Advantages CHEAP (1p), Punctual, Network of Routes
Disadvantages Can be Unclean, "Point-to-Point"
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Having just come off a Ryanair flight from Italy into London yesterday, I think it is fair to say that I can give the most up-to-date detailed opinions of the Ryanair service, as well as the latest information. Yesterday or any other occasions (flown 30 times with Ryanair), I have never had a problem so I am surprised by all the negative reviews but can understand that a flight could turn into a disastrous nightmare ‘if’ things go wrong. Negatives aside, Ryanair have changed the way we travel from A to B. We no longer have to suffer from BA and other high-cost carriers as Irish Ryanair has saved the day for our pockets. Instead of paying £80+ to hop down to Italy with BA you can travel with Ryanair for only a penny! - How come? Read On...***Booking, Routes & Website***
Firstly, Ryanair minimises costs by using the magic of the Internet. Flights are booked online through www.ryanair.com, so they do not have the additional costs of paying for telephone operators or travel agents to take your booking. It is all done by yourself in the comfort of your own home. If you do decide you would rather book your flight by speaking to a person (via a string of automated messages & a performance by Greensleeves) you can, but some special fares are only available through their website. On the homepage, the layout enables easy navigation. At the top is a banner that states the present offer - at present it is 1million flights from 99p (excluding taxes and charges). Remember the prices you see are for one-way without the tax and airport charges. Also, the price does not mean that it will cost the same for every flight on every day. If you click on the destination, a box appears on screen telling you dates this fare is available as well as the booking period and how long in advance you need to book before you travel. Also this shows details of any blackout dates where the fare does not apply (i.e. during school holidays and Christmas). Generally, seats are cheaper midweek than on the weekends, although you usually can pick up deals for travelling on Saturday morning. New deals and fares change, usually, at midnight on Monday and Thursday. Through the website you can also sign up to receive e-mail alerts that will tell you the day before hand what the special offer will be. This will allow you to be ‘first in the queue,’ if you fancy some seats for £1.Many destinations listed you will probably have not heard of them (as Ryanair uses smaller airports than main city ones), so it is a good idea to check out "Destinations". You are then present with a Flash map to show where each destination is. Many have a prefix such as Oslo, Stockholm or Bologna but be wary as the airports could be up to a 100 miles out - as Torp is from Oslo. Also note that there are 2 airports for Stockholm: Vasteras and Skavsta but neither are anywhere near Stockholm - 45 minutes and 1 hour away, respectively. On the map, if you hover on the destination it shows you the route and if you click on it gives a detailed guide to that destination and how you can get from the airport to the city centre. Ryanair serves 14 countries: UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria and Holland. Their routes originate from their bases London Stansted, Frankfurt Hahn, Dublin, Glasgow Prestwick, Stockholm Skavsta, Brussels Charleroi, Barcelona Gerona, Milan Bergamo and Rome Ciampino. Also this week Ryanair have launched extra routes from Luton as well as 3 new routes from Stansted (one to Latvia) as well as other European ones. Ryanair’s routes are (the ones with the * are the destinations I have flown to with Ryanair):
> London Stansted to:
DOMESTIC UK: Newquay, Blackpool, Prestwick (Glasgow), City Of Derry
IRELAND: Dublin, Cork, Knock, Shannon, Kerry.
FRANCE: St. Etienne, Tours, Nîmes, Limoges, Poitiers, Rodez, Carcassone, Dinard, La Rochelle, Biarritz, Pau (Pyrenees), Begerac, Perpignan, Montpellier,
GERMANY: Niederhein (Düsseldorf), Lübeck (Hamburg), Baden-Baden (Karlsruhe), Hahn (Frankfurt), Erfurt (Weimar), Altenburg, Friedrichshafen, Berlin Schonefeld*, Altenburg (Leipzig).
ITALY: Brescia (Verona), Bergamo (Milan), Bari, Pescara*, Brindisi*, Palermo (Sicily), Alghero* (Sardinia), Ciampino* (Rome), Ancona*, Forlí* (Bologna), Treviso* (Venice), Trieste*, Genoa*, Turin*, Pisa*.
SPAIN: Valladolid, Reus* (Salou & Universal Mediterranea), Jerez*, Gerona (Barcelona), Murcia, Santander, Zaragoza.
NORWAY: Haugesund, Torp (Oslo).
SWEDEN: Malmo, Skavsta/Vasteras (Stockholm), Gothenburg*,
DENMARK: Aarhus, Esbjerg
AUSTRIA: Salzburg*, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz.
> Glasgow Prestwick to:
DOMESTIC UK: London Stansted, Bournemouth.
IRELAND: Dublin, Shannon.
FRANCE: Beauvais (Paris).
GERMANY: Hahn (Frankfurt).
SPAIN: Gerona (Barcelona).
ITALY: Bergamo (Milan), Ciampino (Rome).
NORWAY: Torp (Oslo).
BELGIUM: Charleroi (Belgium).
>Frankfurt Hahn to:
UK: London Stansted, Prestwick (Glasgow).
IRELAND: Shannon, Kerry.
ITALY: Bergamo (Milan), Pisa, Forli (Bologna), Pescara, Ciampino (Rome), Treviso (Venice), Alghero (Sardinia).
SWEDEN: Skavsta (Stockholm), Gothenburg.
NORWAY: Torp (Oslo).
SPAIN: Gerona (Barcelona), Reus (Salou & Universal Mediterrenea), Jerez, Santander.
> Stockholm Skavsta to:
UK: London Stansted, Prestwick (Glasgow)
FRANCE: Beauvais (Paris).
BELGIUM: Charleroi (Brussels).
ITALY: Bergamo (Milan), Ciampino (Rome).
GERMANY: Hahn (Frankfurt).
> Barcelona Gerona to:
UK: London Stansted, Bournemouth, Liverpool, East Midlands, Prestwick (Glasgow), Luton.
FRANCE: Beauvais (Paris).
GERMANY: Hahn (Frankfurt), Baden-Baden (Karlsruhe).
ITALY: Bergamo (Milan), Turin, Alghero (Sardinia), Treviso (Venice), Ciampino (Rome).
(There are also flights between Pisa and Lubeck (Hamburg), Riga and Tampere as well as between Shannon and Beauvais (Paris))The most I have ever paid to fly return (inc. tax) to the destinations marked * is only £40, but I have paid £16 return once – when Ryanair actually paid you £1 to fly (+ tax)!
After you have selected your routes and dates, a list comes up with the available flights for that day. Simply, select them and proceed to the next page. You then need to enter your details as well as your credit/debit card ( a fee applies: £3 for credit card, £0.40 for debit card). After you have entered your details and confirmed it a reservation number pops up as well as your flight details. You will need to print this out as there are no tickets… and that’s it. Simple.If you need to change your booking, such as flight dates/times, passenger names or even the complete route – but for a fee. A flight time/date change or route change costs £15/€22 per flight sector per person online (if you do it by phone it costs £20/€30 to change). Then you will also be charged the difference between the original fare paid and the lowest available fare at that moment. If the fare is lower on the new flight, no refund will be made. Rip-Off! – but that is how Ryanair make their profits that are passed on to the rest to us by cheap flights. Name changes cost even more at £35/€50 per person plus the difference in fare.
It should also be noted that Ryanair is a ‘point-to-point’ airline meaning it operates like a bus service. If the flight is cancelled Ryanair do not provide accommodation, meal vouchers, transfers or will give you a refund. You will have to be extremely unlucky if your flight is cancelled – though you are re-accommodated on a new flight possibly later in the day or the next day. Boarding closes 10 minutes (check-in 40 minutes) before the timed schedule of the flight and if you miss these two deadlines, it is your own fault and you will not be re-accommodated on a new flight. You will have to pay for a new one that day. So if you paid 1p for an advanced booking flight – it would now probably cost £130+. Don’t be late.Also, on the website, you can check on ‘real-time arrival times’ to see if your flight is delayed (or even worse cancelled). On the homepage there are links to Ryanair-Hertz Car Rental. This is the same as the normal Hertz website, but as a Ryanair customer you can sometimes get free upgrades or discounts such as 20%. There are also links to Ryanair Hotels (budget hotels), Ryanair Hostels (from £8), Ryanair Credit Card and you can also buy Ryanair Gift Vouchers in denominations of £50 or €50.
So there are many, many, many routes to choose from (161)– but what is the service like, at the airport as well as in the sky and when things go wrong…***Check-In***
Many Ryanair airports are situated far from the city centre, so if you’re on a budget check out how far the airport is away and the cost to get there. As I fly out of London Stansted – I am going to base my review on my experiences from this airport. Travelling at un-godly hours (i.e. 6am) you need a swift, trouble-free check-in in the early hours. Surprisingly the check-in staff are very helpful and they genuinely smile. At Stansted, especially if it is the first flight of the day, don’t expect the desks to open at exactly 2 hours before your flight is to depart, as they don’t. This is when queues grow and everyone becomes a little irritable. Baggage allowance is 15kg per person but if you are over they are more likely to turn a blind eye and tell you “Not to do it again,” otherwise you will be charged £4.50/€7 per extra kilo. Ryanair have increased the weight limit for hand luggage, this week, from 7kg to 10kg. Ryanair have a free seating policy on its flights so you are not given a seat number, meaning you can sit where you like. This is where the problems arise at the gates.***Boarding***
Recently, Ryanair have introduced a new boarding system that does not always works effectively. The first people who have priority to board first are families with young children and those who have disabilities and need a little extra time to board. Next is the main stream of passengers. There are two lanes to queue in. The one, furthest away from the window is for passengers with the numbers 1-60 on their boarding cards. In the lane nearest to the window are the rest of the passengers (i.e. those with 65+ on their boarding cards). Many people jump the queue, in order to sit together (or get the seats with the extra legroom) so do not queue in the right lane. Others do not read the small sign at the front of the lanes so they queue in the wrong one. When boarding, Ryanair staff try to stop people trying to jump the queue by going in the wrong lane – but since there are so many, they can’t be bothered. Check-in earlier so you can get the best seats. Once you are on the tarmac you have to walk very swiftly (run) to get on-board before your fellow passengers. At other airports, the boarding system is not in place so there is even more of a scram to get on board. However, crossing the tarmac to the plane, you are greeted by the smiling faces of Ryanair staff.One good point no the free seating policy, is that if the flight is not full, you can possibly have three seats to yourself.
***On-Board***Ryanair have now purchased lots of new planes so they are not going to be Air Turkmenistan rejects and the wings will not fall off in the sky. You’re quite safe. If you are a child or have disabilities you can only sit on seats with the red covers as the yellow-covered seats are by the exits and these have lots of extra legroom. The older seats are being phased out, being replaced by seats that do not recline and do not have seat pockets. This is where the frills disappear. (In the future, Ryanair will also take away the window-blinds as well as more importantly passengers having to pay if they wish to carry extra luggage, other than their hand luggage. This is to reduce costs in baggage handling).
Once you have boarded you will probably notice that many seats would have stains on, crumbs on the floor or rubbish left in your seat pocket. This is because Ryanair does not employ any cleaners and with a 25 minutes turn-around (and with punctuality being a big issue), the cabin crew do not have time before the next lot of passengers board. On the other hand the cabin crew greet you as you walk onto the plane and are very helpful.Once every one is on-board, there is an in-flight safety announcement, as usual as it is a legal requirement, and you still have to where seatbelts on take-off and landing as well as not using mobile phones during the whole of the flight.
This month Ryanair have introduced a new magazine for the flights RA.M (Ryanair Magazine). This replaces the old magazine (that was just a shopping guide), with one that contains articles about their destinations. Some articles are printed in other languages. However, half is still reserved for price lists of the items you can buy on board as well as for the drinks trolley. Another change is that all the prices are in €uros. Also in your seat pockets you will find a Klick Photo Bag, so you can send off your films to be developed. This is clever as it is a dual purpose bag - sick bag.Another frill that has disappeared from traditional flights is the lack of a free in-flight meal or free drinks. Instead, you have to pay exceptionally high prices for food. At the moment Ryanair offers (although it will probably change). Example of items on the trolley include Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino, Hot Chocolate (at about €1.80) as well as sandwiches and rolls (€5), but with a free bag of pretzels. After the cabin crew have collected the rubbish from the food consumption, the shopping trolley comes round. The prices for some goods are extremely high, and there have been times where no one has bought anything from it. If you are flying into London Stansted and wish to travel into Central London, the cabin crew will offer you discounted tickets for the Stansted Express - £22 return instead of £24 return.
Once you have landed you will probably hear that your flight is 10 minutes early, as Ryanair’s punctuality is extremely good for a low-cost airline with only a 25 minute turn-around. At the moment 99% of flights arrived within 1 hour and 91% within 15 minutes.Late at night (ie. last flight of the day), the back door is not opened so if you need a swift exit sit at the front. Aives instantly as it would be the only flight arrived there at that time.
*** Travelling with Disabilities***Contrary to other reviews, passengers who need a wheelchair do not have to pay £15 each way to be pushed. Ryanair have now added a levy of £0.50 onto every passenger to pay for a wheelchair service. They will also provide a wheelchair lift so you can board the aircraft.
***When things go Wrong***If your flight is delayed, Ryanair will not give you any vouchers for hotel accommodation or food but you will have to simply wait. If your flight is cancelled you will be re-accommodated on another flight, probably the next day or you can be refunded. If you miss your flight or the check-in deadline, tough. You will not be refunded as it is your own fault. Ryanair also have the lowest levels of mishandled baggage, as it uses smaller airports. At the moment the figure is 0.5 bags per 1000 passengers being lost or delayed. There are 0.38 complaints per 1000 passengers and 100% of all complaints are answered within 7 days. As I have said, I have never had a problem so you are in relatively safe hands. You may be sent an e-mail, stating that there is a time change to your flight but this is usually only about 15 minutes. If it is a significant change you can opt for a refund.
There may be a scram to get on-board or the seats could appear unclean and you may not get a meal, but you are paying next to nothing for a European flight costing next to nothing. You can’t even go a few stops on the train for what you a paying for a flight with Ryanair.
Flown again, yesterday from Brindisi (out a week before). Both flights were on-time, outbound was 10 mins early. Bought a 'sandwich' for €5 which was foul and tasteless, as well as the unbeknown fact that it could have been sat for days on the trolley due to the massses of clingfilm wrapped round it. It also came with a 'free' bag of pretzels that were really mini - misleading as in the picture it is shown as a bigger size. €5 down the drain as I couldn't eat it (go to Pret if your coming out of Stansted), but at least the flights were free.***UPDATE 14/08/04***
Independant from Ryanair, there is a website that allows you to check Ryanair flights between a period of set dates (i.e between Sept 1st and Oct 31st). This is really useful as you do not have to go through endless search, each day at a time.Ryanair Flight Checker: http://tinyurl.co.uk/ryanairmse/new.php.
Additionally, Ryanair guarentee they will not place a fuel surcharge in place, unlike British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.***UPDATE 16/08/04***
Christmas flights with the low-cost airlines are excessivley expensive - its how they make their profit while at other times are able to offer 1p seats. However for European destinations, conider British Airways who are offering remarkedly cheap deals (with all the frills) - www.ba.com.+-+-+CONTACT+-+-+
0871 246 0000 (10p/min) - Reservation Centre.
0905 566 0000 (£1/min) - Internet Help.
Customer Services - Pre Flight:
Ryanair Customer Service (Pre Flight)
28 Conyngham Road
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