Why I Love/Hate RyanAir

March 20, 2008

in Airlines, Cheap Activities, Europe, Luggage, Public Transport, Rail, Sale, Travel, Web Tips

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ll let you in on today’s activity: RyanAir is advertising another of their “no taxes, no fees, no charges” sales. RyanAir Sale AdvertIncluded are flights for the month of April only. Tickets must be purchased by midnight tonight. The good news: despite the booking engine being overloaded and causing me to panic several times, I was able to make my six-leg booking and I’m headed to Spain! All told, this will come to under 30 euros. Being able to travel so inexpensively and quickly across Europe is why I love RyanAir. Compare to Deutsche Bahn, who can’t even get me anywhere in Germany for under 58 euros round-trip . . .

The bad news: RyanAir is busily charging me both taxes and fees on these flights. You can read the ad above as well as I can. On all previous “no fees” flights, that has included the so-called “handling fee” charged for using a debit or credit card (as if you had a choice). Before, my 1-cent itineraries have truly cost 1 cent. Not this time — make that 1.51 euros, with 1 cent for the flight and 1.50 euros for the charging of my debit card. That’s four legs of my six-leg trip: should have cost 4 cents, is costing 6.04 euros.

The other two legs are Berlin-London (Stansted) and back. Fare is 1 cent, taxes and fees are 9.99 euros. Should have cost 2 cents, is costing 23 euros.

So for the mathematically challenged, advertised price (and the price I’ve received multiple times in the exact same type of sale): 6 cents; RyanAir final price: 29.04 euros. It’s most certainly illegal advertising. But can you see why I’m disappointed?

It’s not just the money. I cost RyanAir far more then they overcharge me. Since last September, I recollect 10 flights on RyanAir for which I paid a total of 8.06 euros (six 1-cent flights, four 2-euro flights). They were all purchased on “no taxes, no fees” sales. In reality, taxes on each of those flights approaches 20 euros each, so RyanAir paid 200 euros on my behalf. Further, I give the airline no opportunity to collect any other money from me: I always carry on my luggage, so they can’t charge me the airport check-in fee or the baggage handling fee. I never opt for priority boarding. I bring my own snacks and beverages. I am a loss for the airline every time I fly. In five months, I cost RyanAir 192 euros!

Looking at this next set of flights, the same story holds. I may pay 30 euros, but I am actually costing the airline 180 euros. In just over two weeks, I will rack up another 150 euros in the hole for RyanAir. Aren’t they glad to have me as a customer?!

In my previous posts on online check-in and carry-on limits, I have perhaps failed to make the following point clear: in many respects, dealing with low-cost carriers such as RyanAir is like playing a game. In order to play well, you need to know the rules (how much luggage you can carry on, each additional checked bag costs extra, you can’t check-in online if you’re not an EU citizen or you’ll be denied boarding, etc.). Most complaints about the airline come from people who don’t know the rules. So yes, you can be angry that RyanAir’s rules are different from everyone else’s, but you’re not going to get a whole lot of sympathy from me if you don’t know or follow the rules of the game. RyanAir makes a ton of money off of the folks who don’t know the rules.

What I hope I illustrate by example is that once you know the rules, it is easier 1) to flout them and 2) to beat the master at his own game. YOU FLOUT RULES AT YOUR OWN RISK, but you are much more in command if you know where and how to bend and tweak as needed. On the second point, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note RyanAir has been paying me to fly and not the other way around. In six months, they’ve paid 342 euros on my behalf so that I could visit Belgium, Italy, England, Sweden, and Malta. For my 38-euro investment, I’d say that’s a pretty good return.

Because I honestly appreciate the service they provide me every time I fly, it disappoints me that they resort to what seems like cheap tactics in order to scrape together profits. Why bait and switch with the advertisement above when you are in all honesty only offering 1-cent, no-tax fares on a limited number of routes while charging a fee on every leg purchased? I would have gladly paid an upfront 2 euros for each of the flights I booked, but instead they sneakily tacked on the “handling fee,” leaving me unhappy with my 1.51 euro tickets. What is not to understand here? They not only lost 49 cents on each purchase, they left me with an impression of dishonesty I’ve felt the need to write 1000 words about!

What is more, it is clear that each of these flights leaves a larger carbon footprint than the equivalent train or bus journey. Nevertheless, I am constantly frustrated by the inability of national transport to get me from point to point nearly as efficiently or cheaply as RyanAir gets me halfway across the continent. Despite increasing taxes and fuel prices, incentives remain incorrectly skewed towards plane travel. And while I would agree that environmental taxes should be levied on every flight, in order to rectify the situation I believe that ground transportation needs to become more competitive. For many journeys, I would in fact prefer to take the train, if the train weren’t so expensive! The Eurail pass is not on its way out because fewer people are interested in traveling around Europe . . .

Finally, RyanAir has yet to rectify or clarify their stupid and discriminatory online check-in policy. The airline’s website was upgraded last month, noticeably without any change in this area. I know of no other airline in the world that discriminates based on nationality and disability. There is no reasonable explanation for these policies, nor for the limited 44-hour window for online check-in. Again, it reeks more of a dishonest and implorable way to make a few euros than of reasonable business practice.

RyanAir is the most-searched term leading people to this blog. If you’ve been in Europe long enough, you most certainly have your own story to tell. Leave your balanced deliberations and love/hate machinations in the comments.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John 03.20.08 at 6:09 am

I booked a last minute flight to London for next week with some frequent flier miles from Los Angeles. I’ve already been to London, and want to venture elsewhere, I’m on a shoestring budget and all these fees, taxes and whathaveyou have really turned me off. Hell, I’d rather blow my money in a city I’ve visited than on a short flight somewhere else.

2 silvia 03.24.08 at 4:38 pm

I’ve noticed the same thing on ryanair’s site, think that i’m going from Venice (italy) to Rome and back, for leisure/business reasons, and clicking on the round trip, the cost of the ticket would have been double respect booking 2 one ways ticket.
Why is that system so tricky?
I LOVE RYAN AIR, really, but sometimes they are absolutely foolish!


3 poetloverrebelspy 03.31.08 at 10:30 am

Find this post in the latest Festival of Frugality, hosted at My Dollar Plan.

4 Mayoade 05.18.08 at 1:16 am

Bit late in the day to say anything but if you use a visa electron card then you don’t pay the surcharge that debit cards attract. I flew Manchester > Bremen and back for the advertised 2p. I didn’t even know what Bremen was like but I thought it would be rude not to go at that price :) Turned out to be a nice place though! If you don’t have an electron card its worth getting one just for Ryainair use.

5 Bergman Coffey 07.11.08 at 11:26 am

The Ryanair ‘handling’ fee for a debit card is now a whopping £4 PER PERSON, PER FLIGHT!

6 P Mac A 08.05.08 at 4:57 pm

You would swear that you people had a fundemental human right to fly.
You want the world to be clean and perfect and you also want to fly for half nothing on demand and you expect the company bringing you to pay you for the pleasure.
I would strongly advise that you shower get your thumbs out and get a job that actually pays you a bit more than the few coppers you are all moaning about here.
You may want to see european cities but I can tell you no one wants to see you arrive in their city with your over night bag and that hungry look on your face that says you have just had a great time in London, living on dijestive biscuts (the staple diet of all you tight fisted nobodies) and all for just E12.99 99 99.
If you want to be hippies then go hug some trees and live under a wax sheet but don’t start moaning things you crowd would be barred from only for Ryanair.
Yea and get a hair cut!

7 Bax 09.23.08 at 3:13 pm

You know what don’t you think that you can’t check-in online if you’re not an EU citizen is some kind of discrimination against my nationality. I am not EU citizen and I am from Asia, so i can’t check in online, why? Because I am Asian? I don’t understand the reason behind this. It is very dicriminatory. I really feel that I am not part of the world society but I am out of it. When they forced me to pay online check in, I told them that next time I will sue them. So now I am planning to go to the court and sue them.Do you know where I can hire good lawyer?

8 autumn 10.16.08 at 3:02 pm

Hi :)

Very cool advice/information on how to deal with Ryanair. Have to point out though Ryanair is not paying you, you are still paying them even though they are subsiding your costs.

9 poetloverrebelspy 10.17.08 at 10:13 am

Autumn, the price of every plane ticket is made up of three elements:

Taxes = what the government levies for air traffic and environmental costs

Fees = what the airport or the airline levy to cover their operating costs (in the case of this airline, often at a profit)

Fare = what the airline charges me to sit in the seat

For all intents and purposes, the first two are FIXED costs and the third is VARIABLE, based (as we all know) on some magical formula on the day you book.

The fixed costs of every RyanAir ticket come to at least 20 euros. They have not included it in the price they charge *me,* but it is certainly a price they have to pay when I fly.

When I pay a minimal fare, they recoup less than 10% of those real costs. They have then paid 90% of the ticket’s price. Absorbing their own fees may be a subsidy, but they pay the taxes outright. Every time I fly, I am a loss for the airline — and as I’ve written, that loss (and truly my gain) will approach 700 euros over the last 12 months.

They are not, it is true, giving me a plane ticket AND giving me money (I don’t work as a flight attendant). But in exchange for my willingness to fly and a very small contribution, they give me a plane ticket they have essentially paid for.

10 wanderlust 10.21.08 at 3:22 pm

“Compare to Deutsche Bahn, who can’t even get me anywhere in Germany for under 58 euros round-trip . . .”

Are you familiar with the Landers ticket?

11 poetloverrebelspy 10.21.08 at 4:22 pm

Wanderlust, I cover all German train discounts, including Länder Tickets, in the post “Getting Across Germany Cheaply, Part One.” Here I was referring to a trip of a distance comparable to a RyanAir flight, where the cheapest tickets on DB are 29 euros one-way.

12 Kate 11.18.08 at 10:40 pm

I believe someone’s mentioned that if you pay with Visa Electron there is no handling charge. What I want to know is, how to get the site to give me prices in euros. Since I’m paying from a euro account I resent having Ryanair convert (at an unfavourable rate) the taxes etc to GBP, then having them convert (again, at an unfavourable rate) back to euros before I can pay!
Also worth noting that a chap I was sat next to on the last Ryanair flight I took had paid less “tax” than I had for identical flights, although he had booked at roughly the same time as me. Are these truly taxes that we’re paying? Because I’ve never heard of taxes fluctuating so wildly (I had paid more than double what he had).

13 poetloverrebelspy 11.20.08 at 12:25 pm

Kate, the site will bill you in the currency of the country you’re flying from, irregardless of your preferred currency.

As for taxes, it will greatly depend on the sale conditions under which you booked the tickets. If he booked his on a no taxes/no fees sale and you booked yours under normal conditions, you can pay 8 times the taxes/fees your rowmate did.

14 Marie 02.21.09 at 7:46 pm

use an electron card to book your ryan air flights and you will avoid paying any charges!!!

you can choose the language/country you wish to use, therefore if you choose spain or italy, your flights depending on where they originate can be in euro, even if you book in the uk……

oh and one more tip, Wednesdays seem to be the best days for cheaper flights so if you can travel flexibly it’s worth checking the days either side of your preferred dates

15 Hilary 08.13.12 at 9:04 am


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