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Travel Tips When Flying Budget Airlines

I am always interested and thoroughly bemused to read the postings and message boards about Public Enemy No. 1 – Michael O’Leary and Ryanair.

Despite the fact that over forty million people fly with Ryanair every year, it has been voted the world’s most disliked airline and  subject of more complaints than any other airline in the EU. The BBC has reported that 56% of respondents said Ryanair caused “the biggest headaches” for air travelers and 60% of all complaints to Ireland’s Commission for Aviation Regulation are about Ryanair.  This is so unfair!  If people want a flight for 1p what realistically do they expect.  I read somewhere that the airline works on a profit margin of £5 per passenger so naturally, common sense says that somewhere along the line there has to be some additional charges for passengers.

One of the biggest complaints is about hidden extras and Ryanair must have an office full of staff dreaming up the next scam but they are not alone because all low cost airlines do exactly the same thing.  Outwitting the scammers is all part of the fun of booking a Ryanair flight and here are my top tips:

Find the cheapest flight in the first place.  The best way to do this is to set an evening aside to search the web site for the very best deals.  This takes some time because Ryanair don’t make this easy; the web site is awful and there is no site facility for prompting the cheapest flights so you just have to keep speculating with dates and destinations until something interesting pops up.  And unless you really do want somewhere specific then be prepared to go anywhere because this is where some of the real bargains are.  In 2006 I went to Pula in Croatia for £15 return and then to Friedrichshafen in Germany for £13, both times including all the taxes and fees.  I had never heard of these places before I flew but they were both excellent places to visit.  Later I went to Santander in Spain for £10 and  my cheapest ever deal for £8.02 return to Baden-Baden in Germany (and that included the rip-off £8.00 credit card booking fee!)

Don’t take hold luggage.  This saves almost £40 on a return flight and with 10 kilograms allowed free as cabin baggage this is a much more sensible option.  Let’s face it most of us take far too much luggage with us when we go away for a couple of days anyway, I know I have taken clothes with me that I have never worn and I have been working hard to make sure that I now only take what I know I will need rather than a bag full of contingency items.  Also if you take hold luggage you have to queue up in a rugby scrum to get your bags checked in and this a complete no-brainer because what sane person would pay to spend an hour in a queue when they could be in the bar instead?

Don’t buy a Priority Boarding Pass.  This is a complete con and saves another £12 or so on the return flight.  Think about it sensibly for a moment, there is a seat for everyone on board anyway, have you ever seen anyone standing on an airline flight? No of course not.  All of the seats are exactly the same and an average flight is about two hours.  How can it possibly matter where you sit?

Don’t buy travel insurance from the Airline.  I am not suggesting that you don’t buy travel insurance at all just shop around a bit because there are much better deals available elsewhere.

Don’t exceed your baggage allowance.  If you really must book in hold luggage you need to be really careful about this because going overweight is a real dumb thing to do, the penalty is extortionate and they are really, really strict on this because it is a fantastically good earner.  If when your bags are weighed and the allowance is exceeded my advice is to take some clothes out of the bag and wear them instead.  This might be a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes and make you look fat but it’s worth remembering that you don’t pay excess baggage charges for being obese!   Alternatively just throw them away and replace them when you get back home.

Don’t buy food and drink on board.  Have a good breakfast at home before you set off and have a drink in the duty free bar before flying.  I agree that this one might be a bit more difficult but bear in mind that Ryanair now charge nearly £3 for a cup of tea!  That’s a ¼ of a litre of lukewarm water and a cheap tea bag.  You can probably get about 200 tea bags for £3 at a Supermarket, even more if you go to Aldi!

Don’t queue up too early and rush to go through the departure gate.  This one doesn’t save you any money but it can really piss people off because this is about getting the first seat on the plane, even those you have rashly purchased priority boarding con cards.  While everyone pushes and shoves about in the queue it is much less stressful to hang about at the back and go through the gate last, now, admittedly this only really works when there is a bus transfer to the plane, but get on the bus last and stand by the door and then purposefully get off first when the doors are opened and without looking left or right at the moaning minnies on either side be one of the first on board the aircraft.  This really gets people complaining I can tell you especially when they have been standing on that bus for five or ten minutes or so.

Once on board try and get a seat in the first available row because this does have a bit more legroom.  If the plane isn’t full it is normal practice to stop passengers sitting in the first few rows to balance up the weight in the plane but still take the first available row because once the aircraft is airborne it is possible to move into these bigger leg room seats for the duration of the flight.  This is guaranteed to get people really worked up!

Always sit down in an aisle seat, spread yourself out and don’t make eye contact with other passengers looking for a seat because this deters them from climbing over you to get to the window seat.  If the plane isn’t full there is a good chance that you will have an empty seat next to you and a lot more personal space.  This one works especially well when there are two of you because it makes it doubly difficult for people to push past.

Whatever you do, do not sit next to children.  I realise that you cannot prevent them sitting close by if they get on after you but by looking as child unfriendly as possible this can deter parents from sitting next to you with their loved ones.  The problem is that there is nothing for them to do you see so they quickly become bored and a pain in the ass to fellow travellers.  If you fly with a full price airline kids get fun packs and crayons and when they get fed up with that there are cartoons on the in flight TV to amuse them but with Ryanair all there is to read is the emergency evacuation procedure stuck on the back of the seat in front and that doesn’t keep a child amused for very long.

Keep an eye out for lost loose change.  Because the seats are so cramped a lot of people spill coins from their trouser pockets when they buy food and drink and they are quite unaware of it.  When you leave the plane look carefully on the floor and at the backs of the seats and you will be surprised just how often you find money.  I once paid £20 for a return flight to Riga and I found £2, that’s a 10% discount on the fare.

Let’s be honest we all know that Ryanair have got to pay for the cost of flying somehow and zero charge flights are just a bit of a gimmick.  These simple tips will make flying with Ryanair a lot more rewarding and might help reduce the unjustified number of complaints that are made.  I hope so.

Thumbs up for Sixt Rent-a-Car

Thumbs down for Ryanair Transaction Charges

The Ryanair Sleep