Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.

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.  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.

Comments (72)

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  • 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

    • Peter K says:

      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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