An Elite Status Junkie’s Guide to Surviving Ryanair

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It’s easy to dislike Ryanair but, for all its flaws, it does at least help to drive down airfares across Europe. Of course, it is precisely that competitive spirit that has led airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa to cut back on service along with their fares, much to many readers’ chagrin. Despite that, some of us remain (snobbishly?) loyal to the major Oneworld, Star Alliance and (occasionally) Skyteam airlines.

But occasionally Ryanair offers a fare that is simply too low to ignore. Or perhaps they fly direct to/from a secondary airport that is precisely the one that you need. Despite my reputation, I have quietly snuck onto a Ryanair flight once or twice recently, and decided to put together a guide to surviving Ryanair as an elite status junkie.

Ignore the Truly Ridiculous Airports

As an elite status junkie, you don’t want to take the coach with a bunch of students and backpackers to/from an airport hundreds of miles away from your final destination. But luckily Ryanair is gradually adding routes to more central airports. So just ignore those ridiculous airports that are misleadingly labelled.

Some of the airports you should just simply avoid (unless you are visiting the nearby countryside) are:

  • Frankfurt Hahn
  • Brussels Charleroi
  • Paris Beauvais or Vatry
  • Barcelona Girona or Reus
  • Venice Treviso
  • Stockhom Svasta or Vasteras
  • Oslo Torp
  • Leeds Bradford (just kidding Joe…)

The Booking Process

Once you’ve found a decent fare between two decent airports, you might get started on the booking process. Once you’ve skipped over the over-priced “Plus pack”, you should be shown the baggage policy.

Don’t even think twice about it. Click on the button and pay the £6 for Priority Boarding! Forget about being cheap. Ignore the newspaper headlines creating a fake scandal about taking away your carry-on allowance. Pay your six quid and you are guaranteed a more pleasant Ryanair experience with your cabin bags sure to join you on board. Find a different flight if Priority Boarding is sold out…

Seat Selection

Any seat is good enough, right? Especially on a short European flight…

Not for an elite status junkie! Luckily many other Ryanair passengers are likely to be pinching pennies, leaving you free to choose the first row…

Or the emergency exit…

A front row seat on British Airways is going to cost you more than £20, since you’ll have to pay for Club Europe. And the emergency exit row is reserved for Silvers and Golds on British Airways. But those 600 or 1,500 tier points undoubtedly cost more than £14 per flight…

At the Airport

With the declining onboard service of British Airways, Lufthansa, etc. it can often be hard to distinguish between a low cost carrier and the traditionally full service airlines. But on the ground is a different matter, at least for those enjoying a level of elite status that provides lounge access even when travelling in economy. Being able to access a lounge, relax a bit, and enjoy complimentary food and drink pre-flight… that can be the difference between a relatively mild travel day and a stressful one.

Although you won’t be accessing an airline lounge when flying Ryanair, you can certainly pay for lounges operated by third parties at most major airports. Not quite as nice, but still more peaceful than the airport concourse!

Loungebuddy is a good source for information about pay-per-entry lounges. There are also a dizzying number of schemes designed to provide you access to airport lounges, in exchange for a monthly or annual fee – Priority Pass is perhaps the most well-known of the bunch.

The Bottom Line

Who needs to worry about elite status when you can fly Ryanair and:

  • Fly to a number of major airports, perhaps from an airport more convenient to you (especially outside London)
  • Pay for priority boarding and guaranteed carry-on luggage
  • Pay for the front row or emergency exit
  • Enjoy a lounge pre-flight

Of course, add all of the above together and your flight might come out substantially more expensive than flying on BA or Lufthansa. But often it doesn’t, so why not piece together your own “elite” Ryanair experience…


P.S. If you’re wondering what happened to the “real” Craig Sowerby, I must have banged my head whilst skiing…  😉


  1. Gordon Simpson says

    Great article Craig, even if I will be filing it under “never gonna happen”. Whilst I’m actually glad RyainAir exists and glad of articles like this that keep it popular and encourage more people to “give it a try”, I will confess here and now, I despise this airline, it’s odious CEO and am very happy to claim I have never and will never set foot on one of these blue buckets. You say sobbish loyalty to full service airlines ? – HELL YES, and I am totally accepting of that fact. The abject hell I’ve listened to from my family and friends that have used this “airline” are more than enough to confirm to me that there IS no fare low enough to make me use it- the flight could be free, and I’d still rather walk. I fully accept I have a ‘bordering on unhealthy’ distain for O’Leary and his “service”, but on the plus side, anything that keeps more seats available on ‘proper’ airlines, is a great thing so YaY for RyanAir 👍🏻

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Cheers Gordon. Unfortunately I’ve come around to hating Vueling even more, so in my case I often am faced with the options of a) really bad (FR) b) even worse (VY) c) crazy expensive connecting flight via London or Frankfurt.

      Luckily Iberia Plus keeps the promos coming, so it works out the same “cost” to fly half way round the world in Business Class instead of a low cost carrier to Greece or somewhere.

  2. Richard says

    Why the shade thrown at Southend Airport so hard? Sure, its not the closest airport to London but we are comparing it to Stansted and Luton here.

    If you are getting yourself to these airports by train and from the London direction, your options are:
    St Pancras – Luton Airport Parkway: 30 mins or 40 mins train + 10 mins bus, £15.10 + 2.10 (Cash only..) bus fare, 5 trains/hour
    Liverpool St – Stansted: 45-49 mins, £18.10, 3 trains/hour
    Liverpool St – Southend Airport Station : 52-54 minutes, £16.70/£17.40, 3 trains/hour

    So getting to the terminal door at Southend you are 5/10 minutes slower than to the other two – hardly a slam dunk especially considering the lack of faffing around on a luton shuttle bus.
    Then you have all of the advantages of it being a small airport! And not the zoos that are Stansted or Luton!!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Fair point. I wasn’t intending to shade SEN that hard, simply point out that inconvenient airport to inconvenient airport adds a huge amount of aggravation to your journey. The same point could be made about LTN and STN.

      I only chose London to Barcelona because I know that Ryanair offers multiple airports on both ends. London is probably the worst city to fly Ryanair to/from because you do have substantially better alternatives.

      • Richard says

        London to Barcelona is an excellent one to demonstrate this with. And you are very right that Reus is a shambles to fly to.

  3. Pangolin says

    This is sound advice and the list of horrorshow airports in the middle of nowhere is spot on.

    I use Ryanair very occasionally (max 1-2 trips/year), usually when there is a direct flight to some holiday destination with a small airport (e.g. RHO) that would save a multi-hour layover compared to taking a Star Alliance flight.

    At least they no longer land in Bratislava, Slovakia, when you fly to “Vienna”. Even for Ryanair that was taking the mick!

  4. Brian says

    Craig, I think you’ve missed a trick with Fast track security. This is transformational to the journey at busy airports like LHR, BCN and MAN. Much less so at SEN – where the whole thing is fast track.
    I really don’t get the paying for a seat assignment, but each to their own.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Yes, I suppose I did miss researching fast track security as part of the Ryanair experience. Although isn’t it an airport thing, so hard to generalise?

      Anyhow my experience is that fast track is often just as slow as regular security. But then again I’m never flying from MAN or STN, which I’ve heard are nightmares.

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