Ryanair is the budget airline that everyone loves to hate — and Ryanair is well aware of this. In fact, they use it to their advantage: I’m pretty sure that those rumours that Ryanair is thinking about charging passengers to use the toilet were started to get people talking — after all, all publicity is good publicity.

We’ve used Ryanair a lot, and our experiences have varied widely. Recently, though, we had an unusually good experience with them.

We’d decided to visit the Canary Islands and (after trawling through many budget airline and flight aggregator websites) found cheap flights from Seville to Lanzarote and from Fuerteventura to Milan. Neither of the routes was exactly what we wanted, but they were close enough, and the transfers on either side were not terrible (thanks toandfromtheairport.com). So we booked.

My first surprise came during the booking process. I’d mentally added €10 per person to the advertised price, since Ryanair charges extra for everything, including paying by credit card and checking in online (which is compulsory). However, after wading through a hundred or so pages of advertising (want to hire a car? Want to buy a suitcase? Want to upgrade to an allocated seat?) I emerged at the payment screen, which displayed a price that was exactly what I’d been quoted at the beginning of the process. I was stunned. Of course, it didn’t display any of the details I wanted to check before handing over €100, and I had to click back through the ads to make sure I’d typed my name correctly and was buying a flight to the right destination. But it was great to not be hit with compulsory extra charges right before paying — looks like they’ve finally been forced to include them in the display price. Nice.

There's nothing like a wingside seat.

There’s nothing like a wingside seat.

Since we travel with carry-on-sized bags only, we don’t need to visit a check-in desk at the airport to drop off our bags. Instead, we checked in online a few days before flying and saved the boarding passes as PDFs. Then, of course, we had to find a place to print them, but that wasn’t too difficult.

As a non-EU citizen, I do need to have my documents checked by a Ryanair employee before going through security, and Seville airport had a “visa check” desk conveniently located opposite the bag drop desk, which meant we didn’t have to hunt all over the airport for it or wait in the bag drop line for half an hour as we have in the past.

Security was straightforward and we got two of the ten or so seats available at the gate — most passengers were waiting in a line that stretched past us. As it started to move, we joined it, and a Ryanair employee made me redistribute the contents of the extra bag I was carrying — it mostly had food in it. Luckily, I was allowed to carry the rice crackers in my hand because they just wouldn’t have fit in my overstuffed backpack. Also luckily, they didn’t make Craig stuff his backpack in the regulation metal frame, because it’s probably just a bit too wide — we haven’t tried and don’t plan to.

We strode across the tarmac and up the back stairs, and found seats over the wing. Most of the overhead lockers were already full, but we found a couple of spaces several rows ahead. The flight took off on time and everything went pretty smoothly: the safety demonstration, distribution of magazines, food trolley with tiny portions of food and drink at extortionate prices.

Price: Depends on route, can be as low as €15.
Location: Europe and Morocco
Extras: Can also book a hire car or hotel, or purchase insurance and other items during booking.
More info: ryanair.com

Maybe I dozed off but I didn’t notice the normally very noticeable ads for scratchcards or duty free, but I couldn’t avoid the ding ding dingding of the self-congratulatory message that was broadcast after landing, informing us that we’d landed on time. In fact, we were 15 minutes early. I was pissed off — if they’d just given us a real arrival time rather than a made-up one I could have investigated a bus transfer and saved the cost of a taxi from the airport. But since we were scheduled to land at 10.05pm and the last bus was at 10pm, it hadn’t been an option. As it was we landed at 9.50 — plenty of time!

On the whole, though, Ryanair isn’t all that bad. They tend to arrive “on time” and they fly routes that either aren’t covered by other airlines or are prohibitively expensive. And of course, the prices are great — which more or less makes up for all the hoop jumping they make you do.

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