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Ryanair at Dublin Airport

Once a year, I like to be sure to keep my ever-inflating notions in check with a good, low-cost experience, and a chance to write up a Ryanair review seemed a natural part of this value-driven travel plan.

With a few nights booked in Port Aventura, Spain’s answer to Disneyland Paris, I was alarmed to find flights clocking in at over a grand with Aer Lingus to Barcelona, or, honestly, just very shy of 1,000 Euro with Ryanair to the more humble (and convenient) Reus Airport, a short 20-minute drive from the theme park.

In order to keep the experience as low-cost as possible, I elected to treat us only to ‘priority’, Ryanair’s term for the line that boards first but actually includes the majority of the passengers, along with a 2-hand luggage entitlement – along with a ‘standard’ seat. Not that any seat seemed to offer a particularly elevated experience.

On the return, acknowledging that I’d be keen to disembark as soon as possible, I added ‘Row 1’ seating, which as I would come to later learn, guarantees you a spot pretty much in the doorway.

Our flight out of Dublin was at the crack of dawn on a bank holiday Saturday morning. Although we had performed online check-in, a stop by the ‘Document Check’ counter was necessitated (an integral part of the experience for anyone on a non-EU passport). Word of warning to anyone who needs to hear it – but the Ryanair Document/Visa Check counter in Dublin Airport on a busy ‘first wave’ flight time, demands earliness. Do not be late or in any cutting it tight!

The queue when we arrived was maybe 10 – 12 passengers deep, but the queue moved very gently, and was occasionally interrupted to facilitate regular passengers with additional needs. In addition, our hand luggage was weighed – so keep that in mind if you’re planning to try a bit of overage.

The Ryanair gates at Dublin Airport, all in the 100’s, similarly make a demand of passengers and that demand is enhanced physical fitness – nothing says low-cost utopia like an early morning hike across the Dublin Airport campus to reach the 100 gates.

Ryanair at Dublin Airport

In order to ensure a speedy departure, Ryanair practice the age-old technique of ‘boarding not boarding’ whereby the priority line, followed by the regular line, was called for boarding at warp speed as early as possible. We then found ourselves held awkwardly in a stairwell for some time, then held on the apron right beside the plane for additional time, then finally onto the plane – where it turned out, we’d be held for additional time to facilitate the repair of an apparently inoperative lav.

Once on our way, we darted across the airfield with all the dedication of an airline with too many flights scheduled for one plane to afford it starting the day late, and were quickly airborne.

Ryanair Take-off

It didn’t take long before the morning views of Dublin ebbed away and we were promptly and vocally reminded of the great value offer on 7 scratch cards (available for the price of 5) as opposed to buying them individually, followed by the in-flight meal service (menu available digitally only), all punctuated by the screams and shouts of an overly-excited child nearby who was – rightly – thrilled to be not too far from disembarking.

Arrival to Reus brought no particularly noteworthy events either – we decanted from the front and rear doors, before being marched across the tarmac and down a long and winding corridor to the non-schengen area, which has been decorated with the occasional signpost showing an arrow and a Union Jack, as if only British passport holders could possibly ever find themselves in this area.

Ryanair arriving to Reus

Our return flight was arguably far more entertaining, especially for those who read the blog only to learn of my occasional disappointments and suffering.

Once again, we were routed to a check-in desk on account of the infamous ‘visa check’ conditions (why this can’t be handled for both outbound and inbound once is beyond me) along with the hordes, before passing through the incredibly quick and efficient Reus Airport security. The airside area could be best described as relatively sparse, and my best efforts to search for a lounge (yes, really) proved fruitless.

Although our inbound flight was running about 30 minutes late, we were lined up on time nonetheless once again ready for the immediate off, followed by another brief hold outside the gate area, followed by another, once again, right by the side of the plane.

For this jaunt, as I say, we were seated in Row 1, which I came to learn is of highly questionable benefit; for one, your feet will be trampled on throughout the boarding process and then the ‘extra legroom’ becomes either as promised or more likely, the toilet waiting area once in-flight. But more unfortunately, for reasons unclear to me, our flight attendant also insisted the baggage bin was not suitable for storing our cabin luggage, which instead had to be stowed from row 3 onwards, significantly negating the possibility of a quick exit.

Ryanair Row 1

However, all of these inconveniences were nothing compared to the in-flight entertainment that was on its way. Once airborne, we were quickly joined in our row by a passenger initially seated in row 21 who had developed a very serious and sudden onset of fear of flying.

What was really amazing to me, was that quite aside from the fact that this fear of flying was well known in advance, it also seemed to be entirely alleviated by sitting away from his family, specifically in row 1. In addition, the fear was further alleviated by having 4 Heineken’s throughout the flight, while telling the crew he’d a long drive ahead of him to Donegal upon landing (not wonderful, and to be highly advised against, but I wasn’t willing to put my physical safety on the line to say so).

In the end, sunburnt and reeking of old drink, he actually just moved entirely to our row – leaving his wife to manage the incredibly-energetic kids (they swung by a few times) for the remainder of the flight through to landing.

How someone can pull this off and still have a marriage intact is absolutely beyond me – aside from the ingenious move of having a fear of flying that necessitates moving into the far pricier Ryanair seats. I felt for the crew however, who he constantly interrupted and insisted on conversing with. On the other hand, I didn’t love the nauseating smell of old alcohol and the need to keep my earphones in even with nothing playing purely in order to avoid being dragged into conversation.

Thankfully before long, notions now safely back in check, we landed and begun our hike across Dublin Airport towards the arrivals area – all done for another year, and with the whole experience very much as expected.

Reformed backpacker & former ultra-cheap traveller, Andy now atones for his past by overspending on premium travel experiences and failing at making the most of the miles & points game. Former expat now returned to Ireland, he is a product manager by day, and travel aficionado by evening and weekend.

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