by Seija A Wegg
Sector: London Stansted (IATA: STN/ICAO: EGSS)–Carcassonne, France (CCF/LFMK)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
| PHOTO: MICHAEL KELLY|
The recommended way to book Ryanair is online (www.ryanair.com). Within Europe you can telephone, but there are no free calls. As with any low-fare airline, the best deals go to those who book well in advance. Ryanair does not offer refunds, but it now allows changes of reservations (for a fee, of course). While Ryanair is notorious for using obscure airports, sometimes far and away from the well-known cities that it ‘serves’, we chose CCF, about 90 minutes (by French driver) south of Toulouse, because it was closest to our destination. With an impressive network (127 routes, 84 destinations, and 16 countries) there is a good chance Ryanair is going your way.
Although the ‘teaser’ fare of £9 ($14.50) one-way did not appear on the desired day of travel, we secured seats for £15 ($24) each. This price doubled with the addition of taxes and fees (including those charged for using a credit card), but was still less than the cost of reaching Stansted Airport from central London.
Ryanair recommends that passengers be at the airport two hours before departure time. Check-in desks at Stansted close 40 minutes prior, and if you do not comply with the deadline you are likely to forfeit your reservation—and money. Baggage is carefully weighed—the checked allowance is 15kg (33lb) per person (credits from others not allowed) and the limit for hand baggage (one piece only) is 7kg (15lb).
Unless you are an invalid or travelling with small children, boarding is based on check-in number (the first 65 have the first pick of seats). Gates close ten minutes before departure and, again, if late you lose your reservation without refund.
This rigorous control helps Ryanair to maintain its high aircraft utilization (= lower costs) and schedule. Last November 92% of Ryanair’s 14,533 flights arrived within 15 minutes of schedule, making it the most punctual airline in Europe. Our flight was not an exception, and load factor was also in line with Ryanair’s 83% for the month, or 157 passengers on board a 189-seater.
The young and cheery cabin crew (including a French speaker) provided fast and friendly service to those who bought something. Most of the travellers (including people on business) had brought their own snacks. For those who could not stand a 1hr 25min flight to reach the gastronomic delights of southern France, there was coffee or tea for £1.60 ($2.50), beer for £2.50 ($4), and adult beverages for £4.50 ($7). An in-flight ‘magazine’ (actually a catalog of items for sale) was available upon request (and collected at the end of flight), and the ‘motion discomfort’ containers doubled as film processing bags with the message, ‘Don’t be Sick, Come to Klick!’. Other offers, such as Ryanair’s telephone card and discounted rail tickets, were offered over the PA. One noteworthy item: every seat had a clean headrest cover.
Arrival formalities at CCF were painless (the terminal is barely large enough for a 737-800 load) and our bags were delivered promptly. At less than one (0.54) mislaid bag per 1,000 passengers Ryanair is also No 1 in Europe.
In a Nutshell: Efficient and price-less short-haul air travel that cannot be beaten. Recommended, assuming you can live with the ticket restrictions.
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