We had been offered a holiday just 30 minutes drive from Malaga, on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. I spent some time looking for the best deals but most of those were from the so-called London airports at Luton and Stansted. By the time we drove there from Southampton and paid for parking the deal was not so attractive anymore.
It was then I discovered that Ryanair flew from Bournemouth to Malaga. Although the flight was more expensive we could get there cheaply by public transport and not have to park our car in those ludicrously expensive car parks that are a feature of most airports these days.
My initial reaction used to be to avoid Ryanair whenever possible. I have personally had some unpleasant experiences with them but, to be fair, I have had good experiences too.
Bournemouth is small as international airports go and there are fewer people heading airside. As a result bag drop and check-in were completed quickly and smoothly. We cleared security just as quickly.
At the Airport
As always with Ryanair, they want their passengers at the boarding gate well before departure time to aid a quick turnaround of the aircraft. This meant standing in line for an inordinate length of time. We had booked priority boarding so we could guarantee that we could take our cabin bags on board and not have to hand them over at the gate. This does mean we had less of a wait than we might have done.
While standing in line we watched the incoming Ryanair flight land and taxi to the terminal. It was five minutes late. I assumed we would also be late as these delays usually have a knock on effect. Ryanair however, are masters of a quick turnaround.
No sooner had the last disembarking passenger stepped into the terminal than we were being led across the tarmac to the waiting aircraft. Boarding was from both the front and rear doors of the aircraft and was done very efficiently. It was an impressively quick turnaround; 23 minutes from rolling to a standstill to push back.
You can now book a specific seat on Ryanair flights for a fee. We deemed this a small price to pay to be seated together.
Inside the aircraft, the brash corporate colours of blue and yellow were everywhere. Nothing subtle about the interior designed perhaps with cheap and cheerful in mind.
You can read a lot about Ryanair’s controversial plans to reduce the distance between the rows of seats to enable them to squeeze a row or two more of seats. However, by simply taking away the seat back pockets Ryanair have saved a small amount of space. The safety cards that were in those pockets are now laminated to the seat back itself. The magazine and catalogue are now handed out by the cabin crew instead. Seat pitch is still a little cramped though.
The budget airlines in today’s crowded market make much of their profits by ancillary sales. This means paying for everything from seat allocation to each bag carried by the airline. This doesn’t stop once airborne either. During the two hours and 40 minutes of flight time we were subjected to sales pitches for hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and other food, followed by duty-free and then lottery tickets. The prices are high as of course, we are a captive audience. Tip: bring your own food if possible.
The service on this particular flight was courteous and efficient. Often on budget airlines, the selling of ancillary services takes precedence over service to the passengers. This was not the case on my flight from Bournemouth to Malaga.
One of the surprises on this flight was that you can have good service on a budget airline. However, the question has to be asked, “Is it always the case or was I just lucky?” What are your thoughts? Have you had a good experience with budget airlines or have you had a nightmare experience? Do let us know in the comments section below.