As Bad as it Looks? Ryanair Flight Review

Being the avgeek I was, I was sitting at home on a cold Tuesday night, laptop on, browsing cheap deals on Kayak when I noticed that I had never actually flown Ryanair. I was stumped, this incredibly successful and influential low cost European giant and I had never had the full O’Leary experience. I only had 1 lesson at college for the next day and so I plugged in tomorrow’s date and BAM! London Gatwick – Dublin – London Gatwick for only £35! Result! By far the cheapest return airfare I have ever bought. By this time, it was nearly 11pm at night so I decided to get an early night for the flight to Dublin the next day.

An early morning lesson at college surpassed and I was on the Gatwick Express to the Airport, to embark on my low cost adventure! Ryanair uses south terminal at Gatwick, personally my favourite out of the 2. Check in was done the night before to avoid the dreaded £50 airport check in fee. By this point it was late morning and the security lines were tiny, I was through in a few minutes and inside Nandos for an early lunch. After some inside information from friends that work on the ramp at Gatwick, I headed to gate 14M, to await the arrival of my 7-year-old Boeing 737-800 EI-EMH, sadly no sky interior on this one. Only registration FXX are fitted with the new sky interior. I arrived at the gate, but there was no yellow and blue 737 to greet me, the aircraft was in fact holding due to worsening weather conditions down here on the ground. The winds today were incredibly strong and as I awaited the arrival of EI-EMH I saw several go-arounds and missed approaches. Then, 30 minutes late, the aircraft pulled onto stand, and within minutes’ priority boarding had begun. Now I was curious to see if Ryanair would enforce the proriety boarding and to some extent they did, but by the end it was just chaos and it didn’t matter what priority you had.

Ryanair do not use jetways, as a cost cutting measure, so it was a short walk out onto the apron and over to the aircraft in the pouring rain. As I walked up the steps into the aircraft, I received somewhat of a cold welcome from the most senior cabin crew member, and made my way to my pre-reserved seat, 6A. The most expensive seats at the front seem to be the emptiest, as a lot of passengers avoided reserving seats and were all pre-assigned seats in the rear. Ryanair’s 737s are configured with 189 seats in an all economy configuration with a width of 17” and pitch of 29.9” (no recline). I was quickly becoming un-attracted to the cabin, the seats were sticky and the cabin felt tacky and stuffy.  The blight yellow branding tainted my vision, quite literally. However, a welcoming briefing from the captain was a nice surprise.

We were due to push back with a delay of 20minutes, followed by a short taxi out to 27L for departure towards Dublin. We were warned of a ‘Sporty” take-off, and it sure lived up to its description. After 5 minutes of what I can only describe as being in a washing machine, we broke through the cloud layer to the relief of my neighbor.

Ryanair’s vast route network

The flight itself was mostly uneventful, using the magazines handed out on the ground I could order from the on-board food and drinks menu. Prices were not ridiculously high and somewhat reasonable. However, I voted against buying on-board today and decided to wait for some hot food in Dublin. After another short briefing from the captain, we began our descent into Dublin, conditions similar to London, so we knew it was going to get interesting to say the least. After a spectacular landing by the Captain in blustery conditions, we pulled up on stand with only 10 minutes of delay. I managed to bag myself a small flight deck visit and the captain left me grab a few shots before I de-boarded.

Small flight-deck visit on the ground at Dublin

Now, on the ground at Dublin, I had to make my way through to flight connections to catch my flight back to London Gatwick. Passport control in Dublin was smooth and efficient, and security near enough the same. Dublin has quite a variety of restaurants on offer and I selected Burger King as my restaurant of choice as all I wanted was some tasty comfort food. Dublin Airport also has small stands dotted around the airport where you can pick up a water for only €1, a great way hydrate without spending loads in WHSMITHS or on-board the aircraft.

FR126 to London Gatwick, that’s me.

I checked flight radar to see what registration my flight home was going to be and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was going to be flying on EI-FTC! A 1year old 737-800 equipped with the brand new sky interior and new cabin. My flight was also on time and priority boarding was enforced to a T! As I made my way across the apron to the 737 and up the stairs, I was greeted by one of the nicest crew members, I was directed to my seat and boy was I surprised. The new cabin and sky interior eclipsed my impression of Ryanair when I boarded this morning’s aircraft. It felt spacious and the yellow had been turned down considerably. The new thin seats offered more legroom than the old interior.

Boarding EI-FTC

 

After a short taxi to Runway 28 we took off in the evening sun back towards London. After the crew were released and came down asking for hot food orders, I asked for the pancakes but they had none on-board, shame! Instead I ordered from the cold trolley, some pretzels and some lemon drink. Total €6.50 which is quite expensive for what it is, I really should have stocked up in Dublin.

Again, like the last, most of the cruise was uneventful and surprisingly relaxing. I had a full 2 rows to myself! (not that I needed that many seats). As we began our descent into Gatwick we hit some pretty nasty weather and some heavy rain, although the conditions had drastically improved since take-off they were still not ideal. We landed on time at Gatwick and took the bus back to the terminal.

This 2nd flight had been a real game changer, the new cabin, sky interior and welcoming crew had left me with no impression that Ryanair was a low cost carrier. I had very much enjoyed this flight and would jump at a similar opportunity again. However, if I was basing my review solely on the first flight I would not fly Ryanair again! Therefore, I finish this review with mixed feelings, its luck of the draw really with the interior and the crew, but hopefully soon in the future the old interior will begin to be phased out of the fleet, and as for the crew that is down to pure luck.