Home » Idiot’s Guide to Ryanair vs Easyjet

Idiot’s Guide to Ryanair vs Easyjet

Easyjet vs Ryanair

You either love them or loath them, but whatever you think, Ryanair and Easyjet are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Ever since no-frills airlines proliferated in Europe more than a decade ago, it has profoundly changed the nature of travelling. Holidays are now affordable to everyone, and technically speaking with Ryanair’s 1p fares it was possible to fly somewhere and back for, well, almost free.

But over the years no-frill airlines have turned to more drastic and nasty measures to make money from their flights. Need a bag? Pay extra. Forgot to do your online check-in? Pay even more. Need to use the toilet? Pay £1 still free, for now.

So out of the no-frills carriers, what do you need to know about them to make a decision of which one to fly with? This “Idiot’s Guide” article aims to present the essential information and features of the two biggest budget airlines flying out of London, Easyjet and Ryanair, and compare and contrast them.

> Departure Airports
Stansted Airport CrowdedBoth Easyjet and Ryanair fly out of all three secondary London airports: Stansted, Gatwick, and Luton. However, Ryanair has most of its flights out of Stansted, while Easyjet have most of the flights out of Gatwick. In terms of getting to each airport from London, most are about an hour to an hour and a half away from London, but the means of getting to them are different. National Express and other coach companies run buses to all three airports 24 hours a day from central London. For Stansted and Gatwick, you can take the Stansted Express train and the Gatwick Express train respectively which takes about 45 minutes. In addition, there are cheaper, but slower, trains to Gatwick and Luton Airports. Easyjet also run their own bus service (called EasyBus) to all three airports from various pick-up points in central London.

In terms of facilities, all three airports are roughly the same, with the usual WH Smiths, coffee shops, and duty free shopping inside. None are particularly comfortable, although Stansted is rather big and offers more shops than the others.

If you are flying off early in the morning (e.g. 7am flight), the choice of airport is very important, as you have to find a way to get to the bus/train departure point. The TFL JourneyPlanner is very useful to figure out night journeys. The key thing is that a journey that might have only taken like half an hour by Tube might end up taking more than an hour by several buses.

> Prices
Ryanair’s prices are usually cheaper than Easyjet, but you have to be careful as they have started charging a £5 online check-in fee (but you can’t opt to not pay it, as online check-in is compulsory). They also charge more for baggage (£10 for one piece instead of £8 for Easyjet). In addition, unless you use a Visa Electron card Prepaid MasterCard (from 1st January 2010), they will charge you a £5 “card fee” for each flight segment. So booking return flights for a couple, paid for by a credit card, will end up incurring an extra £20 in card fees.

One way to get a Visa Electron card is through EntroPay, where you can set up a “virtual” card, load it, and use it to book flights in Ryanair. You won’t get a physical card though. The other way is to get a Travel Money Card from the Post Office, which can be used offline as well as online.

Prepaid MasterCard Logo

It is much harder to get a Prepaid MasterCard than it was to get a Visa Electron, and for most infrequent travelers the cost will just not be worth the hassle. However, for those that travel often, the upfront card fees, loading fees, and transaction fees might be worth the cost as you will still save money. One of the most trusted providers of a Prepaid MasterCard is Virgin Money, more information on getting a PrePaid MasterCard from them here.

Both Ryanair and Easyjet automatically stick on extras like baggage, travel insurance, and speedy boarding to any flights chosen. So if you don’t require these, make sure you remove them before the check-out. Generally, extras such as travel insurance, hotels, and car hire will be offered. However, they rarely offer value for money and you can definitely get each of the three much cheaper purchasing them on their own. One good place I recommend to get your travel insurance from is Columbus Insurance; you can order online and your insurance is immediately active, and they are usually one of the cheapest and provide comprehensive coverage as well.

> Arrival Airports
Be careful and make sure you double-check your arrival airport. In many cases, budget airlines fly to a secondary airport, which might be much further than the main airports for a city. For example, Ryanair has flights to “Venice”, but the airport it flies to is Venice-Treviso, which is actually about 2 hours by bus to the centre of Venice. The main Marco Polo Venice airport is only about half an hour to the city.

At almost every airport that Ryanair and Easyjet fly to, they have arrangements with a local coach company to bring you to the city centre. In most cases the drop-off point will be the train station. However, sometimes these coaches are quite expensive, up to about £10 for a one way trip, and might take up to 2 hours or more. However, the coaches are always timed so that they are there and waiting at the airport for each flight, so at least you are guaranteed that you won’t have to wait around long for the next coach.

> Baggage
Luggage at AirportNeither Ryanair or Easyjet offer free check-in hold luggage. Ryanair charges £10 per bag, while Easyjet charges £8. Ryanair has a check-in hold baggage allowance of 15kg, while Easyjet’s limit is 20kg per person. It is highly advisable that you book your luggage fee in advance online, as it costs much more if done at the airport. If there are more than one person traveling together, on Easyjet you are allowed to pool your baggage allowance (i.e. so one bag can be 25kg for example), but on Ryanair that is not possible.

Both airports are also very strict about the weight and will start charging even if the bag is half a kilo over the luggage weight allowance.

Both airlines offer one free hand carry bag. In addition to a bag size restriction, Ryanair limits hand-carry luggage to only 10kg, while Easyjet does not have a fixed limit, but it should not be so heavy that it is not possible for one person to lift into the overheard compartment locker onboard the plane. In addition, a handbag is counted as one hand carry item, and any other plastic/shopping bags, even airport shopping bags, will be counted as a piece of hand luggage! If you find yourself at the boarding gate with more than one hand-carry luggage, they can store it in the airplane hold for you but it will cost extra.

> Refunds
Because the fares are cheap, they are non-refundable and usually a steep charge to change them. If you miss your flight, you’re out of luck and will have to buy a brand new ticket, often at a very exorbitant cost at the airport ticket counter. The tickets can be transferred to someone else’s name, but again for a fee.

> Inflight
No-frills means absolutely no-frills, with no seatback TV, complimentary drink or food, and not even magazines (apart from the airline’s own one). Its not so much a problem because the flights are short, but occasionally there are delays in lift-off and so you should bring at least a snack on board the plane and a bottle of water just in case. You can purchase drinks and food on board the plane, but they tend to be very expensive.

What are the seats and economy-only cabins like? Well, for one, the seat width is a bit smaller than traditional airlines, and people with long legs will find it hard to squeeze the legs in the small space. But for a short haul 2-3 hour flight, the seats provided are decent. There is no entertainment sets, video screens, or audio/radio on board either. The quality of the seats depends from aircraft to aircraft. On one Easyjet flight, I could barely sleep as the headrest cushion was so thin that it gave me neck aches. But on the return flight it was really comfortable.

Seat assignments are free-for-all, which means that if the flight is packed and you are the last to board, you might be stuck in the seat right at the back of the plane next to the toilet. You can pay for speedy boarding, but in my opinion it is not worth the money; just make sure you’re at the boarding gate with at least 45 minutes to spare, and start queueing up in front of the boarding gate to get your pick of seats. Frequent travellers can sign up for Easyjet Plus, a membership scheme where you get unlimited Speedy Boarding per year, on all your flights. Sadly, its not a frequent flyer program and you don’t get any other miles, rewards, or points.

> Tips to get the lowest fares
The fares normally increase in price the closer you get to the date of travel, with the most expensive fares 3 weeks or closer to the date of the flight. However, booking way in advance does not guarantee that you will get the cheapest fares. Ryanair and Easyjet do frequent sales and promotions (almost weekly), where fares are sometimes slashed to 1p (Ryanair) or £10 (Easyjet). Normally these sales are for flights that are 2-3 months in advance, so I suggest you wait until around then to book your flights and wait patiently for offers.

In addition, I have often found flights by traditional airlines to be cheaper than these no-frill airlines, especially closer to the date. Sometimes you see ridiculous prices on Ryanair like £150 one way, and the reasoning is that they might only have 1-2 seats left and know that very close to the flight time there will always be someone desperate to buy a ticket. Traditional airlines don’t employ these tactics so even when their flights are rather full the prices of the remaining seats are still realistic.

Flights on Friday evenings, Sunday evenings, and Mondays are more expensive than flights on other days. Very early morning and very late evening flights are also cheaper, but bear in mind that the savings might not be worth the interruption of sleep or extra travel time needed to get to the airport or back at such hours.

> Conclusion
I hope you’ve found this guide quite useful, and overall, I would choose Easyjet over Ryanair any day if the prices were similar for a flight. However, with low-cost flights you have to do your research and don’t forget to check out other smaller low-cost airlines as they might fly the route that you want.

You should also check out normal airlines, as sometimes they run promotions and offers that might make the flight prices more comparable to budget airlines. Flight comparison sites to check include Expedia, Opodo, and Lastminute.com.

Article last updated 11th May 2010


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  • Lee R.

    Very informative! Even I didn’t know some of the stuff listed here and I’ve been a Londoner since…forever!

  • David Salmon

    I want to know why easyjet cancel many, many more flights over the past week than ryanair (for example today 28th Dec 09 easyjet cancel 30+ flight whereas ryanair only cancel 2 flights)

  • D Morriss

    As I understand the situations is this, Eastjet do not pay for their Pilots to qualify for adverse or cold weather flying conditions. where as Ryanair and most other Airlines /carriers do.This may allow Eastjet to reduce the cost/specification of its aircraft and may reduce the insurance premiums. This could be a gamble on their part in respect of the unusually mild winter weather conditions in recent years.

  • Jorn

    Very nice article, i thought however that if you missed your flight with easyjet you could get on the next plane for a fixed price?

  • http://combatlondon.co.uk Alberto Comesana

    Nicely done and very comprehensive. Only thing I believe you didn’t mention is that Easyjet’s planes are quite more spacious than its competitor’s.

    Keep the good work up!

  • Anna

    I have been wondering the same, on three separate occasions over the last six months my Easyjet flights (and 100s of others) have been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, and yet Ryanair have managed to fly the same routes on the same day with few or no cancellations.

    Your answer makes a lot of sense and I think I will choose Ryanair in future if the fares are comparable!

  • francico

    Easyjet is MUCH MUCH better than Ryanair. Ryanair is almost impracticably to use on a weak-end off because they usually fly to those far off airports.

    Unfortunately normaly Easyjet is more expensive. If the Price of the ticket does not exceed 50 euros, i will always fly Easyjet. And then there is the manners point: Ryanair is so rude. The CEO is so rude too and treats customers as cattle.

  • http://travelsecretsandthingstodo.blogspot.com/ Francis Shenstone

    Great article!

    Most people have heard of Ryanair, some for good reasons, others for bad. Having flown with them over 40 times and more than 20 in the last six months alone, I am an avid fan and can attribute much of my travels to the low prices of flights on Ryanair…

    To read more http://travelsecretsandthingstodo.blogspot.com/2010/10/idiots-guide-to-flying-ryanair.html

  • Jason

    I am not a fan of either – however, I have had more flights cancelled at short notice via Easyjet – which has been really inconvenient.

    I will never book Easyjet again – as much as I hate the Ryanair experience – at least 9/10 times they get you there. My past experience with Easyjet is 50/50 at best.

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  • http://www.johnnyfox.blogspot.com JohnnyFox

    Not true that the seat WIDTH is any different from other airlines.

    Ryanair flies mostly 737-800s and EasyJet mostly A319 or A320 types and all airlines using this equipment put six seats 3-3 either side of an aisle in their economy cabins so their width is dictated by the width of the fuselage.

    The only variable is the seat pitch which is tighter than SOME short haul scheduled carriers: Ryanair 737 at 30″ is actually better than most charter carriers like Monarch and Thomson (28″ on shorthaul), EasyJet A319 at 29″ a bit tighter, although A319 seats are wider (18″) than 737s (17″)

    For comparison, a typical British Airways short haul seat is 17″ wide and 31″ seat pitch

  • Ross

    The whole overcharging for booking airline tickets is obscene. I am going to Australia in May and was booking internal flights. The cost for booking with a debit card is $35 AU dollars to book with a card.

    It just doesn’t seem right and is extremely annoying, but your hands are tied.

    Ross

  • Lucy1

    I have travelled with both easyjet and ryanair, easyjet 5 times and 4 substantial delays. Ryanair over 200 times and 1 delay of 2 hours. Ryanair nicer and newer planes,.Also Ryanair have an extra inch of legroom, handy if you are taller.

  • Tony

    slEasyjet is in a different class to cRyinAir because staff are usually a lot more nicer, you can contact them and get good information on their web-site.
    cRinAir is okay if you don’t mind queing for hours (with or without speedy boading), don’t mind paying extra for things you didn’t see in their small print, etc. etc….. they really are out to ruin your day when you fly with them.
    I’ve noticed quite often they can make you wait for 15 minutes in a wind tunnel of a stairwell before getting on planes.
    I also find it crazy that they encourage most of the passagers to travel with just one piece of hand luggage and cram it in the overhead lockers.
    With both, Speedy boarding can be non existent at some airports and it’s pointless speaking to staff as they have skin thicker than rhinos.
    You see all types of desperate people on these flights, selling their soles to the devil and being humiliated by the staff. 

  • cucu

    Easyjet is better! Everytime that I flight travel with ryanair I see people complaining during at the boarding queue. In my opinion easyjet is a company for people and ryanair is for animals transportation, at least it is how the staff make people feel. 

  • John

    As a frequent traveller in both airlines, I am afraid this message can only mean that you work for Ryanair, it is so far from the truth…

  • La

    No, I’ve also noticed that contrary to popular opinion Ryanair are far more reliable. 

  • NotTelling

    I’ve flown EasyJet since 2002, frequently. Probably more than 150 flights. Every week for two years then frequently thereafter, seems like a good estimate. They started off as a great company but now even Stellios says that they are not low cost any more. I get charged now for things I never got charged for in the past – bear in mind that the company has _always_ been profitable…so why am I being charged more for the same service I used to get when that service was making money?

    The baggage costs on EJ are abysmal at £19 per bag. To put this in to perspective: the hold space for your bag can cost more than your seat, but your hold bag is never offered any “fun cards” at all. This is terrible service for the premium seats the luggage get. I literally just about to book a flight and saw a £9 “admin fee” for booking online! This was the absolute last straw. I pay for the seat, my bags, the administration, a _huge_ credit card / debit card transaction fee. It will not be long before you have to rent the cushion on the seat too. I checked the cost of the most comparable flight from KLM and KLM cost five euros more. Five Euros for the privilege of not being lied to or have costs pile up… an advertised ticket price of a flight for £20 can end up costing you triple before that EasyJet ticket is any use to you. KLM don’t charge separately for all the things that you would expect to get, they offer a meal and land at a much nicer area in the destination airport (Schiphol). When it comes to a five Euro extra cost for a family of three to get reliability, better comfort and not watching all these costs creep up… I call that good value. I’d have paid an even bigger difference too simply for the fact that I hate how much more I am paying for the same service I used to get a decade ago. Actually I tell a lie, the Cup-a-Soup used to come with a roll. Good days.

    I have had a few delays but my flights are usually short and are a busy routes (UK to Holland) so they delays have only ever been no more than two hours. Given the number of flights I must say that they delays have been pretty minimal, but when they have happened there has been literally no information made available. One time we were seated on a frozen plane for four hours before getting to the runway! This was exceptional though, and not representative of their service, just representative that Schiphol needs to buy more de-icing vehicles.

    Even booking a seat has been truly problematic recently. Flying with a child under 2 is easy… if you want them on your lap. Booking an additional seat for an infant travelling in a car seat is nigh-on impossible. I went through three Polish representatives before I finally found one that understood that I want to buy a seat for an infant. You simply cannot book a seat for a child under two on the website, the option is not there, the minimum age of a child seat is 2, so children under 2 do not exist and therefore do not need a seat. Of course they exist enough to be charged separately, but they don’t quite exist enough to be allocated a seat if you want one. Since lying about the age of a child travelling on their own passport is worthy of a non-refundable cancellation of your tickets this process is hugely frustrating. Spending money should be easy, anything that stops this process from happening smoothly is an example of bad service.

    The cost of the flights have meant that for my last two trips I actually drove to Holland. It takes a lot longer but the actual travel costs are basically the same. The larger our family grows the more cost effective this method will become. An LPG modification to my car will pretty much “double” the cost effectiveness too, so I have that planned.

    I have never flown Ryan Air, so I don’t know if this Lucy is a shill or not, but it is hard to believe that they can be a bigger rip-off than EasyJet have become and still manage to attract customers.

    Either way I can personally vouch (along side Stellios) that the cost effectiveness of EasyJet is officially over.

  • Val

    Can’t think of anything ‘easy’ about Easyjet.  An ashtray in the toilet gave me an incredible clue about how OLD this fleet is!  My sister-in-law and | could not pool excess baggage for 4 kilos even though her bag only weighed 10 kilos because the tickets were not booked together!  Then there was the porter that came for the piece of sporting equipment that was too wide to fit on the conveyor….not only did he not take the item down, but then took the cart we paid for so that we could not get our pound coin back!  Twice I’ve flown Easyjet….twice I have been raped on baggage fees, and ended up hating Easyjet!   I like Wizzair!  They are no-frills and make an effort to make flying an enjoyable experience for their customers.

  • http://www.twentysomethinglondon.com/ Rachel

    Both of these airlines are very frustrating to use. Easyjet tends to be a bit more upfront about the costs, or so I’ve found.
    If you are cancelling a flight, one thing you should watch out for; sometimes they say no refunds, but if they do they still have to refund your tax which is usually a significant amount of the price, but they will not declare this, you have to ask them to do it. As always they are trying to maximise profit as much as possible.

  • Lita1071

    Well after reading this I guess the extra cost for TAP is worth it. 

  • http://www.london-insider.co.uk Boon Koh

    Definitely, once you add all the extra costs required, sometimes its cheaper to fly with a normal airline.

    It has gotten better on the fees though, especially with Easyjet. Now there’s no weight limit for hand carry luggage, which is great for short trips.

  • lucy333

    I dont work for Ryanair. I was recently in Malaga and Berlin. Easyjet passengers asleep on floors everywhere. Flights cancelled because of light snow in Berlin. All other flights were fine. Draw your own conclusions

  • lucy333

    I dont work for Ryanair, and just because our friend assumes that if you like Ryanair you must be an employee. That is immature logic.

  • lucy333

    Oh right so if I disagree with your unsubstantiated opinion I must therefore be working for Ryanair. Go back to school