Some might already know my dislike towards the budget airlines and especially Ryanair. It’s the whole story of non-existent service and rather ridiculous extra charges for nearly everything. I’m not going to bore you with details and have a rant and rave about it, but fact is that there are some journeys that, unfortunately, leave you with no other option but Ryanair. This little set of instructions will show you my technique of surviving this rather unpleasant experience and is based on my own experiences and proven in practice a lot of times on budget and in fact non-budget airlines as well.

Key goals:

  • Be as time-efficient as possible.
  • Spend the least amount of time possible in undesired places (airport and airplane).

Key condition:

  • Hand luggage only.
  • Checked-in online.
  • Travelling alone.

What to do

1. Arrive at the airport last-minute

Ryanair check-in zone, Edinburgh

Photo: belboo / Flickr

I know there are loads of people that are rather nervous and panicky and are trying to arrive at the airport sometimes even 3 hours before the scheduled departure of a short-haul flight. There’s absolutely no need to do so! If you are at a large airport, at any point of queuing (in this case Security) priority is given to passengers who’s flight is about to depart. That’s why, for example, in LHR you always have security agents shouting out destinations to people in security queues. Now guess what – if it is your destination you get fast tracked.

Bingo! One queue avoided.

Just remember that those security agents shouting out destinations are not everywhere (i.e. STN, LTN), but you can always ask a security agent to fast track you showing that your flight is about to depart.

2. Prepare for security

While (if) you’re queuing at security, it is the perfect time to put all your bits and pieces in the pockets of your jacket (coins, keys, etc.). Don’t do this when standing in front of the x-ray belt – being slow annoys the hell out of everyone else. The ultimate aim is to walk up to the belt, put you bag in the plastic tray, take out the plastic bag with your toiletries (don’t dig it in too deep), take off your jacket, put it in the tray and you’re done.

Couple of notes:

  • Shoes: Only remove if asked to do so. It creates delays and security is rarely asking people to take them off anyway.
  • Belts: Make sure you wear a belt that “Doesn’t Beep”. If security asks you – just say confidently “Naah, It’s fine!” pointing at the magnetic gate. Very rarely a security officer will still insist you to take it off.
  • Magnetic Gate: The only thing you need to do is make eye-contact with a security officer of the same sex (it’s a legal thing) and head straight through to the other side of the x-ray belt. No need to stop and ask is everything is OK and can you go through.

3. Don’t queue

Reading a book

Photo: giuliaduepuntozero / Flickr

How many times have you seen a massive queue at the boarding gates sometimes 20 minutes before the gate is even open. That is the biggest waste of time ever. Plane is there and there will be a seat for you and trust me – you will get a better seat which will come useful later.

My advise? Sit somewhere with a direct view of the boarding gate (and the queue), read a book or have a glass of wine and as the last person goes through, walk up to the gate and board rather stress-free. Time-wise pay attention to the writings on departure boards vs reality. Very soon you’ll find that:

  • “Boarding” means that people are queuing. Kids, prams, elderly etc..
  • “Final Call” means that only quarter of the general queue might be gone at this point.
  • “Gate Closed” means that there are some 25% of the queue left.

4. Choose your seat

Inside a Ryanair plane

Photo: Michal Osmenda / Flickr

You might see that in Ryanair flights there are at least 3 front rows which are reserved for – well that’s the thing – nobody actually knows. This is to do with over-booking – all airlines do this. They issue more tickets than there are seats on the airplane. Ryanair has a low number on no-shows so they have to keep some seats aside for the overbooked tickets. There’s also this balance theory which allegedly saves couple of litres of fuel. Proper airlines don’t reserve such seats and would normally upgrade passengers to next available class if the flight has been overbooked and everyone showed up.

Those reserved seats on Ryanair planes will only be used when other seats are full. And if you step on the plane as the last person you stand a big chance of getting one of the front seats. The seat to choose has to be:

  • as close to front as possible
  • as close to the aisle as possible

Rule of thumb – if everyone is to start walking out, you want as few people in front of you as possible. 2C or 2D are the best choice. and 3C is better then 2F.

5. Arrival

Passengers leaving Ryanair jet

Photo: bigpresh / Flickr

So you’re in the front-most aisle seat with hand luggage only and the plane has landed. Main goal is to be the first at security. Especially if you’re flying to a small airport where this might be the only flight landing at the time. Be prepared for the moment the seatbelt signs go off to stand up, grab your bag and head up to the exit which is not even open yet. Now also note where you store your bag. If not next to you then in front of you. I.e. you’re in aisle 4 and your bag being above aisle 6 is not going to work. Remember nearly no one sits in aisles 1-3 so the overhead lockers should be empty. Stick your bag above aisles 1-2 and your’e safe.

The result

Ryanair airplane

Photo: Andy_Mitchell_UK / Flickr

  • Minimum amount of time spent on the plane
  • Queues avoided or ignored
  • Good seats
  • No time wasted in the airports

There are obviously exceptions like STN where queues at security are always huge and unless you’re crew there is now way to avoid them. Here are some of my record times: TXL – 3 min; LCY – 5 min; RIX – 5 min; BHX – 6 min.

And remember – don’t hold me liable if you miss a flight. This is only a theory that I’m pushing to extreme. But to note I have never missed a flight. Hope this comes useful to some of you fellow travellers.

Note: This post was written by guest blogger Stefan Bagiensky. Stefan travels frequently for both work and leisure.

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  1. Good advice; I do pretty much all of these things already and fly Ryanair all the time. I have never missed a flight either.

    You are right to point out that STN does not fast-track late arrivals. I know people who have missed flights from there because they have been stood in long security lines.

  2. Ryanair is THE WORST. When we flew them in the fall, they charged my mom 250 GBP to reissue a boarding pass because I used the name on her US ID which is First, Maiden Name, Married Name, and her passport read First, Middle Name, Maiden Name–even though she was flying with both IDs, they made us pay the fee (which was far more than our three tickets from Edinburgh to Dublin) just to reprint a freakin’ piece of paper. Hate, hate, hate that airline.

    • Arnis Supe says:

      I might have been lucky, but I’ve never had any trouble with them. Once I was traveling with a US citizen who also had a EU ID card (not valid for traveling at that time, though) and we both checked in online using the ID cards. We both managed to get on the plane although they would have been right to deny boarding for him.

  3. Tony says:

    A lot of people slag off Ryanair but I’ve never had a problem with them like I have with more expensive airlines like British airways and virgin. On other airlines I’ve been told I can’t fly due to overbooking- I don’t see that as my fault. I know people that have been told to pay more money by ryanair for large luggage- i find it hard to sympathise with them as ryanair clearly states its dimensions for luggage allowance and doesn’t mislead us to believe differently. When a friend of mine thought they had lost their ticket with another airline they were told that they would have to purchase another ticket. When I thought I had lost my Ryanair ticket all I had to do was find an internet cafe to print out another copy as they are issued electronically. People moan about the lack of service with Ryanair as you have to check in online and you are not given complimentary food on the flight- well who likes to queue up for check in at the airport and who likes to eat oversalted manky food on planes when you can purchase a sandwich from the WHSmith airport shop? Yes Ryanair has its faults but I think it’s good value for money if you follow their rules/policies.

    • Arnis Supe says:

      Hi Tony! I can only agree with you. I have never had any bad experiences with them and I’ve always wondered why are people carrying 5 bags etc. mad when they are told they will have to pay for them. All this information and contant reminders from the crew are not just time filler. Regarding food – I always eat on the ground. Ryanair doesn’t have so long flights that one can not survive without any food.

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