travel: Ryanair vs Easyjet

battle of the cheapies
Ryanair vs Easyjet on the London Berlin route

We flew Ryanair from Berlin to London and Easyjet on the way back to see which we liked best. Quite often using any of these airlines is a matter of luck: You check the websites for the cheapest fares on a route and then go with the cheapest - but should you? And if they're the same price, what should you do? We have a look but, as they say, YMMV.

Ryanair almost makes a fetish of being aesthetically displeasing. This habit runs the gamut from their website to their plane interiors, which are plastered with ads for themselves and ads for advertising themselves. It is claustrophobic and unpleasant. What they might be saying is that with a flight time of about 1 hour 45 minutes, you can probably bear it and maybe even worse.

On the staff front, we had a pleasant, smiling, check-in girl with one of those wonderful, characterful Irish faces, followed by boarding gate people who looked like they would rather we didn't darken their doorway ever again and that that time was a particularly inconvenient one. Indeed the plane was running late and never caught up.

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Ryanair flys into and out of London Stansted, which hasn't quite the awful reputation of Heathrow (which is a disgrace to the UK) but doesn't have many fans either. The transport connections to town are ridiculously expensive. To get to our destination in North London it cost UK15 for the train to Tottenham Hale and another 15 for a cab to go a small hop-step further. It can take nearly two hours to make the journey into London Victoria.

Easyjet, by contrast, flies out of Gatwick, which is 40 minutes out of Victoria station by ordinary rail. It's still ridiculously expensive but it is better than Stansted.

If Ryanair reminds you at every juncture that you're flying steerage class, Easyjet is a more normal experience. The comparison isn't entirely fair though because our checks on advance fares had Ryanair cheaper every time and sometimes by a fair margin. Last minute fares were something else though and, surprisingly, Easyjet was often cheaper.

            Ryanair         Easyjet
fares     usually cheapest  last minute
comfort     2/10             6/10
cabin looks 0/10             6/10
service     3/10             7/10
handyness of
airport     3/10             5/10
ticketing   6/10             6/10

A PS to this is that Ryanair recently posted losses for their operations. Your first reaction might be that we can now expect higher prices but the company statement said just the opposite. Whether this was just marketing BS remains to be seen.

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