Is that cheap Ryanair ticket really worth it?

It’s not unusual of me to fly low budget airlines. And although most of them have failed to leave a mark on me (positive or negative), my recent experience with Ryanair made me stop and think if budget airlines were beginning to get greedy and sneaky by enticing passengers with jaw-dropping low rates whilst slyly charging them for services they didn’t even expect or ask for in the first place. And the ultimate threat that comes at the last minute – of not being allowed to board your flight, is the key arm-twisting technique to ensure there is no room for an objection. It left me wondering, is that cheap Ryanair ticket really worth it?

I was recently in Spain and looking for an inexpensive yet quick way to go from Barcelona to Mallorca. The alluring price of merely € 22 seemed too good to be true at first, so I read through the terms and conditions (the usual only 1 cabin bag allowed, food available for purchase on board, randomly allocated seats, no in-flight entertainment, etc.) and it all sounded fairly standard. So, I booked the flight from Barcelona to Mallorca and from Mallorca to Madrid, feeling so happy to have found a cheap Ryanair ticket. So, was it really worth it?

Firstly, the ‘cabin’ bag that is allowed in the ticket is a SMALL bag, which means it can only be a laptop or a small backpack. If you need to carry a bag bigger than that, there’s an additional charge of € 20 (which is almost the same price as the ticket itself) unless booked in advance along with the ticket. That too, there’s no clarity as to what size is exactly considered larger than the ‘small’ size. When booking, the size specified is 40x20x25cm. However, while boarding, there are all types of rolling suitcases and other bags that are being carried on board, without any measurements in place.

For example, the first Ryanair flight allowed me to carry my small rolling suitcase as a cabin bag whereas the second one objected to its size, even though I explained to them that the earlier flight had let me carry it on board. While several other people could carry their small suitcases on board, some were picked to pay for it. When asked on what basis these people were picked, the staff refused to answer any questions. You either pay for it or you cannot board – its as simple as that! The staff is not helpful at all in terms of providing any explanations, they're downright rude in fact, and their word is final and binding; you may be denied boarding if you plan to disagree or contest their decision.

Secondly, and this was a total shock for me, there’s a fee of € 55 if one checks-in at the counter instead of online! This is something you’re not informed of when booking the ticket and unless you’re connected to the internet 24 hours before the flight departure time, you’re most likely not even going to find out about it. And if due to any reason (non-availability of an internet connection, website issues, etc), you’re unable to check in online before the flight, your only option is to pay the price (which is more than double the ticket price) to check in at the counter. Rather unfair, wouldn’t you say? As a tourist, you’re expected to be connected to the internet somehow and check in online lest you end up shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for availing their services at the airport (so much so for digitally detoxing on a vacation).

Oh and do not expect much help from their customer service- despite insisting that I had tried to check in online 4 hours prior to the flight but the website wasn’t loading, the staff told me clearly – pay for the counter check-in or miss your flight but there’s nothing we can do to assist you. They literally called me a liar to my face, telling me that they daily experienced such "cases where people fibbed about trying to check in online only to save money".

I ended up paying almost € 100 for a flight that I had initially thought would cost me only € 22. Was that cheap Ryanair ticket really worth it? Well, clearly not!

Booking.com

I’m now apprehensive about booking budget airlines- every new airline that comes up with lucrative prices is likely to have hidden charges which will be made clear to you only closer to your flying dates. The size of the 'free' cabin baggage keeps on becoming smaller, new unexpected charges such as counter check-in fee are popping up out of nowhere, and the customer service seems to be going down the drain. There seems to be no regulation as to the basic standard of service that an airline must maintain, and it is no surprise that without directives in place, airlines are beginning to lose trust of the travelers. Wouldn't you rather pay a little extra for airlines such as Vueling, that charge a little more for the same routes as Ryanair yet give one the security against any hidden, unexpected or sneaky agendas to make money from an unsuspecting passenger? Is that cheap Ryanair ticket really worth it?

Don’t get me wrong – I keep my expectations minimal. I’m not crabby about leg space, bad airline food, random seat selection or paying extra for checked-in bags. But maybe one day we will find out that the new extra-low-priced airline doesn’t even have a toilet on board or charges anyone above the body weight of 70 kgs an extra few euros to board the flight. Or maybe charge for wanting to sit at all, versus standing like in a public bus in some crowded, over-populated country like my own (I've heard the owner of Ryanair had planned to have standing-room only fares initially). Where will the ludicrousness really end?

Of course, I won't stop flying budget airlines altogether (I mean, let's be realistic, I cannot afford to fly the more expensive ones), but I will now make sure to read enough reviews beforehand in order to be prepared for all the hidden costs and sneaky charges that I should expect, if I choose to fly yet another notorious airline like Ryanair. Kudos, you crafty business people, for managing to worsen the stress of flying for the budget travellers, by putting them on the back foot about where they might have to shell out the extra money that they tried so hard to save in the first place!

***rant over***

61 thoughts on “Is that cheap Ryanair ticket really worth it?”

  1. Just like any other airlines, choosing a discount air ticket sounds like a huge win, however when its too good to be true, it means that is true – you will experience some inconveniences.
    That’s why still paying the full price saves us from this worry, and gives us the more confidence to raise our concern.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your experience with RyanAir. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about them but reading your blog made me think twice about advertisements too. I hope you’re well now and have overcome it. So sorry for RyanAir, you’ve been published with a bad reputation.

  3. Sometimes, deals are too good to be true. So the ticket price was not really what it turned to be. These are indeed the vagaries of fine print! It sounds like it was a bad experience from start to finish.

  4. RyannAir sounds like the Spirit Airlines of Europe. Sounds like you would have to be super prepared and traveling lightweight to fly them. I don’t like the inconsistency between the two flights you mentioned. Seems like not nice customer service either.

  5. Haha, yes budget airlines do really get you in the end! You get packed into their cabin like sardines and won’t let you carry anything but a toiletry bad without charging you an arm and leg for it. Meals? Forget it, you’re going to be paying 20 euros for a cracker and tv dinner. When you add it all up, it just doesn’t make sense to fly Ryanair or Norwegian for that matter.

    1. Yea, I’ve started to look more towards medium budget than low budget airlines these days. Jaw-dropping, unavailable low prices are bound to come with some hidden fees and things like that. There really is nothing such as a cheap airline ticket.

  6. This is very informative, the cheap prices can be great to have but honestly they try and sneak in as many hidden fees as they can! It’s super important to read the fine print even if it seems tedious! Thanks for sharing your experience! xo – Kam

  7. It might be a part of getting older, but I have certainly become a lot more demanding and extravagant with my flight purchases, but it’s because of experiences like you explain. I know at the very least I’ll get a certain standard when I book with BA or Emirates, so it puts me out of pocket a bit but worth it every time.

    1. Unfortunately, with the amount of travel that I do, it’s not really possible for me to be extravagant. But I have realised that if I am saving money somewhere, I’m likely to have to be prepared to come across unexpected situations like this one, and the only way I can avoid that is by thoroughly researching the airline I am flying before booking it/ flying on it.

  8. Wow, that’s quite an experience and quite sneaky of Ryanair. I agree with you, there needs to some sort of policy around luggage size. Can’t believe they make you pay 55 Euros to check in at the counter. While I don’t mind flying budget airlines, everything needs to be clearly spelled out and no sneaky behaviour. Thanks for calling out Ryanair on the negative experience.

  9. Ridiculous. The ticket was 22 and you end up playing over 70?!
    Thanks for this. I didn’t fly Ryanair for a while and I was planning to book my next flight with them. Good to know that I should just skip and stick to WizzAir instead. Sure, you have to read all those small letters regardless the company, but I don’t want to be surprised and offered to-pay-or-not-to-board choice.

  10. I tend to think that it isn’t worth it. The only time I think it is is for a weekend trip where you can shove an outfit and spare undies into a purse. Otherwise, the fees are just crazy! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. Medha, it s absolutely ridiculous to ask for 55 Euros for checking in at counter, more weird because that’s not mentioned anywhere while booking. I am sorry you had to experience this and I got a fair idea to avoid this airlines in future. I have never taken a flight with RyanAir yet and not taking any in future. In Spain, I used Transavia. That was also economical and very decent. You may try that next time. Yes, let’s not give up on budget airlines.

    1. Thanks, Shreya. I flew Vueling and that was pretty smooth as well. It is only after the bad experience I had that I came across several other horrible reviews of Ryanair. I guess I’ll need to ensure reading up about the low budget airlines before I book flights on them so that I can be well prepared for the worst!

  12. Hi Medha, this all sucks. We do and will continue to use no-frills airlines. What advice do you have for travellers after your episode? Will you continue to fly on them or has this put you off altogether? Cheers, Paul

    1. Like I said Paul, unfortunately, we cannot stop flying them. However, I urge you to read the reviews of the airlines thoroughly before booking so that you know exactly what to expect, good or bad. And also, whatever your experience, make sure to express it and let others know! Writing and reading reviews is really helpful for everyone!

  13. I honestly end up spending almost as much on budget airlines with all the hidden fees… plus with WowAir going out of business and people losing their money on tickets the month before I went to Iceland… that scares me! I’m better safe than sorry 🙂

  14. Thanks for this post! I was feeling the same not about all budget airlines but RyanAir in particular , I read the fine print while i was checking in online – and found out my carry-on may not fit the requirements , so I paid and upgraded for priority but could not print it as I was on holiday – I went to the counter and they told me they charge for print out! That’s just plain being crooks, out to squeeze every euro out of the passenger. In the end I paid triple of what I originally bought. I definitely will be more careful about choosing airlines in the future but I wish Ryan Air would stop giving other budget airlines a bad name.

    1. I agree. I’ve travelled on several low budget airlines but never had an experience so bad that I decided to write about it. Ryanair was particularly horrible. I just do not agree with their policies!

  15. I really appreciate you sharing your experience with Ryan Air. I’ve read so many horror stories about them from other travelers but haven’t had to book with them yet myself. I have flown Easy Jet though and was actually happy with the service. I know it’s only a matter of time before I end up on a Ryan Air flight, so I appreciate you being so forthcoming about your experience so I know what to expect.

  16. Well, Ryanair is well known for their “additional fees” and quite notoriously so. I feel they take things a bit too far, especially with the counter checkin fees. I mean that’s quite ridiculous.

  17. You know what? Only once I flew Ryanair and it was a short trip from Warsaw, Poland to Gothenburg, Sweden. So it was okay for me, maybe except for those intrusive ads and lotteries on board. But recently, Ryanair has started to cancel many flights and I am afraid to use their services. Instead, I book flights at WizzAir. It is also cheap and the company seems even more trustworthy than Ryanair. When it comes to cabin luggage, it is worth to buy the priority option of boarding. For me, it’s a much better solution. I do not travel budget airlines without it. You have to read the rules carefully because there are a lot of such traps. Sometimes I wonder if feeding on unconscious tourists is not their main source of income?

  18. For these reasons and others, I now do everything in my power to book flights direct with the airline itself (as opposed to third party sites) and avoid budget airlines if there is a reasonable option. I’d prefer to pay a little more for a major airline, but know what size carry on I’m allowed or other important facts. I’ve just been screwed too many times in the past and it leaves such a bad taste.

    1. I completely agree with you and see your point. If you have to end up paying for other things like check in at the airport, etc, technically you’re not really flying low budget anymore. You’re just flying a shitty airline at the normal price, at which you could have easily chosen to fly a better airline.

  19. The baggage allowance is always a tricky one as most airlines can never explain why some people get a pass and don’t have to pay while others get stuck paying. I also hate it when the first flight is completely fine with your luggage size but then on the return, it’s a completely different story. It’s so frustrating not having real standards!

    1. I agree with you. If you have set a standard, either stick to it or don’t. And if you do, then follow the same for all passengers, don’t single out some and treat them differently!

  20. I’m sorry to hear about your experience with Ryanair. I understand it can be frustrating when you are stressed and flying and things don’t go your way. However, I have to mention that the things you ended up being charged more for are indeed mentioned when you book your flight. I flew Ryanair as recently as May and when I booked my flight it clearly told me what size baggage they allow on board. I ended up pre-paying to check baggage when booking, which is much cheaper, even though I only had a small backpack and personal item/purse. Additionally, they tell you about the cost of checking in at the airport when you book. You can pay a small fee (much cheaper than waiting for airport) and check in up to 60? I think days before your flight. I was traveling in Europe for a month, but knew I would have wifi at the hostels and airbnbs I stayed in so I opted to check in on my phone for free. Online check in opens 48 hours before your flight and you can just screenshot your boarding pass. Most budget airlines charge double if you wait to do these things at the airport, not just Ryanair. I’ve also found their staff to be really friendly. Again I am really sorry these things happened to you it’s definitely infuriating and it’s nice of you to write a post warning people about common mistakes flying budget airlines!

    Summer
    -travelingsummer.com

    1. Hi Summer, the check-in charge is actually not mentioned while making the booking. Also, I do not know of any other airline that charges for checking in at the airport, this is the first time I have come across this policy and I have flown quite a bit (mostly low budget). Online check in does open 48 hours before but what if I am unable to connect (which is what happened with me in this case) due to internet connectivity issues or worse, their own website not opening in my phone app? I did not screenshot the website wasn’t opening, and I was deemed a liar for trying to tell them that I had tried online check in. If airlines do have to go the low-budget way by displaying a price that won’t end up being the actually amount you pay, there has to be some standard of service that should be maintained along with the fact that some basics should not be compromised. Where does this stop – paying for overweight passengers, paying for toilet usage, etc, all these policies aren’t too far. Basically, its a farce to say you are flying a low budget airline, isn’t it? You end up paying pretty much what you would for any other.

      1. I’ve attached some screenshots of making a booking at Ryanair.com – if you book the flexi plus option it shows you do have free check in at airport. Otherwise when you get to their addons page it shows that you can add the check-in up to 60 days prior. Additionally, if you choose just the carryon bag it shows that you can face additional charges in the line for having multiple bags. Just want to clarify so you are able to book without issues in future. I think that it’s highly unlikely airlines will start charging for toilet usage. Overall, I think Ryanair is a pretty good airline for the price and I have gotten $20 fares with them before. I’ve flown other budget airlines like Easyjet and had less pleasant flights.

        1. Hello Summer, that’s exactly what I am saying. You know these things after flying several times with them, but for someone who has flown enough low budget airlines but not specifically Ryanair, a lot of these charges are not only unexpected but quite ridiculous! If I book a flexi plus option for a free check in at the airport, I am already paying extra amount by booking a ticket category higher than the cheaper one, meaning I am already paying for the option of checking in at the airport. How is that any different from actually having to pay at the airport itself? Why must one have to pay for checking in for their flight at the airport counters? If you want to reduce the staff, keep check-in kiosks! And FYI, Ryanair did charge for toilet usage initially but due to the hue and cry by passengers, they stopped that. If you don’t believe me, check out this link from CNN Travel that tells you all the ridiculous money-saving policies that Ryanair implemented or planned to. This includes charging overweight passengers and a standing-room-only fare. https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/ryanair-money-saving-schemes/index.html

  21. I can understand the plight of your situation when traveling with low-cost airlines. These low-cost carriers are truly money minded and ask all extra charges for any extra benefit or amenities. I traveled once with Ryan Air to Santorini and carried a small trolley bag with me with no free food on board. Also, I have heard that Etihad has removed the food policy and are selling the food on board and many other big players are now following Ryan Air policies. So it is really bad for travelers like us and even the people who travel with old parents or small children.

    1. Wow, I did not expect that from Etihad! They’re not a low cost airline and if you’re paying such a large amount of money as you do for Etihad, the least you can expect is some food on board. What a pity.

  22. This is a rather unfortunate incident and I agree that unless you are not a first-timer, it is hard to find out what is allowed and what is not. I agree that online check in thing is a little too much. We recently booked one of our journeys with Ryan Air and honestly, I was quite apprehensive of my flight. Since we had a kid, they required us to reserve seats beforehand. We had to cancel our trip last minute but I am thankful I did not fly with them, at least this time!

  23. I’ve never flown a budget airline like Ryan Air before. Over the years I’ve heard mixed reviews, and often they are on the negative side. I’ve had enough bad experience with regular priced airlines so I’ll try to only use cheap air if absolutely necessary.

  24. I agree with most points in this article. It’s true, their customer service is rude at times, their carriers aren’t very comfortable and above all, the total price oftentimes ends up being a lot more than the initial offer. However, we all know how budget airlines work and how they make their money and this is thoroughly explained on their website (in one of those documents no one has the time to read :)) I always travel super light when I use budget airlines and I still think it’s worth it.

    1. More than the luggage policy, what bothered me was the fact that they were charging a ridiculous amount of money for airport check-in. And even though their own website wasn’t working for online check-in, they refused to waive off that charge.

  25. I avoid Ryan Air at all costs now! I agree, the customer service is one of the rudest I have encountered. I wonder if the counter check-in fee is new because i never had that before. I did have to pay about 18 euros for them to print my boarding pass for me! Also absurd for people who don’t travel with a printer or data on their phone!

  26. I have never traveled on Ryan Air before but had heard about a lot of people taking this particular budget airline for traveling around Europe. I was considering this airline for our next trip to Europe to travel between some of the cities we are planning on visiting. After reading about your experience, I must say I feel rather apprehensive now given the apparent hidden costs associated. The price of 22 euros sure sounded too good to be true. Picking on only a few people for their bag not meeting their cabin size requirement as well as the apparent lack of transparency about additional charge for checking in at the counter that you experienced sounds really unfair. Hope you have a much better experience next time around on some other budget airline.

    1. Unfortunately, I cannot stop flying low budget airlines altogether. But I guess I understand now that one must read up a bit about what to expect (especially all the bad reviews) before deciding to book one.

  27. Well, I had tried Ryan Air once and I didn’t go for another one again. It was a great deal though as it was really cheap but there’s just a very small legroom and it feels uncomfortable. I ended up booking another flight after using my trusted airline. I also get the miles there while Ryan Air didn’t offer any. So yeah, that was my experience!

  28. I actually really like Ryanair. It’s true that you have to know the hooks of the company like the hand luggage and check in fee! But once you do, flying with them is super cheap and I don’t usually have any problems. Sorry to hear you had to pay such big extra amount! I would be super upset if it was me haha

    1. I agree. Once you’ve flown a couple of times and have knowledge of all the add ons to expect, I’m sure you can make better use of the airlines.

  29. I often ask myself the same question when comparing flight fares. Most times I end up using bigger airlines because at the end of the day the real price difference is minimal and, most importantly, I know I won’t have to go through all the stress usually associated with low-cost airlines. Anyway, the most shocking thing for me is the €55 surcharge if you check-in at the counter, I mean, it makes absolutely zero sense!

    1. Exactly and I’ve never heard of an airline doing that! The amount itself is so ridiculous, it doesn’t make sense!

  30. Ryanair are known for these ‘add-ons’ that make the ticket more expensive. With all budget airlines I read through the small print 10 times. I got a flight with another budget airline recently and the price included no baggage so again the flight was not so budget once I got the total bill. However, I do wonder how they would make money otherwise but it’s quite deceptive. You have a right to rant, don’t worry!

  31. Last November they came up with these changes and I had a ticket in end of November. So I was so worried and clarified things with customer service a gazillion times.
    Here are somethings about Ryanair’s changes, that I learnt in my last couple flights (with my toddler)! The normal rolling ‘cabin’ suitcase is €8 if booked with the ticket and €10 if booked later and €20 is only for large ‘check-in’ suitcase. However all these are only to be checked-in.
    Priority boarding allows u to carry the cabin suitcase into the cabin. It’s about €12 I guess.
    Checking in your seat can be done much earlier for €4. If at all there is actually trouble in checking-in, you can chat with customer care and they allow ‘free airport check-in’. Screen shot this chat transcript and take it to airport.
    Since I travel with toddler, I don’t take my chances.
    Though Ryanair’s €22 sounds too cheap, in reality it may come to around €50.

    1. Yes, well, there you go. I guess you learn these things after flying with them several times. But for someone who’s flying Ryanair for the first time, a lot of their policies can come as a surprise, especially at the last minute. I had not expected nor known about the check-in charges at the airport else it would’ve made more sense to spend the extra €4 to do it way in advance (I knew internet connectivity for me would be tough on the go). End of the day, a €22 flight is actually not a €22 flight at all like you rightly said.

  32. Honestly this farce about getting cheap tickets is slowly been revealed by the shocking experience all budget travelers are having . Infact when I planned my Europe holidays , due to time constraints I had to book some flights but that did leave me with lot of confusion and I was under stress as to whether I would actually be allowed to board cheap with my rucksack or not .

    1. I guess you need to make sure you read up thoroughly before you travel so that you can avoid the last minute surprises and unexpected costs. And that’s why, reviews like these can help people know what to expect!

  33. I usually don’t comment (bad or good), but it seems like you really wanted to write a negative article all along.

    1. I had a really bad experience, to be honest, and felt so strongly about it that I had to write. I end up writing reviews about places and things when I feel really strongly about them, negatively or positively 🙂

  34. This is really sad when budget airlines become sneaky and have a lot of hidden charges. Happened to us once with another airline and it was so disappointing.

    Keeping a note about Ryanair. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is something we can all learn from.

  35. You are absolutely right about this sneaky way that budget airlines are fleecing passengers. I have had similar experience with other budget airlines flying from London Stanstead to Bourgas in Bulgaria and from Manchester to Goa. Many times the advertised rates are without taxes and it’s only when you book, the actual price is revealed. One has to read the small & micro print to really get an idea of what they are charging. Thanks for calling them out.

    1. Just as I was beginning to get used to the usual no-frills airline, charging for reserving seats, adding additional taxes, and not cleaning up after the last bunch of passengers leave, there comes Ryanair charging for ridiculous things such as not being able to check-in online and their snooty staff. It really seems to get worse.

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