Ryanair stands as Europe’s, and possibly the world’s, foremost low-cost carrier, reshaping our perception of air travel with its ultra-low fares. Yet, alongside its popularity, Ryanair has gained notoriety, largely due to its outspoken CEO Michael O’Leary, who has never shied away from expressing disdain for the company’s passengers. In one instance, regarding Ryanair’s customer service, he boldly stated;

“Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? Absolutely not.”

Nevertheless, despite its reputation, holidaymakers continue to flock to Ryanair in droves. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler with the airline or new to the world of low-cost carriers, this guide is tailored to help you navigate the potential pitfalls and make the most of your money and time.

Book your flight as far in advance as possible

Outside of special deals and flash sales, booking early gets you the cheapest possible fare. How early you can book depends on the route in question. On busy routes such as Birmingham to Alicante you can often book up to 11 months advance. Yet try to book that early for Reus, or Perpignan you’ll find that the route are only available for a few months a year.

Prices rise for weekend flights, and those departing at more civilised times. The difference in the price only increases the closer to departure you get.

Factor in transport costs

Ryanair often flys to secondary or regional airports. This helps keeps costs down, and fares low. It also means you really need to keep a keen eye out when booking your flight or comparing fares.

For example, Barcelona has a large international airport, and Ryanair do fly there, yet airports in Girona (1 hour away) and Reus (1.5 hours aways) are also listed as Barcelona and Ryanair flies to both.

While getting to Barcelona proper from Reus can be cheap if you take local buses, it’s not going be convenient and will require multiple changes. It will also take the best part of 2 hours.

Then there’s always the risk that your flight arrives/departs outside of public transport hours, leaving you with little option but to take a taxi.

How to get the best seat on Ryanair without paying extra?

Ryanair seats price

If you haven’t selected and paid for your seat you will be randomly allocated a seat. How random that is something of a secret, but it stands to reason Ryanair would want to fill up less desirable seats first to encourage people to pay extra to choose their own.

Play the checkin chicken game

I’ve found that the later you checkin for your flight, the greater your chances of being allocated either a window or an aisle seat. Typically I checkin just under two and half hours before the flight and in my last 5 Ryanair flights I’ve had an aisle seat on three occasions and a window seat on two.

The only exception to his is when the plane is mostly empty, but in when that happens you can just sit where you want.

The game of checkin chicken isn’t for everyone though. There are some downsides to this approach.

Firstly if something goes wrong with your online checkin you have limited time to sort it before checkin actually closes.

Secondly, while checking in later might get you a more desirable seat, it also means you’re more likely to be somewhere in the middle of the plane. In my late checkin flights, I’ve been in middle of the aircraft for every one.

This is because Ryanair begins filling up the plane from the back until it reaches the middle rows, then from the front. So those checking in as late as possible and selecting a randomly allocated seat, will almost always end up somewhere mid-plane.

Be the last to board

Once a the gate for your flight you often get a line of people queuing up ready to board. There’s no reason to do this unless you are desperate to store your carry-on in a locker directly above you.

I often just sit and wait. Firstly it lets me gauge how busy the flight is, secondly assuming the flight isn’t at full capacity, it boarding last and through the front of the plane, allows me to assess my seating options.

If I see a row of empty seats, or a more desirable seat than my allocated one, I’ll take it. Otherwise I’ll just head to my allocated seat as usual.

Don’t book a return flight

Ryanair doesn’t offer discounts when you book return flights, so although it might be temping to book your outwards and return journey all in one session, it actually reduces your flexibility.

If you book a round-trip flight, when you check in for outbound journey, your details are then set for both the outbound and the return journey, even if your return flight is months away.

I learned this the hard way, then I booked a flight from the France to the UK, returning around two months later. During that time I renewed my passport, but was unable to enter my new passport details when checking in for the return flight.

Had I booked my return leg separately, I would have been able to enter any details I liked when checking in online, but since it was a return, my details were frozen the minute I took my outbound leg.

If you call Ryanair they can and will separate your flights free of charge, but you need to know and do this in advance. As such, my recommendation is just to book each leg of your journey separately for maximum flexibility.

Flying Ryanair air FAQs

Why is Ryanair so cheap?

Ryanair is cheap due to aggressive cost cutting tactics, and its high volume, low margin approach to business.

To save costs the airline often avoids large international airports and instead flys to smaller secondary or regional airports where slots are cheaper. It also times its flights to take advantage of cheaper slots, often scheduling flights early in the morning or late at night.

As a no-frills airline, Ryanair separates the cost of the ticket from ancillary services such as baggage and meals. This allows for low headline ticket prices, that are later inflated by optional extras that are included by default with regular airlines. For example carrying checked baggage, or choosing your seat.

Additionally, Ryanair carries out aggressive upselling of services, and the promotion of additional services such as hotel booking, car hire, and insurance. Furthermore, during flights, Ryanair bombards customers with sales announcements. From scratch cards, to duty free, and perfumes. There’s always a trolly in the aisle looking to sell you something.

Anyone who thinks Ryanair flights are some sort of bastion of sanctity where you can contemplate your navel is wrong. We already bombard you with as many in-flight announcements and trolleys as we can. Anyone who looks like sleeping, we wake them up to sell them things.

How early should i arrive at Stansted for a Ryanair flight?

At least 2 hours before your flight. For a smooth travel experience, aim to arrive at Stansted Airport at least 2 hours before your Ryanair flight’s departure time. This allows sufficient time for check-in, security screening, and boarding, ensuring you don’t miss your flight.

Stanstead is one of the busiest airports in the country, and there often long queues for security. In fact, back in 2015, I missed a flight myself due to queues at security.

If you have checked baggage, or need to check-in in person, be advised that Ryanair checkins don’t open until two hours before departure, so arriving earlier will mean waiting around.

When should I check in for my Ryanair flight?

2 hours before your flight. The Ryanair online checkin opens 24 hours before the flight and closes two hours before the scheduled departure time. If you want to increase your odds of getting a window or an aisle seat, it’s best to check in as late as possible.