Or bring some along!

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      I’m glad there are more who think this way!

  31. I don’t know much about this airline but I’ve learned a lot of things like good tips from your story.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thanks!

  32. Except for the purported toilet usage fee, this are similar issues people have with Cebu Pacific, our country’s very own version of Ryanair. What they fail to understand and realize is that CebPac (and Ryanair) are budget airlines. To lower our cost even more, we uncheck everything we don’t need (e.g. seat assignments, check in luggage, meals, etc.) in their booking site.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Exactly! We uncheck too!

  33. I feel like if you don’t want to travel on a budget, don’t go with a budget airline. You pay for your cheap ticket and that’s what you get. No extras. Those who complain about no food or not enough baggage honestly don’t have a clue. ha. Ryanair is good for what it offers, I’ve seen prices as cheap as £1 from Glasgow to Oslo!!! How can you complain about that!?! haa

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      And we don’t complain, but just try to grab those tickets before they disappear.

  34. This is such a great guide for those who are not an expert with airline companies.

    1. merrygoroundslowly says: Reply

      Thank you!

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