Middle Age Miles

A Tale of 2 European Low-Cost Carriers – Ryanair and EasyJet

This article is part of our Trip Report, A Summer Holiday in Ireland & Scotland.

Summary

This is a quick article comparing our booking and flight experiences on two European low-cost carriers (LCCs), Ryanair and EasyJet.  On our Ireland-Scotland trip, in order to visit Scotland, we flew Ryanair one-way from Dublin to Edinburgh, and EasyJet one-way from Edinburgh to Belfast.  Both carriers provided great low-cost pricing, even with a checked bag and advance seat assignment.  Ryanair was a little cheaper than EasyJet.  Booking was easy with both carriers.  EasyJet provided a far better flight experience for us.  However, I suspect that this may be the ultimate your-mileage-may-vary experience.

Booking and Pricing on Ryanair and EasyJet

Current Ryanair online front-page booking interface

Current EasyJet front-page online booking interface

I found booking to be easy and straightforward on both Ryanair and EasyJet.  Both had easy-to-navigate online interfaces.  For us, it was important to have a checked bag, as we were in the midst of a week-plus trip and couldn’t just carry on.  We also wanted to have advance seat assignments so the four of us could sit together.

As LCCs, Ryanair and EasyJet both show bare-bones fares at significantly discounted prices as their main customer-facing options.  However, they offer a variety of buy-up options and packages for additional amenities.  I found that both carriers offered checked bag-seat assignment packages that seemed to be fairly disclosed and reasonably priced, so I bought-up to secure those services. Even with the upgrades, our flights were very reasonably priced.

Note that we were purchasing our tickets about 100 days in advance, and all of our fares were totally non-refundable.  Thus, there was no flexibility once the tickets were purchased and we’d lose our money if our plans changed or we weren’t able to make the flights for any reason.

Our flight on Ryanair was one-way from Dublin to Edinburgh.  The flight was on a Thursday in early June with an early afternoon departure.  The fare, including a checked bag and advance seat assignment, was about 41 Euros each (about $45 at the time):

Our EasyJet flight was one-way from Edinburgh to Belfast.  The flight was on a Saturday in early June with a mid-afternoon departure.  The fare, including a checked bag and advance seat assignment, was about 44 Pounds each (about $61 at the time):

The flights were both short.  Dublin-to Edinburgh is only about 210 miles, and it clocks in at an hour and 10 minutes.  Edinburgh-to-Belfast is even shorter at 143 miles and is blocked at less than an hour.  Still, I thought the fares we booked on both flights were excellent.  Obviously, Ryanair was a bit cheaper on a slightly longer route.

Flying on Ryanair and EasyJet

Our flight experiences could hardly have been more different.  EasyJet was smooth sailing save for a slight delay, whereas Ryanair was downright unpleasant.

Our Ryanair flight experience seemed to start ok.  We printed off our boarding passes in advance, and we checked our luggage without incident.  From there, though a lot of things went off the tracks.  First, during the pre-boarding process:

  • The concourse in Dublin airport for Ryanair flights was incredibly crowded.  There was not nearly enough room to hold all of the departing passengers with any level of comfort.  To top it off, it was uncomfortably hot in the terminal.
  • Ryanair had established several queues with portable barriers for its various flights departing from the same area of the concourse in the same time range.  The queues were not well-marked, so there was a lot of confusion among all passengers (including us!) about which line to stand in.  For the first part of our wait, we were never entirely sure we were in the correct queue.
  • While in the queue, there was no place to sit or rest except the floor.  Basically, everyone had to stand in the hot, cramped conditions.
  • There were no helpful announcements to guide the passengers.  All of this led to a good deal of confusion and frustration among all of the passengers.
  • Our flight ended up being delayed by about an hour and a half.  During the delay, there was a gate change.  This resulted in a mad stampede to the other side of the concourse where the new gate was located.  In between the old queue and the new queue were lines of passengers for some other Ryanair flights.  The passengers on our flight had to weave and push their way through the other lines to get to our new spot.  And of course, there was a lot of jockeying by passengers to get into the new queue quickly and improve their boarding position.

Boarding the flight then presented another challenge.  We actually thought for a while that we weren’t going to be allowed onto our flight.  Needless to say, this was quite stressful.

Boarding was through a gate onto a bus that would take us to a remote stand for boarding.  It was being handled by a gentleman who I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his normal job.  I honestly think he worked on the tarmac and was emergency-pressed into service as our gate agent.  His customer service skills were, to say the least, unpolished.  That said, I felt for him as the situation seemed unfair to him as well.

Anyway, we were near the front of the boarding queue, as our flight package included priority boarding.  When we reached the front, the “gate agent” scowled and asked us for something that we didn’t have – some kind of slip or stamp that he said we were supposed to get when we checked our bags.  We tried our best to understand, but we had no idea what he was telling us we might be missing.  With a huge line of people behind us, he gruffly ordered us into a small standing area near the gate and told us we should expect to miss our flight because we didn’t get the slip/stamp/whatever.  We waited, and boarding continued.  Well, more and more people had the same “problem” that we had, and it wasn’t too long before there were at least two dozen people waiting with us in the standing area.  For a while, we continued to be told that we were all going to miss the flight.  However, after most of the rest of the boarding was complete, someone intervened and let all of us board the flight.

This was all a very stressful experience, especially when traveling with family.  To this day, I’m still not sure what we were supposed to do differently.

Finally, the flight itself didn’t do anything to make us feel better.  Flight attendants were stand-off and indifferent.  Sales pitches were constant, and the seats were not comfortable.  We were very happy to arrive in Edinburgh with the Ryanair flight experience behind us.

Quite the contrast, our experience on EasyJet was so smooth as to be completely unmemorable.  Check-in was fine, boarding was fine, seats were fine, and our flight experience was fine.  Our flight was delayed by almost an hour, as the day was gray and rainy with a low ceiling, but other than that, everything was smooth and easy.

On both of these flights, on both carriers, boarding was onto a bus that took us to a remote stand, and we also landed at a remote stand.  I fully expected this on a LCC, so this really didn’t detract from our experience.

Conclusion

European LCCs like Ryanair and EasyJet are great for low fares and hopping around Europe.  I love having this option.  As I detailed above, our flight experience with Ryanair was pretty terrible whereas EasyJet was smooth sailing.  That said, our experiences might have been the exact opposite on another day.  We’ll continue to utilize European LCCs when they make sense, set our expectations correctly, try to follow all of the rules, and hope for the best!

Have you flown Ryanair, EasyJet, or other European LCCs?  What was your experience like?  Please share with other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!

 

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