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Those of us who know Ryanair may have heard that it’s one of the most inexpensive vessels to get you to many different parts of Europe. Their flights, especially when you book early, could be had for a steal. Ours wasn’t too shabby. We flew from Rome to Manchester in the UK for $69 per person. I’ve seen it as low as under $30, but I planned our trip a little too late and we also were quite specific with the flight time and day. Inexpensive is subjective. In my case, as long as you know the rules, follow them, then you could really be flying within Europe for less. There were other carriers to choose from, but I’ve had no problems with Ryanair.This was not our first time flying with Ryanair. We’ve flown Ryanair twice in the past:

2015 – from Venice to Paris

From Venice to Paris – April 2015

2016 – from Madrid to Paris

My son was knocked out during our Ryanair flight from Madrid to Paris Beauvais

What’s the catch

Ryanair is not exactly your super posh airline. It’s a budget airline. No frills, no thrills – but wait, it does have thrills – flying around Europe at such a low price is a thrill. This is obviously very subjective. Flying an airline like Ryanair is NOT for everybody. I tell folks that if you expect first class treatment, if you expect a lot of leg room, then this is probably not for you.

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Inside RyanAir

I checked my other options such as using my points, and it was better to pay for the airfare in cash rather than using my miles or points.

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Our luggage and backpacks from Madrid to Paris (Summer 2015)

Baggage policy – what we did and did not do

Ryanair is also known for having strict baggage policy.

  • All passengers are entitled to bring 1 small personal bag on board which must fit under the seat in front of you (35cm x 20cm x 20cm). Examples include, handbag, laptop bag and small back pack. WE DID THIS – Each of us had a backpack.
  • Passengers who have purchased “Priority & 2 Cabin Bags” or Plus/Flexi/Family ticket or connecting flight ticket can bring 1 additional 10kg bag on board which must fit into the baggage sizer (not exceeding 10kg and dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 20cm). WE DIDN’T DO THIS.
  • Passengers who choose not to purchase ”Priority & 2 Cabin Bags” and arrive at the gate with 2 bags, your second larger bag (10kg weight Dimensions: 55cm x 40cm x 20cm) will be taken off you, tagged and placed in the aircraft hold free of charge. Please ensure all valuables are removed. THIS IS WHAT WE DID. But each of us had a typical US domestic carryon. The allowance was for 21.65 x 15.7 x 7.87 inches. Our US domestic carryon was 22 x 15.5 x 9.5. So it was slightly bigger. 

Ryanair Baggage Fees

There are ways to fly Ryanair without having to pay for any luggage fees. But should you end up choosing to check your bags, or are required to check your bags, these are the fees.

Image courtesy of Ryanair

How can you avoid the baggage fees

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Image courtesy of Ryanair

So in my case, we were NON-PRIORITY, and we brought on board a backpack and carryon luggage. But it’s the size of the luggage that could determine whether Ryanair will charge extra.

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Image courtesy of Ryanair

 

Size Matters

Ryanair’s allowance is for a cabin baggage up to 55 x 40 x 20 cm, when converted to inches = 21.6535 x 15.748 x 7.874. We have a domestic carryon that we’ve been using for years, and when compared to the international carryons that many of those traveling in Europe use, our domestic carryons look like giants. According to WorldTraveler.com,

International carry-on size restrictions can be a notoriously challenging subject to grasp since so much of the restrictions are determined by where you are traveling. However, international carry-on size rulings become easier to digest, once you can decipher the rules that depend upon international or domestic travel.

Outside of the U.S. the standard carry-on baggage size is smaller (this relates to flights originating outside the U.S. and with a destination outside the U.S.). Here, the rule of thumb is about 21″, and NOT the 22″ and above carry-on size.As with any rule, exceptions abound and it is a good idea to visit the site of all of the carriers you plan to use while abroad to get a consensus.

Weight a minute

Weight was another thing we had to consider. Ryanair allowed up to 10 kg on a carryon luggage (this is roughly 22 lbs.) We borrowed a weighing scale from the front desk during our hotel stay in Rome. Prior to our flight from Rome to the UK, we weighed our luggage and we were right around 9 kgs per luggage. So I was not worried about the weight so much.

Expect the unexpected

All of our other flights to and from Europe were with United and Lufthansa. This is what United had posted regarding United’s Carryon Baggage Policy.

Interestingly enough, there was no specific mention about the weight, but I made sure before we left the US, that our baggage wasn’t overweight.

Lufthansa, on the other hand, allowed 1 piece of carry-on baggage up to 8 kg. On our flight from Frankfurt to Rome via Lufthansa, the gate attendant flagged our carryons as being too big (through her visual assessment). I had no qualms about our luggage getting flagged by Lufthansa since the only setback would be for them to take the luggage and that we’d have to get them at baggage claim. Lufthansa would not have charged us extra for checking our luggage. But that experience triggered some upcoming anxieties for me with our flight with Ryanair which was scheduled 4 days later. I had all of these “what if” scenarios that went through my mind. “What if Ryanair flags it? How much will we be charged knowing that we didn’t pay for our luggage fees ahead of time.”

During our stay in Rome, I entertained the idea of getting 2 new smaller pieces of carryon luggage that would easily pass the visual test – the ones where the agent would not even want to question us. However, I scratched the idea. I ended up not buying new luggage. If we squeezed the luggage well enough in the Ryanair baggage check unit, maybe we’d pass.

Ryanair surprise, surprise

After packing the night before our flight to Rome, after weighing our luggage to make sure that we didn’t go over 10 kg, my daughter and I hoped for the best when we made our way to Rome’s Ciampino Airport. We left our hotel quite early to make it to our 6:50am flight to Manchester in the UK. For this baggage challenge, in my mind, we had to get checked by the following Ryanair agents:

  • Visa and Passport check counter (inside the main terminal)
  • Gate agent before boarding the plane
  • Ryanair flight attendants

So I hoped that we’d pass all of their visual tests should they see our US domestic-sized luggage.

Upon arriving at Rome Ciampino Airport, the Ryanair counter was already open and my nerves got to me. I couldn’t find our passports in my backpack. This was not going well. We were already in line, about to be helped next. I decided to leave the line, I went off to the side to open up our backpacks. The thought of losing or leaving our passports back in the hotel room would be extremely catastrophic. I searched our backpacks a couple of times and nothing turned up. I emptied the contents, and bam, there they were, our passports. Okay, let’s move back to the agent.

He greeted me and checked our passports and boarding passes. Asked if we were checking any luggage, and when I said no, he nodded and directed me to go ahead and go through security. Baggage crisis averted? Well, in my mind, visa check counter – passed! Now, lets get through having the gate agents check us in before boarding the plane.

We had about an hour to kill before boarding began. I looked at the sea of carryons and sure enough, the other carryons were visually smaller, skinnier. Not ours, it was bulky and chunky when compared to the others.

Finally, time to get us checked at the gate before riding the shuttle to board the plane. I was expecting one agent to check but as luck would have it, two agents checked us. The first agent walked our line, and issued luggage tags. The ones ahead of me had smaller/skinnier luggage, and their tags were issued with no problems.The agent came to us, asked for our passports and boarding passes, wrote on a couple of tags, and wrapped the tags on our carryon and she moved on. Whoa! That was it. No questions asked. One more agent at the actual counter asked to see our passports and boarding passes, and we were told to go to the shuttle. Again, no questions asked.

We boarded the shuttle and within a couple of minutes we were taken to our plane. There were a couple of trailers there with lots of luggage with similar tags, so I left ours with the rest of the pack. We boarded, and our flight from Rome to Manchester had no issues.

All smiles once we passed all of the baggage checks in Rome

My lessons-learned with Ryanair

Looking back, I could probably easily argue that my luggage would meet the requirement. But when you’re traveling with a sea of smaller carryons, you stick out like a sore thumb. After my flights with Lufthansa (from Portugal to Rome) when Lufthansa flagged my carryon, we were also surprised that United Airlines flagged our carrryon during our flight from London back to Los Angeles. I did manage to squeeze my luggage in their luggage check unit, and United allowed my luggage to go on board. If United didn’t, it would be at no cost to me, so I wasn’t worried if I had to check it in. But with Ryanair, there would’ve been an extra cost if my luggage was identified as being too big. So there goes all my flight savings. So glad it didn’t have to come to that.

Will I fly Ryanair again? You bet. This past trip was our third time flying Ryanair and we’ve not had any problems. We were never stopped, never charged extra. Lucky? I don’t know. But we’ve not had any issues with flight delays, baggage allowance, or flight troubles with the times we’ve flown them. When it comes to the luggage, I might consider getting a smaller carryon, something that will meet the international carryon requirements.

In the end, my advise to those who are considering, or have been skeptical about flying Ryanair? As with anything, know the rules, read the rules. Do your homework. Know why you are choosing an airline like Ryanair. I knew I wasn’t looking for first class treatment. From a seat comfort-level, honestly it wasn’t any different than the United economy flights that I took recently. The United seats weren’t any roomier. When I flew Ryanair, the flights were typically around two hours long. I’m a big kid and I can handle that. I’ve done 15-16 hours of flight from LA to Sydney in economy, so a two-hour stretch with Ryanair was a walk in the park.

Have you flown Ryanair? What has been your experience? Do you have other budget carriers that you’ve flown with in Europe? Good or bad, please let me know.

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