First impressions: Luton Airport at 5.30am on a wet Monday morning isn't anyone's idea of fun, but the airport is well laid out, uncrowded (at least at this time) and there were no queues at check-in. If I had been flying only with hand luggage - or with just an overnight bag to check-in -? I could have arrived later, but since I was carrying large luggage (golf clubs) I followed the advice on Ryanair's website, which advised arriving two hours early for my FR331, 7am departure.
Business (and leisure) travellers are comfortable now with low-cost flights, but when you're travelling with heavy luggage to a conference or trade show, for instance, it can add worries. For one thing, the cost for excess baggage can make low-cost not quite so low (the maximum weight on this flight without incurring charges is 15kg). Then there's the problem of odd-shaped luggage such as golf clubs. They were well labelled, well wrapped and inside an over-bag, but still, the chilling words on Ryanair's website were at the front of my mind: "Many items of sporting equipment including... large fishing rods, golf clubs, bicycles, surfboards, bodyboards, snowboards and skis are inherently unsuitable for carriage by airlines operating fast turnarounds such as Ryanair." It continues: "However, upon payment of an additional charge of £15/E25 (or local currency equivalent) per sector (flight) and per item irrespective of weight, Ryanair is prepared to carry such items on a 'limited release' basis (ie, entirely at your own risk). You may therefore wish to ensure... that you have suitable private insurance cover in force."
There's also a note adding: "The carriage of game including but not limited to antlers and horns are not accepted by Ryanair." So anyone thinking of going shooting should bear in mind that not only is your gun not allowed on the plane on the outward journey, but what you've shot won't be coming back with you. The website also recommends that because of space restrictions, sports equipment should be pre-booked and pre-paid by calling your local reservation centre, otherwise the item may be refused at the airport. (Mon-Sat 9am-5.45pm, 0871 246 0000, 10p per minute; Sun 10am-5.45pm, 0905 566 0000, £1 per minute).
Boarding: When the flight was called, we walked down a short covered walkway and briefly across the tarmac (in the face of rain and gale-force winds) before boarding.
The seat: The seating on this Boeing 737-200 is 3-3. The seat cushion on my seat was slightly collapsed causing me to slump, but on a flight of this duration it was not a problem.
Flight: In December there are four daily Luton-Dublin return flights (7am, 10am, 4.35pm and 7.35pm) and three at weekends. A cup of coffee costs £1.70 and a sandwich is £3.50, but few people ate as most had grabbed something in the airport.
Arrival: After a quick walk from the plane and up a flight of stairs we were in Dublin Airport. This was the moment of truth for my golf clubs. I waited by the oversized luggage, but nothing came out. Terrified - and wishing I had paid extra for specific insurance for golf clubs - I checked the main carousel, where the few people who did check in luggage had long ago collected it, and there were my golf clubs lying by the side of the carousel, having fallen off at the first turn.
Verdict and Prices: All in all, excellent. The flight booked two weeks in advance cost £4.99 outward and £9.99 return (although £25.72 in charges and taxes made a total of £40.70 return). Adding clubs took it to £70.70, but it was still a bargain. The return flight the next day was also on time, and the golf clubs again came on the main carousel rather than the oversize baggage part.