Ryanair’s Dirt Cheap Flights: But How and Why So Cheap?

why is ryanair so cheap

Ryanair is known for cheap fares within Europe, but how can Ryanair offer low fares when most of their competitors charge ten times as much?

If you are planning on flying Ryanair anytime soon, you may want to keep reading so you fully understand what you are getting yourself into.

TL;DR: Ryanair’s base ticket prices are extremely cheap to attract customers. But then they charge extra fees for nearly everything to drive up revenue – baggage, seat selection, printing boarding passes, etc. They cut costs by flying point-to-point instead of major hubs and having quick turnarounds. The cheap base fares cover the basics then fees boost profit. Essentially they lure budget travelers in with low fares but the final ticket cost can be much higher after all Ryanair’s fees.

Additional Fees

Ryanair advertises base fares to attract budget travelers, but it is important to realize that base fare will get you, and a single (very) small bag onto the aircraft. Everything else will cost you an additional fee.

Recently Ryanair started offering different fare levels. If you pay for a higher fare level, you are essentially pre-paying a few of the additional fees that they charge.

If you stick with their “Value” ticket, you can expect to pay for the following additional fees.

➡️ Airport Check-in Fee

All passengers will have to pay the airport check-in fee.

The fee is €55 and will be charged for each segment of your itinerary. Meaning, if you transfer flights you will have to pay €110, each direction.

* If you opt for the more expensive “Plus” or “Flexi-Plus” fares, the airport check-in fee is included.

➡️ Boarding Pass Reprint Fee

If you forget to print your boarding pass at home, you will be slapped with a €20 fee at the airport to have it re-printed for you. This applies to all fare levels.

➡️ Carry-On Luggage Fees

To bring a traditional carry-on bag you will have to pay extra; between €6 and €36 if you book the carry-on in advance. If you wait until you are at the airport that cost increases to between €20 and €38.

*If you book a “Regular” or “Flexi Plus” fare you are able to bring a carry-on bag with you for no additional charge. (Since you basically already paid for it in the higher fare price.).

➡️ Checked-Luggage Fees

If you would like to check a bag, you can either book a “Plus” or “Flexi Plus” fare, or you can pay the extra fee separately.

If you book it in advance a 10kg Checked bag will cost, you between €12 and €30. If you wait until you are at the airport, you will have to pay €24 to €30.

If you somehow make it to the gate with a 10kg bag and did not already pay the Carry-on fee, it will cost you €46 to gate-check the bag, and you will be forced to pay this fee.

If you would like to check a larger, 20kg, bag you will pay €19 – €60 in advance and €45 to €60 at the airport, depending on the route.

➡️ Excess Luggage Fee

Ryanair is strict about their weight limits (which are already lower than usual). If your bag is overweight, you will be charged an extra €9 euros per kilo if you purchase it online up to 2 hours prior to the flight, and an extra €11 per kilo if you find out your bag is overweight at check-in.

➡️ Oversized and Specialized Luggage Fees

If you are traveling with any larger-than-life luggage you will have to pay a fee. The Ryanair website specifies the following items:

  • Golf Clubs = €30 in advance, €40 at the airport
  • Musical Instruments = €50 in advance, €65 at the airport.
  • Ski Equipment = €45 in advance, €50 at the airport
  • Sports equipment = €35 in advance, €40 at the airport
  • Larger sports equipment = €55 in advance, €65 at the airport
  • Bike = €60 in advance, €75 at the airport.

➡️ Seat Selection Fee

If you want to select your seat there will be more fees involved. Unless you book a “Flexi Plus” fare, which allows you to select “any seat except the pilot’s” you may have to pay extra to get you favorite seat.

If you booked a “Value” ticket here’s what you can expect to pay:

  • For extra leg room, you will pay €11-33
  • For a seat at the front of the plane, you will pay €7-21
  • For Standard seats, you will pay €4.50-15.50

If you book a “Regular” or “Plus” ticket a standard seat selection is included in your fare.

➡️ Mandatory Family Seat Fee

Traveling with kids? Maybe not on Ryanair!

All families traveling with children under the age of 12 will be charged a mandatory seat fee so they can keep the family together. The fee costs €6-10. Only one parent must pay the fee if you are only flying with one child. If you are a family of four, both parents will have to pay.

There is also an “infant fee” of €25 per infant.

➡️ Insurance Fee

If you are flying with valuables, it is recommended to pay the €50 insurance fee to ensure your items are insured against any damage.

➡️ Other Random Fees

There are other random fees that you can pay including, but not limited to:

  • A Missed departure fee of €100 for missing your flight
  • A “Therapeutic Oxygen Reservation Fee” of €55

And of course, they also charge fees for the things other airlines charge fees for, including name change fees, flight change fees, and so on and so forth.

We highly recommend looking at the full list of fees before you book a Ryanair flight.

Point-to-Point Routes

Ryanair operates point-to-point routes, meaning it flies directly from one smaller airport to another: avoiding the complexity, and cost, of major hub airports.

When airlines operate out of major hub airports, they have to employ extra ground staff to ensure operations run smoothly, which runs up the cost.

There are also additional fees associated with running an airline operation at major hub airports. Most airports charge airlines for specific landing slots, they also charge fees and taxes for carriage. Airlines pass these fees onto passengers when setting their rates. Flying into smaller, less desirable airports saves Ryanair money.

That’s why they fly to Nuremberg instead of Munich, or Stanstead instead of Heathrow, or Glasgow instead of Edinburg.

Quick Turnarounds

Quick turnarounds refer to how quickly a plane can be deplaned and reboarded between flights. The faster they can turn the plane around and put it back in the air the more money the airline can profit.

After all, a plane in the air is a plane making money.

Fleet Standardization

Ryanair only flies the Boeing 737. Fleet standardization helps cut costs by streamlining training for flight crews, pilots, and mechanics. It also cuts overall aircraft maintenance costs.

Built-In Stairs

Ryanair planes have built-in stairs which helps save the airlines money but cutting fees associated with leasing gates that have jetways.

Instead, passengers typically have to go up and down the stairs and be ferried to the plane from the terminal. So, if you don’t mind lugging your suitcase up a steep set of steps, it will help you save money.

Cabin Crew Compensation

With a starting hourly rate of £18 (about €20 or $22), Ryanair is not among the highest-paying airlines in the world. By keeping crew compensation low, the airline saves money.

So just keep that in mind if you choose to fly Ryanair and be extra nice to your flight attendants.

Conclusion: Why is Ryanair so Cheap?

Ryanair is able to offer cheap base fares because of its cost-cutting business model, but also because they charge their passengers a bunch of extra fees for services that are considered “standard” elsewhere in the aviation industry.

That said, Ryanair can be a great way to see Europe if you happen to be a broke undergrad student, who doesn’t need much more than a small backpack’s worth of stuff to survive a short trip.

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