Tried & Tested

Ryanair B737-800 economy

22 Apr 2014 by Tom Otley


Ryanair wants to increase the number of business travellers it carries. In March, it estimated that the current proportion of its passengers who are business travellers to be 22 per cent of its total passenger numbers of 81.5 million, and wants this to grow.

To help that process, it has started to distribute its content through the GDS system for the first time in a decade, partnering with Travelport (story on our sister site Buying Business Travel here, and has also introduced business traveller-friendly initiatives such as a free second carry-on bag and seat selection (see news, February 3).

There are explanatory YouTube videos here and here for these new features.

In May, Ryanair will also introduce mobile check-in.


My flight was a short one, from London Luton to Dublin on Ryanair FR338.

I had printed out my boarding card at home – a requirement with Ryanair. If you arrive at the airport without this, it will charge you £15 (in the UK) each way (see terms and conditions Optional Fees).

Luton Airport is reached by a combination of rail and bus. I arrived at Luton Airport Parkway Station on an East Midlands Trains which runs regular services to and from London St Pancras.

After departing the station, I then joined a bus queue and paid for a £2.70 return for the short bus trip to the terminal. There are some rail tickets which include this fee, but I didn't have one of those.

I use Luton Airport relatively frequently, and so my outrage at paying this £2.70 has now calmed to a dull resentment which flares whenever the bus departs just before I arrive at its doors.

Note that if you arrive in a taxi, the taxi (and so you) is  charged a £2 drop-off fee. There is therefore no free way of arriving at the airport.

The bus journey is only a few minutes and then I walked into the terminal and made my way to the short queue for check-in. There were 20 people in front of me, but I then waited 40 minutes to check-in my bag.

Ryanair boarding at Luton

This is a long time to stand in a queue, and some of the elderly people in front of me were doubtless wishing they had requested a wheelchair.

After little or no movement, suddenly there was a change of personnel and we moved quickly to the front.

When I eventually got to the head of the queue I asked whether they were having a problem with the computer system. I was told they had been training a new colleague and they apologised.

In fact, I'm not sure most of the people in the queue even should have been queuing, since most had no bags to check-in and had already printed their boarding passes, but perhaps were just confused.

In my own case (pun intended), I wasn't sure about the enforcement of the new "two bags on board" policy and so had paid £50 to check-in my roller bag, carrying my laptop case on board. As I found out later, this was not necessary.

I then went up the escalators to security, which took around ten minutes, listened to the normal loud chat among the security personnel about who was on which shift and what they'd tell their supervisor if he or she just bothered to ask their opinion, and then went airside into Luton airport.

I have a Priority Pass card, and so used the Aspire lounge at the airport for about half an hour. I normally use the free wifi and do some work, but this time I just sat in a chair and stared at my knees.

I then went down to the gate at 1415. I had allocated seating (£10 each way, £20 return on this route) for a premium seat close to the front of the aircraft (no extra leg room, though, so I'm not sure why it was premium) and got Priority Boarding. The prices are reproduced below:

Allocated Seating ***



Premium Seat (incl. Prioirty Boarding) from*

€10 / £10

€15 / £15

Regular Seat from*

€5/ £5


Regular Seat (incl. Priority Boarding - available for purchase from 8th April from

€7 /£7

Not available at airport

Priority Boarding from (per flight***)

€2 / £2

€4 / £4

There were several wheelchair users waiting for the flight, and they were boarded first, using a lift and entering the aircraft from the other side to the aircraft stairs, and then we boarded.

Ryanair boarding at Luton

The flight was very full, and people brought on what seemed like a lot of bags.

There were the usual announcements about having to put some of them into the hold if people didn't put their smaller items under the seat in front (you get a lot of that with Easyjet as well) but no-one was keen.

What made it more difficult was that since passengers now had allocated seating, they couldn't just sit in the first available seat, and there were lots of families on board.

One father brought his pram on board and reacted with amused disbelief the suggestion that he should leave it at the bottom of the stairs. Another family had a very adventurous four-year-old who made a beeline for the cockpit and refused to leave. The flight crew must be used to this sort of thing, since the child was not shot or even tazered, but simply dragged out by a combination of his family, the flight attendants and lots of smiles.

All in all, I thought the Ryanair staff did very well to achieve an on-time departure, but it wasn't an experience I'd want to sit through on a regular basis, or indeed ever again.


Ryanair has a standard seating configuration on its all Boeing B737-800 fleet of 189 seats. To see a seat plan, click here.

All the seats are upholstered in blue, with plastic yellow head rests. The seat configurations can be seen here but are also at the bottom of this piece in the Fact File.


One with extra leg room. The website makes clear which they are and how much they cost, although there is a charge for doing so starting from £10 or 10 euros per flight sector.

I was in 2C, an aisle seat, which means lots of bags hit you as they are carried onto the aircraft.

Emergency row seats are best, especially if you have a small amount of luggage as you can't have bags around your feet in these rows, despite the attempts of the passengers on my flight who were sitting in row 1 – not the best row to even make the attempt, bearing in mind the flight attendants are sitting opposite you both for take-off and landing.

Bear in mind also you have to meet certain requirements for sitting in the exit row seats. These requirements are listed here.


We set off from Luton on time and were told the flight duration would be 45 minutes.

The crew came up and down the aircraft selling everything from the food and drink to duty free and lottery scratch cards, but the majority of passengers on this early afternoon flight were not tempted. There may have been some flight announcements but I had noise-cancelling headphones in for most of the flight.

The flight passed without incident, and we landed on time at Dublin airport triggering the irritating bugle call. We then had a long walk through the terminal to reach the baggage carousel.

Dublin airport

Our bags were not delayed and I was out of the airport about 15 minutes after landing.


I find the Ryanair website confusing, although I'm told by regulars that it is a lot easier to use than it used to be.

The check-in experience was very poor, but then since you can take two bags onto the flight, there's no real need to use it provided you are not going on holiday and have already printed your boarding card at home.

There is still confusion about what bags are allowed on board, but this seems to have been quickly solved by passengers who bring it all on and see what fits in the overhead compartment.

The flight was fine, and for such a short duration, the leg room is acceptable.

Ryanair are following the lead of Easyjet by going after business travellers, but whereas Easyjet spent a long time getting it right and then telling everyone what they were intending, Ryanair seem to have made the declaration, but still haven't worked out all the details of the operation.

You'd be brave to bet against them, however, so we'll see how things change. (In fairness, the flight back went without a hitch, no delays, and the boarding was a lot quicker as well.)


  • Boeing B737-800 Economy Class 189 seats
  • Seat width:  17 inches (43.18cm)
  • Seat pitch: 30 inches (76.20cm)
    NB: Ryanair says "Most seats are 43cm wide and 58cm from the back to the edge of the cushion. There are some narrow seats which are 40cm wide and 58cm from the back to the edge of the cushion."

Tom Otley

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