The Other Side of Ryanair

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 “We can get you on a flight today, but it is going to be very very expensive. Very expensive,” said the ticket desk attendant.

The view from inside a Ryanair plane. (Photos: Shannon Dwyer, October 2013)

The view from inside a Ryanair plane.
(Photo: Shannon Dwyer, October 2013)

When I envisioned myself traveling through Europe at no point did I see myself in this situation. In my daydreams I was always breezily trampsing down cobblestone streets with an Italian scarf thrown effortlessly around my neck, my flowing hair illuminated by a glowing Parisian sunset. I was not exhausted, clad in yoga pants, standing at Dublin Airport’s Ryanair ticket counter Monday at 6am being forced to pay over $300 for a one way plane ticket.

Ryanair often gets negative attention in the press. They are known for their extra hidden fees, poor cabin conditions, and having terminals an absurd distance from the advertised destinations. Before deciding to leave Emerson College’s Boston campus to study abroad in Europe I had heard all the warnings about cheap airlines, but I never took the threats too seriously. I was going to Europe to live in a real life castle as part of Emerson College’s European program! The woes of traveling were not on my radar.

So why do people continue to travel on Ryanair flights?

One word: money. As a college student on a very strict budget, I was intrigued when I first heard of the magical discount travel site. Coming from the United States where, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Passenger Origin and Destination Survey, a domestic flight averages around $378.62. Compare this to the Ryanair website, which advertises flights from 14.99 euros- about $20.50, and you can see how hard it could be to resist such a pretty price tag. For instance, recently I booked a 17 euro- about 23 dollar- Ryanair flight from Berlin to London. That’s less than I spent on a single dinner a few weeks ago in Dublin. But unlike the delicious flatbread pizza and fruited sangria I enjoyed, this flight is bound to leave a sour aftertaste.

The first hurdle in the “Ryanair Olympics” is actually booking a ticket. The website sends you through pages on pages of frustrating add-ons for useless things, such as overpriced “custom Ryanair suitcases,” for which you need to select “no” each time in order to proceed to the next page. The next trick is the sacred boarding pass. If you fail to check in online and print your boarding pass at least 4 hours before your flight you will have to fork out 60 euros at the airport. This may sound simple, but it is extremely easy to forget this little, very pricey, detail. The key to understanding how to save money when flying with Ryanair is not to make any changes to your booking or luggage. The airline basically makes money by knowing that people are likely to make mistakes, and they exploit this to every degree.

The penny-pinching doesn’t stop there.

Getting through the gate, even with a valid printed boarding pass, is still a challenge. Kyle Grace Mills, an American student studying abroad in Europe, was stranded in Morocco, Africa with her friend Cristina Stubbe.

“I had to deal with a supervisor who was unwilling to listen to or sympathize with my issue,” said Mills, “I was only two minutes late for getting my boarding pass stamped at the baggage check and the Ryanair staff refused to help in any way. Cristina and I pleaded for forty greweling minutes as our plane boarded and took off, leaving us in Morocco with no place to go.”

The girls were forced to pay for an expensive flight- around 200 euros- home the next morning, and both swear they will never ever use Ryanair again.

“We were two 19-year-old American girls alone in a strange country where we knew no one and the attendant could not have cared less,” said Mills, “It was heartless.”

And that’s not the only time Ryanair has been accused of having a cold heart. In July 2013 the airline refused to refund the two hundred pound ticket of a dead passenger because it said she had died too soon before her flight. It is this lack of human empathy that gives Ryanair its bad reputation.

A look at the Ryanair in-flight magazine.
(Photo: Shannon Dwyer, October 2013)

Once you have survived the scrutiny of the ticket desk, prayed that your cabin luggage fits the very specific size and weight requirements, waited outside on the runway in a monstrous line, and pushed your way onto the laughably small plane, the journey is still far from over. Onboard passengers have to pay for any food or drinks. What crazy person would spend 3 euro for a small bottle of lukewarm water? One that just waited 2 hours for a delayed flight in a boiling hot airport terminal. At least their in-flight magazine (which basically is just one big advertisement for the airline service) and access to the bathrooms are still free of charge! For now. There isn’t any entertainment onboard unless you bring your own. And don’t expect an air nozzle or a reading light, you will most likely be sweating through the layers you were forced to put on so your carryon fit the weight requirement.

Is it worth the pain?

 While traveling in Europe discount airline services, such as Ryan, may seem like a blessing. Although they initially seem affordable, traveling this way can leave you with empty pockets and an emotional scar.

Shannon Dwyer

Shannon Dwyer

Shannon is a journalism major at Emerson College, where she is involved in many different organizations. She has expertise in various subjects ranging from social media and news reporting to fashion and styling. Originally from New Hampshire, she loves studying in Boston and one day wants to work as a journalist in a major city.

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