Ryanair changed the European Aviation industry – there is no doubt about that. Some would argue for the better and many would disagree.
Personally, I’m torn. Torn because I love flying. Ticket prices for intra-European flights have plummeted during the last decade – but at a price. The service we used to expect onboard a flight is now a distant memory. Even full-service carriers have changed for the worse. Significantly so. The question we have to ask ourselves however is if that is such a bad thing? The important thing should still be to get from point A to point B as efficiently and cheaply as possible, right? In that respect, Ryanair has certainly been good for the industry. From a consumer’s point of view that is. I’m sure many pilots and flight attendants out there would disagree.
In this post I will focus on how they compare to other Intra-European airlines from a traveler’s perspective. I booked a flight from Copenhagen (CPH) to Madrid (MAD).
I arrived at Copenhagen Airport 3 hours before my flight. Mainly because I wanted to try out the Aspire lounge. My plans fell short though as I was informed upon arrival that the lounge was full, and they wouldn’t allow further walk-in passengers. That was disappointing but not the end of the world, as Copenhagen Airport is one of my favourites. There are plenty of good restaurants, coffee houses, bars and shops to keep you busy for a few hours. Many of them even offer breathtaking views of the runways so I sat down, had a beer and spent most of the time plane spotting.
When boarding approached I started to walk towards gate F8. This is located in the airport’s satellite terminal; CPH GO – exclusively used by ultra low-cost carriers. Depending on where you are, this could be a 15 minute walk. You don’t really want to get there early as there’s practically nothing to do. No shops, no bars – just a small coffee stand. The only good thing about CPH GO is that you get a good view of the planes.
The plane was about 10 minutes late but Ryanair still closed boarding 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. This means that you enter a small secure area and is ready to run out to the plane as soon as they open the doors – all done to ensure a quick turnaround. I had pre-booked a seat by one of the emergency exits (17D) and with this you get priority boarding (for an additional 15 euros that is). This turned out to be a smart move. All passengers with priority boarding would walk to the right after boarding and the rest would walk straight ahead. That meant that the 5 of us (who had priority boarding) had a large designated area to ourselves whilst the rest of the passengers were completely crammed into a small area – and had to stand there for 30 minutes. At one point one of the boarding agents told a couple off for sitting on the floor as they tried to fit the remaining passengers.
When the plane finally arrived they started to board almost immediately after the last passenger had left the inbound plane. Surely they can’t have time to clean the aircraft? I was the first passenger to enter the plane and, to be honest, it seemed clean enough. As soon as the rest of the passengers had boarded the plane we quickly taxied out to the runway and took of immediately.
Once we had reached our cruising altitude the cabin crew walked through the cabin to take food orders. I was laughing quietly when I noticed that they wrote down orders on, what seemed to be, toilet paper. They really do try to save money where it’s possible.
I was hungry and decided to try their lasagne and ordered a glass of red wine with it. I should of course have known better but they didn’t have a lot of food options. The lasagne looked like this:
The grand total you ask? 15 euros (including a bottle of water). I am sure any Italian would be insulted by the fact that they are calling this lasagne. A more fitting description would be meat and cheese soup. The wine on the other hand was decent.
On to the seat – as previously mentioned I was in the aisle seat in one of the emergency exit rows. The leg room was ok but I don’t think they are allowing an inch more than the legal requirement. The tray table was in the armrest and was very small. I tried to balance my computer on it to get some writing done but had to give up. Other than that the seat was fairly comfortable. I was flying in one of Ryanair’s older Boeing 737s (8 years old) and the cabin was pretty much what I expected. I am not a fan of the hideous yellow colour they use though.
We arrived into Madrid about 10 minutes late and the plane parked in what seemed to be in the middle on nowhere. This is fairly normal in Spain though and they had busses waiting for us to take us in to terminal 1 at Barajas airport.
So is it really as bad as people are saying? It is certainly not glamorous but on the other hand the product doesn’t really differ that much from other European carriers. Granted, it is more convenient to fly with with the flag carriers. They usually fly from the main terminals, use jet bridges and might even offer you a cup of coffee on board. The question is if that justifies the difference in price? I’ll let you decide.
What do you think? Please feel free to ask any questions or offer any insights in the comment section below.
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