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Guide To Ryanair Flights: Expert Tips & Tricks For Budget Travel

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Ryanair is the low-cost airline Europe loves to hate and can’t get enough of. Based at Dublin Airport in Ireland, passengers will find Ryanair planes flying far beyond the Emerald Isle, with routes across the continent and beyond. In fact, Ryanair is one of the largest airlines in Europe by passengers carried and fleet size.

The airline’s huge size, far reach, and ridiculously cheap flight tickets have allowed it to rank among the most popular airlines in Europe among vacationers. Airline deal sites like Skyscanner or Momondo are continually suggesting Ryanair flights with prices that will make your jaw drop. Time and time again, Ryanair has proved that passengers are willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort and convenience during short flights if it means they can save money.

That being said – you don’t always have to sacrifice comfort to find great deals on flights. Here at ViaTravelers, we’re all subscribed to Going.com or ThriftyTraveler, and their newsletters help us keep an eye on budget flight deals. Ryanair, though, remains the best way to hop across European on a dime.

However, a badly planned Ryanair trip can turn one of the best deals in the sky into one of the worst vacations you’ve ever had to pay for. That’s why it’s essential to know exactly how this low-cost carrier works and ensure that your cheap flights remain cheap. Below, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about their rock-bottom fares and extensive route network.

Where Does Ryanair Fly?

Three Ryanair planes on the ramp at Bergamo
BOOCYS / Adobe Stock

Ryanair flies almost everywhere you can imagine in Europe. As mentioned, this massive airline is based out of Dublin Airport but has dozens of bases around the continent. This includes major cities like London (at Stansted Airport) and Rome (at Ciampino Airport) as well as smaller, secondary destinations like Porto in Portugal and Krakow in Poland – in total, there are more than 200 Ryanair destinations in more than 30 countries!

On the other side of the Mediterranean, you’ll find Ryanair flights to Europe from both Africa and the Middle East, with routes from Morocco, Israel, and Jordan to the continent. There are no Ryanair flights from America to Europe, and we likely won’t ever see such a route – the low-cost model works best on short flights that Ryanair dominates.

How Can Ryanair Offer Such Cheap Prices?

Interior of a Ryanair plane
manifeesto / Adobe Stock

Many travelers often wonder how it’s possible that Ryanair tickets can actually be so low-priced. When you see fares as low as 1€ (yes, I’ve found them and booked them), it’s natural for a person to wonder if that’s too good to be true.

Ryanair offers an ultra-low-cost model that goes far beyond charging passengers for chips onboard. They make extra money wherever they can and aggressively cut costs to save. These are some of the reasons Ryanair can offer significantly lower fares than other airlines:

  • Operating a single type of plane: Ryanair exclusively operates the Boeing 737 and has a fleet of over 500 of them. This standardized fleet minimizes maintenance and training costs.
    • Fun fact: Ryanair is one of the only airlines to have a built-in staircase under the front door of its 737s – they don’t need to pay extra for ground handlers to attach airstairs. They also managed to convince Boeing to make a new version of the plane with an ultra-dense seating arrangement. Think cattle on the way to the abattoir.
  • Cutting costs wherever they can: If something can be done more cheaply than other airlines, rest assured, Ryanair will do it any which way they can. We’ve seen this already with the specially modified 737s, but this extends to even the smallest things. Case in point; see the above image? Instead of making cards with emergency and evacuation procedures to put in the seat pocket in front, they just slap a label on the back of the seat in front. You could argue that this is pretty practical. I however won’t.
  • Utilizing secondary airports: You won’t find Ryanair flights at London Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle, where it’s more expensive to operate. The alternative airports may be quite a distance from the destination city, where it’s cheaper.
    • Fun fact: Ryanair was once in the news for the controversy surrounding their choice to market Bratislava’s (the capital of Slovakia) airport as “Vienna (Bratislava)” – not only are these two different cities an hour away from each other, but they’re in two different countries!
  • Extra fees for EVERYTHING: The fare you pay for your flight is quite literally just the base airfare. Say goodbye to complimentary food and drink. And don’t even think about bringing more luggage than a personal item or selecting a seat for free!
    • Fun fact: Ryanair made the news another time for exploring the possibilities of charging passengers 1€ to use the lavatory and offering a “standing section” without seats with higher prices for seats!
  • Creative ways of making extra profits: If you’re ever on a Ryanair flight, expect the cabin crew to try and squeeze every possible penny out of their passengers. One of the more notorious methods is aggressively flogging scratch cards to fliers – ostensibly for charity. True, it’s a cheaper alternative to buying a duty-free Rolex or a bottle of Jonnie Walker on your average transatlantic flight, but when the call for scratch cards goes out over the tannoy, you can really feel that Ryanair’s priority is your money.

These are just a few of the biggest ways Ryanair saves money and makes extra, and you can imagine how it all adds up – that’s why we see single-digit fares. In reality, every decision Ryanair makes on a daily basis is in the interest of operating at an ultra-low cost.

See Related: How To Book Flights With Longer Layovers

Ryanair Extra Fees

As mentioned, when you book flights on Ryanair, be warned that anything more than a bare fare will cost you more. Luckily, they make these extra costs pretty clear when booking. Here are some of the products and services you’ll need to pay extra for.

Check-In & Boarding Pass Printing Fee

Example of various extra fees from Ryanair website
Ryanair / Ryanair

Ryanair is one of the only airlines in the world that penalize you for not doing online check-in. If you show up at the airport without having checked in, it’s about 50€ for the agent to simply print your boarding pass.

Do not fall victim to this fee, as it’s easy to avoid! Just download the Ryanair app – even if you forget to check in before the airport, you’ll be able to do it from your phone there. You’ll also have easy access to your flight status, boarding card, and other details. If you’re not an app person, ask your hotel to print your boarding pass before leaving.

Hand Luggage

Example of Ryanair fee to add a full size carry-on
Ryanair / Ryanair

As mentioned, a basic Ryanair flight ticket only includes your personal item that can fit under the seat in front of you. Ryanair is notoriously strict about this item’s size, so measure your backpack before leaving to be sure you won’t be hit with a penalty that can be more than your ticket price at the gate.

If you need a full-size carry-on, it’s cheapest to add at the time of booking, so try to anticipate your luggage needs. The lowest I’ve seen for a carry-on is about 10€, but the price varies based on the flight.

Hold Luggage

Ryanair hold luggage fees
Ryanair / Ryanair

Obviously, your checked baggage isn’t going to be free on Ryanair, either. It’s very important to add hold luggage at the time of booking or at least online before the airport, as the price is exponentially higher at the counter.

It’s hard to say how much checked luggage costs on Ryanair flights because it depends on weight and route. They usually offer weights of 10 kilograms (22 lbs) and 20 kilograms (44 lbs), and as you can imagine, their enforcement of the weight limit is strict.

See Related: Ways to Luggage-Free Travel (Yes, It’s Possible)

Selecting Seats

Selecting seats for a fee on Ryanair
Ryanair / Ryanair

Selecting a seat is one of the most common extra charges people are willing to pay on Ryanair. The airline is known for purposefully separating people traveling together, including families, to intimidate you into buying a seat next time.

This charge can be cheap, starting at just a few Euros, but obviously rises if you want an up-front or exit row seat. I have a tip for avoiding this fee and still having the chance to sit next to your family or friends – we’ll discuss that below.

Onboard Bar Food & Drinks

Flight attendant serving drinks on a Ryanair plane
kasto / Adobe Stock

If you’re used to having a soda and peanuts served on your flight without having to pay, don’t expect any such luxury on Ryanair. Do expect, however, to pay very inflated prices for instant-mix coffee, minuscule snacks, and basic bottles of water if you want something from the cart.

Changes, Phone Calls, and More Fees

View from the window of a Ryanair plane over the coast
PawelUchorczak / Adobe Stock

It should go without saying that bookings on Ryanair are not easily or cheaply changeable. There’s no such thing as a cancellation – if you aren’t taking your flight, don’t expect to get anything back. And if you miss the outbound of a round-trip flight, the airline is likely to cancel your return automatically unless you contact them.

Speaking of contacting them, it’s quite difficult, and your phone call will have a per-minute cost. When you reach a human being, expect a change fee that’s more expensive than a new ticket if you’re trying to alter your itinerary.

See Related: Best Gadgets for Long Flights & Travel

How to Use Ryanair for Great Ticket Prices

Hopefully, I haven’t dissuaded you too much – I fly Ryanair a lot, and I save a ton of money doing it! If you are aware of how the airline works, the above fees, and you follow some of the below tips, you can find crazy deals on Ryanair.

Look Out for Ryanair Deals

An advertisement for sales on Ryanair's website
Ryanair / Ryanair

There are plenty of ways to seek out special offers and sales on Ryanair. Firstly, make an account on their website and get email alerts. Ryanair has frequent sales, and they communicate the appropriate promo code in these emails.

However, you often don’t need a special sale to find great Ryanair offers. Simply plug in some routes on a site like Skyscanner or Momondo using cheap flight-finding practices, and repeat many times. You can also use the low fare finder Ryanair has on its own website to see the availability of its cheapest tickets.

Avoid the Fees

The Ryanair website on a phone
pil76 / Adobe Stock

Avoid any fee you can to make sure the base fare is your actual fare! The Ryanair low-cost model makes a ridiculous amount of money from charging people who don’t read the rules or who try to get around them.

Be absolutely sure to check in online and get a personal item that definitely fits the Ryanair requirements. Get a bottle of water or other drinks and snacks from somewhere before the flight to avoid paying high prices onboard.

Finally, my tip about seat selection – if you don’t want to pay for a seat but you want to sit together, board the aircraft last. Everyone wants to board first, so it shouldn’t be hard to wait everyone out. Boarding last lets you see the open seats on the aircraft, and you can discretely grab whatever suits you and your party best.

See Related: Ways to Get Free Flights and Airfare

Compare the Total Price to Other Airlines

Ryanair and Alitalia planes on the ramp at the airport
Longfin Media / Adobe Stock

In the end, you might need things like hold luggage, seats together, and other extra services when booking a Ryanair flight. If that’s the case, add all of the extras to your cart, and don’t click the “Buy” button before seeing what the same trip would cost on another carrier.

Because of the high price of Ryanair extras, your low-cost ticket just might end up being similarly priced (or more expensive) than the same thing on a full-service airline. In that case, it’s probably best to go with the full-service airline for a more comfortable experience. Don’t hesitate to make a quick comparison before your final purchase.

We like to use Skyscanner and Momondo to compare flight prices across airlines and routes. You can also set route alerts on Google Flights.

There are a lot of ways to look for cheap flights beyond picking a budget airline, but

Sign Up for Going

We recommend signing up for an account on Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights) whenever you’re looking for cheap flights. This cheap flight finder has a team of humans constantly searching the world for great airfares that are ready to inform you the moment they find one. While they don’t offer international departure airports (yet), saving a ton of money on flights to Europe will open your budget up so you can splurge on some flights if you don’t exactly crave the whole Ryanair experience.

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