Priority boarding is a common service offered by low-cost airlines in Europe, including Ryanair . But in the case of the famous low-cost company, when you pay for the service, you may not get the service you asked for.
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How does the Ryanair priority boarding work?
When Ryanair offers you a priority boarding, the airline says it like this: “Would you like to be one of the first passengers to board the plane?” (Yes, English is terrible, I know).
In most cases (i.e. at airports where Ryanair passengers board the plane directly from the terminal), passengers who have paid for Ryanair priority boarding can board the plane first, as would be expected from such a service. .
But at two airports in Spain ( Malaga and Tenerife South), as well as at 17 other Ryanair destinations in Europe (so far Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara has refused to tell me which 17), he doesn’t board the plane directly from the terminal. You have to take the bus. So how does Ryanair’s priority boarding work here?
When passengers board Ryanair planes by bus, those who have paid for priority boarding are asked to board first. First on the bus is the last off the bus. On a full-capacity aircraft, this places you in the top half of passengers, but just barely among the ‘top’ on board (as indicated when you pay for the service). On a half-full plane, you may be one of the last to board the plane.
See also: How strict is Ryanair’s baggage policy?
What is Ryanair doing about its flawed priority boarding process?
Ryanair spokesman Mr. McNamara said this:
“It is Ryanair’s policy to operate walk-in boarding at our airports. Ryanair passengers currently ‘take the bus’ at only two Spanish airports, where there are no services available yet (Malaga and Tenerife South). Ryanair will continue to work with these airports to develop ride services that ensure a more efficient boarding process. Ryanair handling agents in Malaga and Tenerife have been instructed to transport priority boarding passengers on the first bus, allowing them to board the plane before other passengers. Ryanair has not received any complaints from any passenger regarding priority boarding at these airports.
First, it is not “Ryanair policy” that dictates how passengers board a plane, but the policy of the airport. This is not the only airport responsibility that Ryanair claims: they like to suggest that it is the airline that loses the least amount of luggage in Europe when in reality it is the airports that handle the luggage, not the airline.
This is also not the first time that Ryanair has claimed not to have received complaints when anecdotal evidence has suggested otherwise. This time, I have in my possession a copy of a letter sent by a disgruntled passenger about priority boarding, dated 11 days before the previous claim.
When I pressured Mr. McNamara which other airports have bus boarding, he refused to cooperate, preferring to insult my professional credentials. He went on to tell me that he believes that the fact that passengers are paying for a service that they are not receiving was a “trivial and hassle-free matter.”
But there are many people who don’t think this is not a problem, including these members of the Consumer Action Group Forum .
What have other airlines done to avoid this problem?
Obviously, it is not Ryanair’s fault that these airports use buses to get to the planes. And of course other airlines face the same problem. So what do they do? EasyJet spokeswoman Samantha Day had this to say:
“When using a coach, our procedure is to send the coach with fast passengers and priority passengers to the aircraft first. Or when this is not possible as the numbers are small, the procedure is to send SB [Speedy Boarders] & PB [Priority Guests] in front of the coach, these doors open first, so they board the plane first.
Simple solution, huh? The Ryanair spokesperson is now refusing to answer my questions so I cannot get an answer from them on this. But I’m sure they’re reading so I’m sure they’ll eventually follow easyJet’s lead.
How to get Ryanair priority boarding without paying it
The following only works if you are boarding a Ryanair plane using a shuttle bus service (as in Malaga, Tenerife South and the other 17 airports in Europe that Ryanair refuses to name).
As you can see above, first to first bus (almost certainly) means last to get off. Similarly, last on the second bus means first off of it. The difference between the last one on the first bus and the first one on the second bus is minimal, probably only a couple of people.
So if you wait until the end of the line to get on the second bus, you will get on the plane only marginally behind those who have paid for the privilege, saving you money.
This doesn’t get you to the front of the line, as priority boarding is supposed to get you, but paying for the service won’t make it for you either. By being the first off the second bus, you should be able to sit with the rest of your group no matter how busy the plane is.