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Can you really fly Ryanair for £5 all-in? And would you want to? I try it out! (Part 2)

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This is part two of my Ryanair flight review.

Part one of my Ryanair review can be found here and covers my (successful) attempts to avoid paying a single extra penny for seat selection or cabin baggage on top of my £5 base fare.

How was my Ryanair flight?

Perfectly acceptable, of course.  I was flying a relatively new aircraft with decent legroom and I had an aisle seat with my luggage safely stowed away. It was about as good as it was going to get.

Here are a few points worth mentioning:

Due to the failure of the Stansted shuttle train, I was delayed getting to the boarding gate in the satellite.  Most passengers had been processed by then but had, as now also happens with BA on short-haul, been forced to queue unnecessarily.  The aircraft was nowhere near ready for boarding.  I was nearly the last one to be processed but was still standing around for 10 minutes.

Ryanair boarding process

Ryanair was not using a jetbridge even though our gate had one.  Luckily the weather was fine last Tuesday.  (I should also say that British Airways used a remote stand at Porto when I flew back, forcing us to take a bus unnecessarily.)

There is no magazine pocket and the safety instructions are printed on the back of the seat in front.  It looks tacky but removing the seat pocket does add a bit of legroom:

Ryanair safety instructions

As you can see below, even at 6′ 2′ my knees were not touching the seat in front:

Ryanair legroom

The Ryanair buy on board food offering is impressive.  If British Airways had anything like the range of products offered by Ryanair then I think passengers would be more accepting of it. 

    • They do fish and chips, and pizza and chips – not exactly healthy, but at least filling
    • There are vegetarian sourdough toasties, paninis and sandwiches
    • There are ham and cheese croissants and, in the morning, hot sausage and egg muffins, apricot croissants and chocolate croissants
    • The hot drinks list includes spiced chai latte
    • Coffee is from Lavazza
    • They have protein bars
    • They have hot ratatouille and vegan lasagne

I have no idea what the availability was like, since buying something would have broken my £5 rule, but it looked good.  Pricing was not offensive for someone used to Central London costs.

Ryanair inflight menu

They DO still try to sell you scratch cards and play the funny fanfare on landing but it was all fairly half-hearted.  It is worth noting that on late evening and early morning flights, none of this happens and announcements are restricted to the minimum.

Is Ryanair safe?

Conclusion – is Ryanair worth it?

I fully accept that I was hoping to get a spicier article from this flight 🙂  As it turns out:

“Man takes punctual flight, gets decent seat and is able to stow his hand baggage above his seat”

….. is not going to win me any journalism awards.

What I didn’t say earlier is that I was a semi-regular Ryanair flyer at one point.  They used to fly from Stansted to Luebeck in Germany, which is the nearest airport (well, airport is pushing it a bit, it is basically a big shed) to my parents-in-law.

It was annoying for all those people who thought they were flying to Hamburg, when they were nowhere near it, but for me and my wife it was great.  At that point we were living in East London so the trip to Stansted was also manageable, and certainly no worse than getting to Heathrow.

IF you can get a very cheap ticket AND you are willing to play the game, as I was, you can get an amazing deal.

Is Ryanair worth it?

That’s not the end of the story though ….

What I didn’t say above is that this is only true when you look at the cost of the flight in isolation.  In my experience, most people fail to take into account the entire cost of their trip when flying with low cost carriers.

Let’s take my return flight.  I had booked myself on the 11.05 Ryanair flight back from Porto on Thursday, for the same £5 one-way fare.

Two weeks before departure, I realised that British Airways had a 15.25 depature to Gatwick.  Even booking 14 days out, it was just €39 in Euro Traveller and €119 in Club Europe.  I could basically buy myself an extra 4 hr 20 mins sightseeing time for a very low cost and land at an airport far closer to where I live.

It was a no-brainer.  I dumped my Ryanair return flight and booked British Airways Club Europe.  €119 one-way (£102) got me seat 1A with 1C remaining empty, over 2000 Avios, some On Business points and a decent BA afternoon tea with two mini-bottles of champagne (I refused a third!).  It also got me lounge access in Porto, although I would have had this with Ryanair via my Priority Pass anyway.

The key factor, though, was the extra four hours in Porto, helped by the fact I have InterContinental Ambassador status and could get a guaranteed late check-out.

The cost of travel is not just the cost of your flight.  It also includes costs such as getting to the airport (Stansted Express is £20 vs £6 on the tube to Heathrow) and whether you’d spend money in the airport vs having lounge access if you flew British Airways instead.

It is, more importantly, about whether the timings let you maximise your holiday and – often overlooked – whether you are travelling with a carrier who has the willingness and capacity to help you if things go wrong.  If I was going to be caught up in disruption in New York, for example, BA/AA and Virgin/Delta will be able to help me more quickly than Norwegian due to the sheer weight of seats and rerouting options they offer.

To get back to Ryanair, they delivered everything they promised – and more – for my £5.  It lost at least £20 on flying me to Porto just on Air Passenger Duty and Stansted fees, but Michael O’Leary can afford £20 more than me!

Can you really fly Ryanair for £5 all-in? And would you want to? I try it out! (Part 1)
Bits: British Airways launches 'overnight bag drop', your first look at Luton Airport's refurbished Aspire lounge

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  1. On the very rare occasions that I fly Ryanair, I always make a habit of booing when they play the fanfare on touchdown.

    O/T there is a good bonus running on car hire with Enterprise/ Miles and More until 30th April.

  2. William Kerr says:

    Thanks Rob – very illuminating. What was so crucial to your “succeeding” in doing this was the trouble you took in selecting your luggage – a lesson for everyone with every carrier… also, planning and perhaps have something “brought” to eat on to relieve the temptation of falling for the food offerings…. well done !

  3. Ray Harper says:

    Great review Rob-at last you have highlighted the the true cost in getting to the airport.People forget to take this into account

  4. Surely not worth an extra €80 for Club Europe.

    • Euro 40 because HFP was paying so it is a tax write off. £20 of Avios plus a couple of quid of OB points. It cost me about £10 net.

      • Lady London says:

        This kind of explanation is what you provide that other bloggers dont Rob. This teaches us to evaluate opportunities for ourselves. Also the fact that you take tax benefits into account for those of us based in the UK is particularly useful.

        As you said, the net cost of choosing Club rather than Economy on your return seat was about 10 euros. I’d calculate that as easily what I would spend on a restorative coffee and cake or a takeaway meal after returning on a stressful flight cramped in Y fighting someone else for the middle armrest.

      • Fair enough. As a punter though it would not be worth it.

        • Depends. If you are after BA Silver Status, which arguably is the sweet spot in the range, then the occasional CE tickets give you 40TP each way and the extra Avios to boot. If you do as Rob did and reduce the cost by using Avios or OB points then it often works out as the same price as ET. It also gives you lounge access which is decent and the check-in and fast-track through security is worth it too. You’re also treated better if there is a SNAFU. YMMV.

        • Depends how cheap you are, obviously. Knock off the Avios and you’re paying £70. No shortage of people who value their comfort at £70 for 2 hours. In fact, above a certain level of income, it would be illogical not to do it because you’re just making your life less pleasant for a sum of money you don’t even notice.

  5. maccymac says:

    Hit the nail on the head Rob. As long as you play by the rules, Ryanair is a good option. I’ve taken a few FR flights now and they have always been punctual, clean and good value. I think it is not the nasty airline it once was but finds it hard to get rid of that reputation.

  6. Very illuminating – especially when time and cost to/from airport are taken into account.

    For Lubeck read Kerry – where FR STN-KIR-STN can save £120 pp vs EI LHR-ORK-LHR on EI when you live in North London and your destination is Killarney!

  7. It’s a pity you didn’t book the BA Euro Traveller ticket at €39.Given your BA status you would still have had the lounge at OPO. You would have been able to compare the seat space vs Ryanair. I don’t blame you booking the Club Europe seat though. €119 is a decent one way fare for all the benefits you get.

    The point about cost of getting to and from the airport is also an interesting one. I usually choose LHR if I can simply because it is my closest airport and I can get a (convenient) local taxi ride for £22 one way or TfL Rail (formerly Heathrow Connect) for a whisker under £10 (including bus to the station). I can also do it in 45 mins by taxi door to door or 1hr15 by bus/train. Stansted is at least 1hr40 by public transport for £22 and at least 1hr10 by Uber/taxi at a cost of £75. I also get lounge access via my BA status let alone the access via a CE ticket.

    LGW is not quite so convenient location wise but surprisingly takes a similar time 1hr15 by public transport for between £12.50(bus/tube/Southern Rail) to £24.50(via bus/tube/GX) or longer but more convenient and comfortable 70 mins by taxi at a cost of £65 each way.

    That said I’ve just got back from a weekend break to Rome last week using a BA Holidays deal in their sale and got Club Europe return + 3 nights 4* hotel for £259 flying from LGW which was still significantly cheaper than the cost to fly from LHR even adjusted for the increased taxi fare difference to LGW vs LHR. It also got me 4,871 Avios and 80TP renewing my Silver status and I got to experience the fantastic BA lounge at FCO.

    I look at the overall deal and flight times, not just the headline airfare, before choosing but I think people knock Ryanair more than they should. It offers very good deals and has a modern fleet. I just dislike the colour scheme – it is headache inducing plus some of the airports it uses are bordering on the trade misdescriptions act. The lack of lounge access (I don’t have PP) is also deal breaker for me.

  8. The obvious reason Rob doesn’t write about Ryanair is the lack of a loyalty scheme so there is no way of getting the most value per point. All you’re looking for is the best fare, though there are some things you can do such as knowing the best time to book and look for sales (of which there are many, so it’s hard to see if that has much meaning).

    For those who are only interested in booking the cheapest flight, even bringing their own food on board and travelling with carry on luggage if necessary, anyone found any instances where paying with points plus the fee as better value than the cash fare? I guess that would mean having an effective redemption rate of 0.5p per point, vs the cash fare.

    It’d be interesting to know, as I’ve collected a stack of points but generally not interested in paying extra for the luggage or flexibility when flying. I find the same with hotels, I’m not interested in getting 1p per hotel redemption point if it’s a £100 a night hotel when there is a £40 Travelodge.

    I have to use my pants somehow though!

    • Shoestring says:
    • I tend to wear my pants on the lower half of my body! 😉

      In your case I’d think of using points on the £100 hotel as saving £40 compared to paying cash on the travelodge. All you need to do is lower your valuation of your points and take that into account when earning them so you are never over paying for them.

      • That was supposed to say points, not pants…

        But yes they have to be used somehow and I could be waiting a very long time if I wait for a redemption ate that beats a budget hotel’s cash price (in the case of a Travelodge). At least with Amex MR points the floor is 0.5p a point (redemption rate for Nectar) so doing better than that is possible. Eurostar has definitely one of the better MR redemption rates against cash value. The budget alternatives are flying or coach!

        • Lady London says:

          Hi Cormac
          For private hotel bookings my thoughts are the same as yours. The advice to compare the ‘cost’ to you of a points night against the level of hotel you would really pay cash for is very sound.

          Where hotel points can be valued away from this calculation is when they are an enabling factor for you to use them for a hotel night you wouldn’t otherwise be able to stretch to cash for or if you would simply say “even if I can, I’m simply not paying £320 for that hotel that’s really worth about £60 but just happens to be next to the Liverpool-Man U Cup Final game this year “. Some hotel groups’ points work better than others for this although the trend is one by one they are moving towards destroying that value.

          Tesco points are similar – I had to attend an interview at short notice. Paid £316 in Tesco points to get a hotel as hotels near the client all cost that close in. 2 weeks out they cost £65 which was about what that area is worth grrrrr I would have thought seriously about spending £316 for hotel for that interview as the role was not a hot fit but Tesco points – even forcing me into the highest level room that I did not want – gave me the opportunity to stretch and attend.

  9. Lady London says:


    Can Amman be done on a budget?
    Vilnius, @Lumma?
    Do either of you know same for Tallinn?

    I have some flight vouchers to use up, not sure where to use them for, wanting to stay budget end as there isnt a client near this one.

    • memesweeper says:

      Amman can certainly be done in terms of eating, drinking and sightseeing on a budget.

      We didn’t pay for accommodation nor flights so I can’t really comment on that. If you have plenty of Avios + Bonvoy you’re laughing frankly.

      The people are wonderful — and the Dead Sea isn’t far away and is well worth a visit. Plenty of chain hotel options if you need to burn some points, the Marriott is great and I assume the others are good too. We didn’t travel north from Amman but there are historical sights aplenty there too. Check the FCO advice for how far north to go.


  10. Julian Wilkinson says:

    We (2 people) got £7.74 each way to Luxembourg. Alright, we paid for seating and baggage, but hey, who are we to complain. This was also a weekend when fares were normally higher. We have done nearly 100 flights with Ryanair and think, “you get what you pay for”! The only expensive flight we had was for Rome in the summer at over £300 return for two people. We can’t moan at all. However we won’t be flying when they take delivery of the Max aircraft.

  11. Martin Spurling says:

    Illuminating article as always, thanks. The key is the hand luggage scam – on a recent flight with fellow budget airline Flybe, we took our two smallest wheeled hand luggage on board thinking they are really, really small (a giveaway from a bank) so didn’t bother to measure it against Flybe’s size limits. Big mistake. A Flybe lady stood at the security line with the sole purpose of checking passengers boarding passes to see if they were Flybe and if so, unceremoniously shoving their proposed hand luggage into the adjacent Flybe hand luggage guide and finding of course more than 50% of passengers including us failed the hand luggage test – and so were ordered in no uncertain terms to return to the check in and pay £35 for each bag each way to check the offending tiny piece of hand luggage in. This would have added £140 round trip for my wife and I to a £70 round trip ticket for two to Jersey. Furious at the scheming and blatant revenue generating scam (the austere Flybe lady refused to be drawn on whether she was on commission from each turn-away), my wife and I turned the cards and went back to our car to load the hand luggage contents into a fold up backpack I always carry with me, leave the empty wheeled hand luggage in the car, and return to successfully squeeze the backpack into the Flybe hand luggage gauge to the obvious annoyance of the grim Flybe hand luggage checker. £70 for two round trip to Jersey remained sacrosanct – Rob of HFP would have been proud of us we said as we settled into our seats – of the empty plane of course.

    • Yorkieflyer says:

      Many reports of this on Flymaybe. Ryanair on the other hand in our experience only call out wheelie bags in the non priority queue for the size checker. Any sort/size of soft hold-all or shopper bag is fine.

      • Shoestring says:

        I like to ‘get away with it’ as much as anybody, esp a couple of kgs over on BA which doesn’t ever seem to be a problem…

        …but the Flybe sizer will conform exactly to their permitted size allowances, it’s not as if they are tricking passengers, just enforcing the rules – and it’s hard to do that rigidly in a ‘nice’ way

        and we all know why: Flybe are desperate for cash or they’re going bump in the night

    • Yes it is annoying, but if your luggage broke the rules then it broke the rules. You can’t really complain about that. Can you complain about the attitude of the person dealing with you, yes. The fact they enforced their own stated policy, no.

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