RyanAir is almost synonymous with student travel in Europe. Offering some of the cheapest flights in the continent, the airline is an essential resource for budget-conscious travelers. However, though their prices are very low, RyanAir is notorious for their strict baggage regulations and long list of additional fees. Avoiding these extra charges is easy as long as your understand when or how they are implemented. Check out this list of the 10 things every student should know before flying RyanAir so that you’re trip is straight forward and stress free!
1. Know what airport you’re flying into.
One of the reasons that RyanAIr flights are so cheap is because the airline flies into smaller, more remote airports rather than major city ones. For example, though they offer flights to “Paris,” the airport that they use is actually located 55 miles outside the city in Beauvais, which is about 1.5 hours away by bus. If you can score a cheap flight, then this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if a RyanAir flight is similar in price to a more mid-range airline, then you should perhaps consider the additional travel costs and hassle associated with getting to and from there.
2. Be sure to check into your flight online and print your boarding pass in advance.
One of the most common ways RyanAir squeezes money out of their customers is through their airport check-in fees. If you don’t check-in online at least 2 hours in advance, you will face a €50 penalty for having to do so at the airport.
Though they accept mobile boarding passes at some airports, there are still 10 airports that require boarding passes to be printed. If you’re unable to print off your boarding pass in advance, you will be charged unless you arrive at the airport more than 2 hours before your flight.
3. Limit your luggage or pay to check it in advance.
Though RyanAir has finally abolished their rule prohibiting more than 1 piece of hand luggage (they now let you bring 1 carry on and 1 small personal item — yay!), they still severely limited the size and weight of your cabin baggage. Their website specifies that passengers are allowed 1 cabin bag “weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm” and 1 personal item. If you’re familiar with standard cabin baggage regulations, you’ll notice that this is smaller than most other carriers, such as JetBlue and British Airways. This means you must pack very lightly, which can sometimes be tricky in winter. But as the saying goes, if you haven’t ever put on all the clothes in your backpack to ensure that it fits into the baggage sizer, then you haven’t really traveled!
If you absolutely have to check a bag, be sure to pay for it online in advance! Fees vary depending on the route and travel dates, but expect to pay at least €15 more for each item checked in at the airport.
4. Get ready to deal with grouchy gate attendants.
I should start by saying that, of course, not all RyanAir employees are rude. During my many travels with RyanAir, I have interacted with several very nice and helpful people. However, for every wonderful person that RyanAir employs, there seems to be another who is cold, curt, and out to charge you for everything under the sun.
In short, the check-in process can be stressful and unpleasant. To avoid any issues, be sure to check in early, print your boarding pass, and adhere to the luggage sizing restrictions. On more occasions than not, I have watched a gate attendant require a customer to place their luggage in the baggage sizer to prove that it meets regulations and then either force them to pay for checked luggage or reduce the size of their bag if it doesn’t fit.
Photo by Ruthann from Western Ireland – EI-DPN, Ryanair 737-8AS cabin layout., CC BY 2.0,
5. Get stamped before going through security.
If you have already checked in and printed out your boarding pass, and you don’t have any checked luggage, it might seem logical for you to head straight to security when you get to the airport. Wrong! If you are a non-EU citizen, you are required to get your boarding pass stamped at the check-in desk upon arrival. If not, they are authorized to refuse you entrance onto the plane. TSA don’t check for this, so it’s easy to go straight through to your gate without ever getting stamped, only to then be told that you can’t board the plane. Avoid this risk by going to the check-in desk and showing them your passport and boarding pass as soon as you get to the airport.
6. Get in line early at the gate to guarantee your luggage fits into the overhead.
RyanAir planes have notoriously tiny overhead compartments, meaning that it’s always a battle to squeeze your stuff in with everyone else’s. If you don’t want to risk having to put your luggage in the hold or stuffing it into an overhead space miles away from your seat, then you should get in line at the gate as early as possible. Normally I’m the last to board planes because I hate waiting around in line, but with RyanAir I find it best to get settled in my seat as quickly as possible.
8. Expect delays.
On average, RyanAir flights are delayed approximately 13 minutes. Though that might not sound like much, delays can sometimes be much longer. Be safe rather than sorry and don’t schedule anything too soon after your arrival time.
9. Be prepared to pay for absolutely everything on board… with cash.
Don’t expect any cocktails on the house on a RyanAir flight. Food, drinks, and entertainment are not included in the price of your ticket, but can be purchased in-flight. Though they accept many different currencies, RyanAir cannot take international cards that require a signature (which is most of them!). Thus, be sure to have some spare change on you if you fancy a snack or bottle of water.
10. Be patient and remember this is a budget airline.
RyanAir often gets a bad rep for their exorbitant fees and uptight staff. However, though there are many reasons to get frustrated with the airline, they do offer some incredible deals. As a budget airline, they must cut costs elsewhere in order to be able to provide such cheap flights. If you find that RyanAir’s regulations are too strict or stressful, then check to see if it might be worth flying with a mid-range airline instead. RyanAir is a fantastic resource for students to travel all around Europe on a budget. Though the experience can be infuriating, be patient and try to make the most of your time abroad!