TRIP REPORT: Ryanair, London Stansted - Pula

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by Jakov Fabinger

During the summer season of 2017 I flew between London Stansted and Pula on six separate occasions with Ryanair. On top of that I had purchased three more tickets that I never checked in for. This trip report is about my experience across these flights, with occasional comparisons to easyJet's Gatwick to Pula service which I also used that summer.

1. The airports

Reaching Stansted Airport is great. If, like me, you are fortunate to live close to a National Express bus stop, of which there are plenty in North central London, you are just one comfortable bus journey away. Advance bookings for a return trip with a coachcard sell for incredibly low prices: I paid £3.30 for a single ticket from Stansted to Victoria for my mid-June return from Pula. The buses have wi-fi and run several times an hour on all lines into London, all day and all night.


Waiting for my 11pm bus into London after a Wednesday night flight from Pula
The process of getting through the airport is not glamorous but it works. All of my flights to Pula were on Wednesday afternoons: FR3872 departing at 17:20 and arriving at 20:35. It took me 15 minutes on average to get through the security queue. The crowd is large (see below) but the queue moves quickly.

Stansted security queue: Wednesday afternoons

The dominance of Ryanair at Stansted
(Note the British weather: this photo is from early August!)

For one of my flights the National Express bus was so late that the time it parked in front of the airport was just five minutes before the "gate closing" cut-off. The bus got stuck on Finchley Road due to an accident amid heavy rain, so we arrived to Stansted 90 nail-biting minutes behind schedule. The bus journey that was meant to take an hour and twenty minutes took just under three hours in total, and I spent all three in full panic mode knowing that if I don't scan my QR code at security before the given "gate closing" time, I would have to wait four days until the next Ryanair flight to Pula or pay four times more for a ticket on easyJet's or British Airways' Saturday evening flight. By the time I got into the airport building the time I had until gate closing had evaporated to three minutes so I purchased myself a fast track pass for £7. In my episode of manic running I actually lost the fast track pass out of my hand on the way into security, but fortunately a person behind me saw the piece of paper fly away as I was running and pointed me towards it when they saw me looking for it. I managed to reach the automated security gates for fast track security just seconds before the cutoff time for ticket scanning. I ended up catching my plane too, and was one of the last few passengers to board.

England: take off from Stansted

The Adriatic: descent into Pula

Pula Airport is adorable. Ryanair's Wednesday flights departing Pula for Stansted at 21:00 were always the last departure of the day. There was never a queue at security or passport control (which are only a few meters apart). The airport always felt cosy at this time. In contrast, when I was on the second FR3872 which departed Pula for Stansted on Sunday mornings at 10:30, it was hectic. The staff at the airport are absolutely lovely and visibly work very hard, but the capacity constraint of the infrastructure meant that I had to spend a whole hour in the security queue, and that there were no seats in the (only) airport cafe.

Sunday morning at Pula Airport

The boarding process is slightly chaotic but can be described as charming. You stand in a boarding queue which passengers are free to form in any shape they please. No lanes are provided by the airport, but this never posed a problem in all the times I was there. Once boarding begins, you make your way out of the airport and into the plane. This is always a nice photo opportunity.

Boarding my easyJet flight from Pula to Gatwick

Public transport to and from the airport is expectedly non-existent, so you either need to take a taxi or hire a car (or have a helpful relative pick you up, as was my case). But most important of all: the airport cafe serves several types of rakija.

Rakija, Pula Airport

2. Ryanair

Ryanair gets a lot of bad press and is one of those companies that people feel is socially acceptable to hate. But I absolutely love it. From the consumer's point of view I cannot find a flaw. Out of the six flights, only one was delayed (by twenty minutes, during heavy rain at Stansted). Two of them were more than 15 minutes early. In contrast, easyJet's flights between Pula and Gatwick are almost never on time, and in fact have an average delay of over thirty minutes on Saturday nights. Croatia Airlines flights to Heathrow from both Zagreb and Split are more often than not arriving with delays exceeding one hour throughout the summer. Punctuality is Ryanair's massive strength. Next, the in-flight experience. I often find that the people who joke about Ryanair passengers being cramped like sardines are the people who never actually sat in a Ryanair plane. The legroom is fantastic (more than on any British Airways narrow-body Airbus, believe it or not). Ryanair doesn't serve you free food, and neither does BA, but surely you can do without a sandwich for two hours. The excessive yellow colouring of their interior is off-putting only to someone who is determined to dislike it. I find it strangely charming. I was extremely fortunate to sit in their brand new 737 for one of my August flights out of Pula, and the experience was superb. Their light-blue LED lighting across the cabin ceiling was exceptionally appealing. When cold air is released out of the cabin voids against that blue ceiling background the whole plane looks stunning. I was shocked by how pleasant the passenger experience is in Ryanair's new 737, and I say this as someone who already likes the airline.

My window seat, and its a lovely wing view

Flying over Istria: a Sunday morning flight

Flying over Istria: a Wednesday night flight

Finally, the price. I shall let the numbers speak for themselves: I paid £25 for a flight into Pula in early June, £18 for a flight back to Stansted mid-June. I should note that I waited until March to purchase my ticket (as I always do), because that's when Ryanair begin dropping prices. The ticket I bought for £25 was selling for £47 in January, and by May it had dropped to £20. I outline some data below. Note that I never purchased extras like seat reservations or hold luggage.

Destination DatePrice (£)Ticket purchasedEstimated LF (%)
Pulaearly June25March95
Londonmid-June17late May85
Pulalate June43May95
Londonlate July38Marchno show
Pulaearly August91three days before100
Pulamid-August28Marchno show
Londonlate August70date change, August100
Londonlate August75Mayno show
Londonmid-October25March80

A load factor of 100% means tickets sold out when I checked the website on the day of departure. A load factor of 95% means I saw two or three seats empty in the plane, but these could have been no-shows so the flight might still have been sold out. Ryanair doesn't overbook.

I booked all these tickets through the fantastic Ryanair smartphone app. It saves your ID details and payment information within your account, and it even tracks your past destinations so to buy a ticket I only ever need to pick a date and press 'pay now'. The experience is designed to be flawlessly easy, as is the check-in for which you only need to show your QR code - I never had to print anything.

I never paid for any extras and never required any. The myths about "hidden fees" are simply untrue. In fact, if you check in just moments before the cut-off at 2 hours before departure, you will get the best seats too because Ryanair allocates free seating from worst to best in order of check-in. (I once got allocated seat 1A on a flight to Berlin, free of charge).

I should note: tickets for the mid-October flight out of Pula dropped to £9 in September, while I pad £25 for that same flight in March. Also, when I changed the date of my late August flight I only had to pay the £40 change fee: the fare difference evaporated from £220 three weeks before departure to £70 four days before it. When you purchase tickets with Ryanair you have to get the timing right. I spend months tracking the ticket prices of all the flights I intend to board, always waiting for the optimal moment. You should not believe the myth that ticket prices increase with each new ticket that is sold.

Overall, as I unambiguously made clear, my entire experience of flying with Ryanair was superb. A summary of my reasons:

1. The functionality of Stansted Airport, Ryanair's main base
2.The highly user-friendly app and ticket booking process, through which I purchased all my tickets within minutes
3. Their affordable prices: by far the cheapest among the five carriers between London and Pula, comparable only to Jet2 (but at sub-optimal departure times)
4. The in-flight experience, particularly in their superbly furbished new Boeings

It's just a pity that  Ryanair reduced the free hand luggage allowance from two to one cabin bag, in January this year. In all my years of flying Ryanair I adhered very strictly to the rule of never paying a single penny above the ticket price. Now it looks like that tradition will need to end - or I might even give BA a go.

Boarding the Wednesday night flight in mid-October


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Comments

  1. Nice TR,thanks. But your message public transport doesn’t exist is not true. Pula has shuttle service from airport to autobusni kolodvor pula

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  2. Excellent trip report! Although, you can still bring two bags on Ryanair flights, but the bigger bag(suitcase) has to go in the hold (for free) and you can take only the smaller bag with you on board.

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  3. How many Zagreb citizens travel to Pula, Rijeka and Zadar to catch LCC?

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    Replies
    1. Quite a few I think. From Zagreb you can only reach London, and soon Dublin, but both are very expensive. From Pula alone you can reach 10 UK airports and Dublin, at much cheaper prices.

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    2. But people do not want to travel outside of those months anyhow, so it doesn't matter. Croats flying "home" from Ireland, Germany and the UK only really want to go to Croatia in the summer.

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  4. There are now NO flights from Rijeka to Uk..a disgrace when other Croatian airports have worked to attract new/more flights from uk. There is even Liverpool and Southend to Pula for
    S18!(easyjet). Good review..yes Ryanair seat pirch is better than BA and the cabin crew much nicer. On time great too. Ryanair has for past years had "making things better" campaign amd it is working. Just fashionable to be negative about them.

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  5. With not a penny in additional revenue, Ryan is probably losing money on you in 6 out of 9 tickets. No wonder you love them but not sure if they love you back. Not your problem, of course.

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    Replies
    1. Probably not, since they get paid by Pula to fly there.

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    2. And their marginal cost of each new passenger is very low!

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  6. Great review, many thanks! Specially thanks for pointing to their pricing policy. I have checked various Ryan destinations and got impression that their prices are always increasing towards the date of the flight, however their business model of always selling 100% of places would suggest what you have notices.
    I really like Stansted airport design. Used it in 2009 and than again in 2016. However as I have heard and witnessed, it is getting cramped and there is very limited sitting space once you are through security, unless you want to sit in a caffe.
    Ryan air is really not that bad, and one especially feels satisfied with the comfort and service when the ticket price was low. However, I always have a feeling that the interior is too simple, unnecessary looking cheap. I have not flown their new planes so looking forward to see new lighting described.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly! There is a real feeling of satisfaction you get from flying Ryanair. Ultimately they will get you from A to B like the other airlines so why pay more?

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  7. Oh no.... looks like this forum now has its first RyanAir fanboy lol.... just making jokes! Great report, thanks for sharing.

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  8. Great that you found an airline to love. Just a correction "Ryanair doesn't overbook." is not true.

    At least it was not true in 2016/17 in Germany: I used to fly with them when they were serving Cologne-Berlin. They definitely overbooked then (but they were good at handling the situation. The incredible thing is that they always got away with a single 49€ voucher; compare that to some of the legacy that get into trouble, even if they offer 500€)

    I did never measure the leg room, but it feels for sure much less then in the lufthansa/austrian seats. But I love Ryanair for their decision to use fixed and sturdy back rests: no matter how much anybody in front of you tries to smash it against my knees, I feel save. If only lufthansa etc. would copy that.

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