Review: Ryanair to Dublin – as Bad as its Reputation?

FR Review HAM DUB Sitze

As soon as we mention the word “Ryanair” at Travel-Dealz, the comment section heats up. How dare you support such an airline that squeezes its employees like lemons? “Not even for free” others write and point out that the airline should be boycotted.

We are not Ryanair fans either, be it because of the working conditions mentioned, because the hand luggage costs more than the flight, or because of various other ways of fooling the customers. But sometimes there is no way around the Irish airline. I have therefore tried to approach my flights with Ryanair as unprejudiced as possible. You can read how it went here.

The review refers to a flight from Hamburg to Dublin in January:

  • Flight: FR 8512 5 Hamburg HAM – Dublin DUB
  • Seat: 17A (Exit Row)
  • Plane: Boeing 737-800 EI-DHB (delivered February 2005)
  • Scheduled time of departure: 10:45
  • Scheduled time of arrival: 11:50
  • Flight time: 2 h 5 min
  • Month: January 2022

Booking

For a cheap ticket from Cork, I had to get there somehow. Direct connections were scarce, so I decided on a flight to Dublin, followed by a train ride. The only suitable connection was with Ryanair, so I didn’t have to think long.

The flight was also unbeatably cheap. I tracked the prices via Google Flights for a couple of weeks and finally booked (2 weeks before departure) when the cheapest value ticket only cost €8.

Of course, the Ryanair website tries to sell you all sorts of additional services so that even with an €8 ticket (which does not even cover taxes and fees), they can still make a profit. If you know exactly what you are doing, you can easily deselect the additional options. But the presentation is pretty obtrusive – and nothing works without a user account.

In total I paid for my one-way ticket:

  • €29.50 for the flight in the regular fare (flight + seat reservation + priority = large hand luggage)
  • An additional €6 for a seat at the emergency exit

In the Value fare, the seat at the emergency exit would have cost me €10. However, €4 for the standard seat reservation of the regular fare was deducted from this. So you don’t save anything in the bundle, but you don’t pay extra – as long as you use all components.

A suitcase weighing up to 23 kg would have been surprisingly cheap at €21. However, all these prices can vary greatly depending on the flight. €20 for priority boarding and €40 for checked baggage are also not uncommon.

€36 for the flight, including large hand luggage and extra legroom

Incidentally, I am of the opinion that airlines should always show their prices including large hand luggage. That some airlines (hello Condor) don’t allow much more than a laptop bag as hand luggage is ridiculous. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Check-In

If you reserve a seat at Ryanair, you can check in online free of charge from 60 days to 2 hours before departure. You shouldn’t forget this with Ryanair – because the check-in at the airport costs a whopping €55. Since I had booked my ticket within 60 days, I was able to check in online immediately after booking. To be on the safe side, I saved my boarding pass directly, so I wouldn’t forget it.

Regarding hand luggage, Ryanair officially allows:

  • Personal Item: 40 x 25 x 20 cm
  • Large hand luggage: 55 x 40 x 20 cm (max. 10 kg) – only with priority option

Curiously, however, the airline actively points out that the hand luggage sizer at the airport is significantly larger:

Each passenger can take one small item of carry-on baggage (up to 40cm x 20cm x 25cm) on the plane with them. Our small bag sizers measure 42cm x 20cm x 30cm.

Ryanair Conditions of Carriage

According to the motto “no risk, no fun” I had to take advantage of that. As a personal item, I took my Deuter Giga Bike backpack with me, which at 46 x 31 x 23 cm is actually a bit too big.

On the morning of the flight, my first step was going to the hand luggage sizer at Hamburg Airport. And behold: the backpack was flexible enough to fit exactly into the sizer with a little force. The trolley was actually a centimetre too big, but that was hardly noticeable:

I didn’t have to go to the counter because I already had my boarding pass on my cell phone. The boarding pass only works via the Ryanair app. Apparently, there is no mobile boarding pass via SMS or email.

In fact, no one at Ryanair has ever checked the size of my personal item or hand luggage trolley. Still, when in doubt, I go to a sizer (with no staff) nearby and then snap a photo of how it fits. You never know.

Delay

As for on-time flights, I had no luck on this trip. I was sitting in the Hamburg Airport Lounge when suddenly the Ryanair app said the flight was 30 minutes late. A few minutes later, there was talk of a 75-minute delay, while the monitors at the airport still showed half an hour.

FR HAM DUB delay 1
Delayed departure, but no new boarding time. Unfortunately, this also happens with other airlines

However, the “Gate closes 10:15” display in the Ryanair app was unaffected. To be on the safe side, I left the lounge in good time before the scheduled end of the boarding time. The plane hadn’t even landed in Hamburg at that time – but to be on the safe side, I preferred to sit at the gate for an hour.

I had just reached the gate when an announcement about the delay came through the speakers. At least the employee made good use of the waiting time, checking the vaccination certificate and the Passenger Locator Form for Ireland (still necessary at the time). I could then use scraps of paper that he handed out to prove that the documents had already been checked.

FR Review HAM DUB Non Schengen Bereich 1
Surprisingly pleasant, at least when there is little going on: the non-Schengen area in Hamburg

Luckily, there wasn’t much going on in the small non-Schengen area in Hamburg. I was able to sit there comfortably. I even found a place to work with my laptop without any problems. Ultimately, boarding began around 40 minutes after the scheduled departure time, and we took off a good hour late.

If such a delay had happened with Lufthansa, I could have asked the lounge staff about the actual boarding time. Ultimately, I didn’t think it was bad to sit at the gate for an hour. Nevertheless, it would be nice if Ryanair also updated the boarding time in the app if the delay was known in advance.

Boarding

Boarding finally began 40 minutes after the scheduled departure time. Ryanair splits passengers up between priority boarding and regular boarding, with about a third standing in the priority queue on my flight. The main purpose of the subdivision is to be able to check the hand luggage rules better – and it worked surprisingly well.

I only saw two people trying to bring a cabin trolley in the non-priority line. According to Ryanair’s website, they’d have to pay a fee of €46 to check it in at the gate. I don’t know if they really had to pay.

To my surprise, boarding was done with a gangway and not via the apron. Apparently, there is no other option in Hamburg’s non-Schengen area, otherwise, they would certainly have saved themselves a few euros.

After boarding was complete, many passengers moved to other seats. No wonder, after all, seats without a paid reservation are automatically assigned. Rows 16 to the rear end of the plane were almost completely filled up. In rows 5 – 11, on the other hand, not a single passenger was seated. The staff certainly didn’t seem to mind if someone switched places.

Cabin

The plane was almost 20 years old and is therefore no longer the youngest. You could see that in the slightly yellowed overhead bins. But nothing that would bother me.

Otherwise, it is noticeable that Ryanair does not have seat pockets. I don’t know if the missing net saves that much money, but apparently, every cent counts with Ryanair. Not that it bothers me much, but since my last Ryanair flight 10 years ago, I’d forgotten about it.

FR Review HAM DUB Sitze
Ryanair Boeing 737-800 cabin

Since there is no seat pocket, there is also no safety card. Instead, the information is printed on the bright yellow headrest of the front seat.

Seat Comfort

Normally, the seat pitch at Ryanair is between 71 and 76 cm. That’s not much – but not worse than with Eurowings, Lufthansa, etc.

In any case, it paid off for me to take the emergency exit seat. I was able to stretch out my legs there without any problems, and my two adjacent seats remained free. So a total of 10 euros was well invested. I could have moved free of charge, but who knows when booking how empty the plane is?

FR Review HAM DUB Exit Row
The two rows at the emergency exit

There was no armrest by the window – at least on the emergency exit. I even see that as an advantage, because I could lean against the wall without any problems.

FR Review HAM DUB Exit Row Sitzabstand
Plenty of legroom in the exit row

A word about the seating comfort: the seats are of course hardly padded and accordingly uncomfortable. The whole thing wasn’t worse than with Lufthansa, but rather a little bit more comfortable. I also had the impression that the headrest was a little larger than at Lufthansa. Overall comfort was at least acceptable for a 2-hour flight.

Food & Drinks

Ryanair does not have a printed menu. Instead, all food & drinks can be viewed in the app. There I came across the Meal Deal, which didn’t make a bad impression at all for the price of €10. For a total of €10 I ordered a menu consisting of:

  • Barilla Pasta Bolognese
  • Pringles Salt & Vinegar
  • Monster Energy Drink

20 minutes after takeoff, the food landed on my table. And if I’m honest: For the price of €10, I was quite satisfied. The pasta was a bit dry and Barilla is rather stingy with the sauce. But I didn’t expect more.

FR Review HAM DUB Essen
Meal deal for €10 with pasta, Pringles and a drink

The whole thing would probably taste a little better out of the microwave than out of the oven. But for €10 incl. snack and drink, it’s a good deal. The highlight, of course, was the vinegar-flavoured Pringles.

Scratch Cards & Duty-Free

Of course, Ryanair wouldn’t be Ryanair without their scratch cards. The typical “offers” could not be missing: Three scratch cards for €4, 7 for €10 or even 15 for €15 (50% discount).

However, I found the marketing of scratch cards to be extremely misleading. Among other things, it said:

Scratchcards […], the proceeds of which go to charity

[…] on behalf of the charities, thank you for your generosity

As far as I’m aware, only a fraction of the proceeds goes to charities. So this self-praise about how generous it is to sell scratch cards was quite annoying to me.

Other items such as perfumes were also sold. The crew insisted on listing the supposed discounts compared to the street price for each brand. Apparently, internal sales pressure at Ryanair and Lauda is extremely high.

Typical duty-free offer. I didn’t buy the model plane this time

The flight seemed a bit like an infomercial – similar to a flight with American Airlines, where they are constantly trying to sell credit cards.

Service

As far as service goes, there’s not much to complain about per se. If you don’t order anything from the onboard shop and ignore the duty-free sales pitch, you can hardly expect any interaction with the crew. But at least some employees spoke a bit of German, and my wishes (including a glass of ice cubes for the energy drink) were quickly fulfilled.

But there is another aspect that I consider part of the service, at least in a remote sense:

The Alcohol Thing

As soon as I was boarding in Hamburg, I noticed a group of young adults who were apparently going on a drinking trip to Dublin. The first bottles of alcohol were opened at the airport, and the same thing continued on the plane.

Good business for the flight attendants. By selling alcoholic beverages from the bistro menu, they certainly made sums in the three-digit euro range. However, this made the group increasingly angry and the noise level louder. The crew apparently had no objections to the consumption of bottles they had brought with them.

Admittedly, things were still comparatively civilized on the plane. But what I can’t get out of my head is a situation after arriving in Dublin: A member of the drinking squad stumbled off the stairs as they got off the plane and hit his head on the ground. The result was a serious laceration, so his holiday began in the hospital.

I don’t want to assign any blame here. However, I have the hope that other airlines might have intervened earlier with this excessive alcohol consumption and prevented worse things from happening. The employees at Ryanair are probably more inclined to let something like this happen. After all, they are particularly dependent on the sales commission.

FR Review HAM DUB Aussenansicht
Boeing 737 stairs. It hurts to fall down here.

Extras

There is not much to write here. Contrary to media statements, toilets at Ryanair are still free of charge. They are certainly financed by the large advertising banners on the overhead bins. You feel a bit like you are in a flying billboard.

FR Review HAM DUB Safety
Ryanair only: safety instructions on the headrest and advertising on the overhead bins
Ryanair Short-Haul Within Europe
  • Booking
  • Check-In & Boarding
  • Cabin & Seat Comfort
  • Food & Drinks
  • Service
2.9
Conclusion

Overall, all my Ryanair flights so far have lived up to expectations. And if you are honest, there is hardly any difference to Lufthansa regarding the in-flight product. Ryanair may have a few more banner ads and no free water, but that’s about it.

I’m a bit surprised that Ryanair is comparatively generous regarding hand luggage. Sure, a trolley costs extra. But at least I haven’t experienced it so far that the exact centimetres were measured. There is even an official goodwill policy.

The surcharges for extras are also quite fair. My €8 ticket including large hand luggage, a seat at the emergency exit, a warm meal, drink & chips became a ticket of almost €50. But it is also true that only a few passengers book such cheap tickets. Even with Ryanair, a short-term ticket sometimes costs several hundred euros.

For the treatment of the staff alone, I will only consider Ryanair and Wizzair as a last resort. But when the only alternative is a connecting flight for 10 times the price, it’s hard to say no.

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Comment (1)

  1. Jack says:

    Main advantage of Lufthansa on short flights is for sure arriving to the major airport instead of secondary airports served with LCC. And the free bottle of water and chocolate is also nice touch. And for StarAlliance Gold Members the priority services (check-in, security line and boarding) as well as lounge access can be deal-makers.

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