Subject: Re: Free is Good (Ryanair)
Greetings, potential Ryanair flyers:

We flew Ryanair in July and loved it! Kudos to Jim and Kathleen for taking advantage of their great rates to cut a huge chunk of travel time out of your itinerary.

Dave's cautionary post is worth remembering when you book any discount airline. Our own US favorite, Southwest (well, we Texans grew up on it and thus love it, warts and all!), is the innovator of many cost-saving measures the intra-European discount airlines have adopted, e.g., utilizing near-city airports. True, sometimes, the ground transfer logistics are just too time-consuming and costly to make the cheap airfare worth it. You must simply research your options before biting on the bargain fare.

Let me point out another watch out! factor associated with using the discount fliers: don't book until you are sure you can comply with their baggage rules, which are far more restrictive than the baggage rules used by the jumbo jet carrier you will likely fly between home and Europe/the UK. This summer, we traveled out of the usual carry-on sized rollers plus backpacks and loved not having to check luggage anywhere...until we made a couple of short hops via Ryanair and EasyJet. Both airlines required us to check the rollers, and their printed regs (you can read them online) contained a severe size/weight limit applicable to both the checked bags and the carry- on backpacks/hand luggage. I am pretty sure that a couple of our bags were overweight, subjecting us to an overage fee I had guesstimated pre-trip to prevent any unpleasant surprise. However, they didn't bat an eye at our bags--or at the golf clubs, huge body bag duffels, etc. that our fellow travelers were lugging. Our flights were full, so I never figured out why we got so lucky...that time.

Dave's experience reminded me that we, too, had to walk out onto the tarmac and up a fold-away stair to board our Ryanair plane out of Cork, Ireland. You don't get seating assignments when you book or complimentary beverage service, either. And the refunds and changes policies are harsh--read them carefully before booking, as often, if you don't get on the flight you booked, that ticket is deemed forfeited and of no value whatsover. Accordingly, it is imperative to plan your travel schedule wisely to allow for arrival at the airport when they tell you to arrive (at the latest), especially if you will be required to check any luggage, as their check-in lines can really stack up. Because they already have your money and don't care if you make the flight, they will, indeed, close flights at the stated deadline, leaving stragglers at the rear of the line with no recourse but to pay the then-going rate for the next flight, which won't be anywhere close to free.

All of the cautionary considerations aside, if you travel light and can handle no frills air service, then the Ryanairs of the world are definitely worth looking into for making some of those otherwise tedious connections for a very favorable price.

Happy value travels!

Diana Ball near Houston, TX