Tips for flying with budget airlines

I was going to call this “how to make flying Ryanair less shit” but thought swearing in thread title might not work so well.

1 – Adjust your expectations

The key here is to remember that you are not trying to make it a pleasant experience, you are just trying to minimise the unpleasantness. Think of it as a bus journey. A Ryanair plane has pretty much all the facilities of a coach. Do not  under any circumstances let it reside in the same place in your mind as a longhaul plane journey with someone like BA or Virgin, with free drinks and TV-on-demand. It’s just not the same thing. A pot noodle is not the same as seafood udon from Nobu, but it serves a purpose and it doesn’t have to be a punishment. It’s all about how you think.

2 – Be prepared to spend money

Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a budget airline, but is your budget really that tight? The money you spent on the ticket is gone, the question right now is “Is xxxx worth a fiver?”, or “Will yyyyy give me £10 worth of happiness?”. Yes, they are bastards who advertise low rates and then charge you for every little thing (but not for using toilets yet, despite the rumours), but if you refuse to pay for something that will make you happier just because they are bastards you are really cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Ryanair now has reserved seating on a small number of routes – for £10 each way you can book an exit row seat with a lot more legroom. (Note for parents: only adults can sit in these seats as they need to be able and willing to help in the event of an emergency, although the expected “help” seems to be limited to “open the door and get out”). Otherwise, I do recommend the £5-per-way “priority boarding”. It allows you to stroll through the airport in the direction of the gate, stopping off at the loos, grabbing a drink, without ever fearing that you will be at the back of the queue and have to sit apart from your co-travellers and next to a screamy baby, vomity toddler, loud-earphones-teen, giant man who clearly can’t fit in the seat, or other less-desirable adjacent seat-sitter. (Doesn’t stop them from then sitting by you of course, but at least you have your friends/family with you).

3 – Sort out your entertainment

Yes, I know I said above that you shouldn’t compare this to a “proper” airline, but what generally makes flying bearable? That’s right, enforced time when you must watch some trashy films or TV. If you have one, load up your ipod or equivalent with whatever you can find. This is probably not the time for educational or enriching podcasts, get something easy and silly. I highly recommend getting some good in-ear earphones too, ones with nice squishy earplugs that block out outside noise. If you’re using the hard plastic ones that came with your music player then you’re probably damaging your hearing once you’ve turned it up high enough to hear over the plane noise, and you will definitely  be annoying your fellow passengers. Make sure you have a good variety of books and magazines too, for the times when electronic devices need to be turned off (and because books are good).

4 – Stock up on snacks

Lots of snacks. Ideally ones in fiddly packages so that just the opening of them is entertaining. Yes, I’m channelling “proper” airline food. The food may not be great but it sure does take up some time.

Also take lots of drink. I mean liquid. Beverages. Water. Flying is very dehydrating you know. Actually, yeah, I mean take drink as well, but be warned. Even if you are flying from a very sophisticated Spanish airport that takes civilized continental view of alcohol and sells cans of beer and little bottles of wine in the cafe, Ryanair will not let you drink your own booze. Not even if 500ml of San Miguel is actually cheaper than 500ml of Coke. Not if they see it, anyway. So if you would like a drink drink to pass the time or to take the edge off a fear of flying what do you do? Buy their stupidly-priced minatures? No, you need to adopt the very cunning plan suggested by my friend here and decant duty free into a bottle of soft drink. It’s just a shame they don’t sell tonic water for my gin.

What makes travelling more bearable for you?

I know that sounds a bit like “discuss this” at the end of a chapter in a textbook, and I am cringing, but I genuinely would like to hear all of your tips – I’m always on the lookout for ways to make travelling more comfortable and even (if possible) enjoyable.


5 thoughts on “Tips for flying with budget airlines

  1. I have only ever had one bad experience with budget airlines – and that genuinely wasn’t their fault. I find air travel much less stressful than train travel in the UK for example.

    However in a month or so I will be travelling by plane for the first time in ages, and decided not to fly with a budget airline as I need the decent free baggage allowance that “normal” airlines give so that I can bring back industrial amounts of Dairy Milk, trashy cheap magazines and crisps.

    Incidentally my flight was booked on the Lufthansa site. Just after booking I realised it was operated by BMI, so I went onto their sites to see if my ticket would have been cheaper. No, the same ticket would have been almost double. Crazy eh?

  2. We have flown with Ryanair and Easyjet since they came into being and I bless O’Leary every time I book a flight. Say what you will about his tactics, if it were not for him we would still be paying €400 for a European flight.

    I agree completely with lowering expectations. You don’t buy a Skoda and expect Mercedes luxury.

  3. I despise budget flights. They send every synapse in my brain into a frothing froth of frothiness…and not in a good way. I HATE that I can’t book a window seat, I HATE the race towards the departure gate – where you feel as if you’ve practically walked halfway to your destination before you even get on the plane. HATE

    But – you get what you pay for…so next year, when I’m drunkenly booking my holiday I shall remember this post and pay the extra!

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