This review covers my bad flight experience straight out of hell travelling from Chania (CHQ) to Budapest (BUD) with Ryanair.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Ryanair: Love it or hate it!
There is no other airline in the world that can evoke so many different thoughts and opinions than Ryanair.
It’s certainly an airline I always had mixed feelings about.
I have profited massively from low Ryanair fares over the last couple of years, once even flying from Eindhoven to Dublin for the grand sum of €0.02 for a return ticket.
However, I also had my share of dreadful Ryanair flights which were characterised by unclear hand luggage restrictions, completely random enforcement of their own rules and an overall bad in-flight experience.
My first Ryanair flight of the day from Bucharest to Chania was a pleasant experience as there were only a handful of other passengers and the crew was delightful.
However, the second flight from Chania to Budapest later that day turned out to be the mirror opposite.
After a fun little stopover in Chania it was time to take the bus back to the airport for my Ryanair flight to Budapest.
Chania’s airport terminal has been fully revamped and modernised a few years ago and now makes for a decent place to depart from.
The check-in hall is bright and spacious and on this autumn evening the queues at security were light.
Once airside, you will find a large duty free shop and some food and beverage outlets in the departures hall.
Although the Ryanair experience was good so far, it all began to turn south when boarding began.
As is customary on Ryanair, priority boarding was announced first and about 100 passengers immediately mobbed the gate.
Of course, people buy priority boarding not because of this particular perk but rather because it allows you to bring a large cabin bag on board.
If you want to bring a trolley bag on board, you therefore have to buy priority boarding as the “free” carry-on baggage allowance only allows you to take a small bag on board which can fit under your seat.
As I was travelling with a small rucksack only I waited quietly in the non-priority queue watching boarding unfold.
In typical Ryanair fashion, even the first few passengers in the priority queue were pushed to gate-check their carry-on bag (for free) – something which always puzzles me as they paid for the privilege to bring their carry-on into the cabin.
If this happens to you make sure you are insistent and don’t let the Ryanair gate agents pressure you into gate checking your bag (when they forced me once I even ripped off the luggage tag when walking from the gate to the aircraft, bringing my trolley into the cabin regardless).
Everybody with hard-case trolleys and suitcases in the non-priority queue were whisked forward to see whether their bags would fit in the size checking rack.
Of course, any millimetre above the allowed measurements and you will have to pay a hefty sum to bring your luggage on board!
If you bring a hard-case bag or trolley you can almost universally count on it being checked, while you will almost get away with it if you carry a rucksack.
At Chania Airport, boarding shenanigans only really start after your boarding pass is scanned.
Instead of walking directly from the gate to the aircraft, everyone was forwarded to a covered outdoor holding area just in front of the terminal building.
What ensued was a battle among priority and non-priority passengers to get the best possible spot in the outdoor holding area closest to the plane.
When an airport employee opened the fence of the holding area, dozens of passengers rushed towards the plane in order to be the first on board.
The scenes very much reminded me of the days when Ryanair didn’t have any seat allocation and you could sit anywhere you wanted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Chania (CHQ) to Budapest (BUD) on Ryanair
Flight FR187 – Boeing 737-800 – Seat 21C
Plane registration number: SP-RKU
Departure: 8.35pm – Arrival: 9.55pm
Flight time: 2h20m – Distance: 859 miles
Price: 47 euro
Ryanair cabin and seat
The Ryanair experience from hell continued on board the plane.
As I wasn’t in a particular rush to board, I waited for most of the mad mob to enter the Boeing 737-800 which would fly us to Budapest.
When I boarded, I was delighted to see that my row had remained empty so far.
My happiness was shattered when a Ryanair flight attendant announced that the flight to Budapest was fully booked and within minutes the other seats in my row were taken as well.
Thanks to the boarding mess, a lot of non-priority passengers were among the first to board and they had of course placed their small bags in the overhead bins.
This created quite some havoc when soon there was no space left in the cabin for the trolleys taken by the priority passengers.
Fortunately, Ryanair flight attendants are generally highly experienced to solve such puzzles and after a couple of minutes reshuffling bags everything more or less fitted.
Seat allocation madness
If you want to select your exact seat on your Ryanair flight you have to shell out a couple of euros for it.
Otherwise, the Ryanair algorithm will automatically assign you a seat upon check-in.
From my experience, you can count on getting the worst possible seats if you check-in early.
As a solo passenger that even means that you risk getting a middle seat.
Obviously, Ryanair holds back the extra legroom, emergency exit and upfront seats until the last moment as they hope that someone might still buy it.
When I checked in only, the seat allocation algorithm fortunately gave me an aisle seat somewhere in the middle of the plane, which could have been far worse.
Although Ryanair’s seat allocation “lottery” can be hell for solo passengers, it can be even worse if you are a couple, family or group of friends travelling together.
Even if you are on one booking there is absolutely no guarantee you will sit together on the flight.
In fact, Ryanair often splits up passengers as they hope that this will force them to change their seat (for a fee) or at least make them pay for on the next time they fly the airline.
Although it’s a cunning revenue management trick, it is of course rather customer-unfriendly.
Before we even departed Chania more time was lost with passengers trying to switch seats on board in order to sit next to friends and family – something which continued in the air.
Although the Daily Express might not be the best ever source, I firmly believe that their statement below is scientifically true.
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) March 15, 2018
Hell continued during the flight to Budapest as I quickly realised this was one of such Ryanair flights on which you are bombarded with non-stop announcements.
There’s a five-minute-long sales pitch for the buy-on-board food and drinks menu, another one for duty free goods and finally one for Ryanair scratch cards and lottery tickets.
To make matters worse, each announcement was done twice – once in English and once in Hungarian.
There was a bit of a jolly holiday vibe on board the plane, so I quickly forgot about any plans to get some work done on my laptop during the flight.
Although the sounds of intoxicated adults and crying kids went well together with the constant stream of Ryanair announcements, it didn’t make for a particularly nice flight to put it mildly.
To make matters worse, the aircraft aisle was constantly used by passengers to walk up to their friends and family seated elsewhere and to chat with them for a prolonged time.
Nothing is more annoying than to be seated in an aisle seat, only to have some people standing right next to you in the aisle talking to the passenger in the window seat.
I’m however not sure whether I should blame the passengers for that or Ryanair’s seat allocation system.
The flight to Budapest seemed to take forever.
Fortunately, we landed safely and more-or-less on time at Budapest Airport to the sound of loud horns from Ryanair’s “another flight on-time!” jingle.
Could the experience get worse than this?
Sure, by half the passengers clapping for a minute straight upon landing…
Flying Ryanair can be a mixed bag as at one hand their low fares and general punctuality are attractive, but at the other hand the in-flight experience can be horrible.
How your Ryanair experience will be is simply down to luck – just like their on-board scratch cards they try to sell.
The experience is dependent among others on of the automated seat allocation, the boarding procedure at the departure airport and the crew.
Perhaps more important is the Ryanair route you fly, as chances are that leisure routes are more horrible than others.
Fly with Ryanair from the UK to Majorca and you are likely to be on a flight from hell full of drunk yobs and families who bring way too much luggage on board.
If you fly on a route like Frankfurt to Zagreb for instance, the experience on board will likely not be that much different from Lufthansa.
Fortunately, I would have some pleasant train journeys upcoming to wash away the bad Ryanair taste from my mouth.
Trip report index
This ‘Trains, Planes, Beer and Tapas: A Trip to Prague and Madrid’ trip report consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Ryanair Bucharest to Chania (Boeing 737-800)
2. A Rainy Chania Stopover
3. Ryanair Hell: My Bad Chania to Budapest Flight Experience (current chapter)
4. Review: T62 Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
5. Review: EuroCity Train “Hungaria” Budapest to Brno
6. A Walk Through the Historic Old Town Centre of Brno
7. Review: EuroCity Train “Metropolitan” Brno to Prague
8. Review: K+K Hotel Central, A Prague Art Nouveau Delight
9. Beer Boozing in Prague: Sampling Some Czech Brews
10. Praha Hlavní Nádraží – Prague’s Stunning Art Nouveau Station
11. Review: Leo Express Train Prague to Olomouc
12. Olomouc Guide: Baroque and Belle Epoque Beauty
13. Review: RegioJet Train Olomouc to Prague
14. Review: Erste Premier Lounge Prague Airport
15. Review: Air France HOP Business Class Embraer 170
16. Review: Air France Schengen Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
17. Review: Air France Business Class Paris CDG to Madrid (Airbus A220)
18. A Madrid Tapas Crawl: Bar Hopping in Spain’s Capital
19. Review: Ibis Madrid Aeropuerto Barajas
20. Review: Puerta de Alcala VIP Lounge Madrid Airport
21. Review: Air Europa Economy Class Madrid to Milan (Boeing 787)
22. How To Transfer Between Milan Malpensa and Bergamo Airport