TRIP REPORT: Ryanair, London - Zagreb and back


Written by Marko Š

Airline: Ryanair
Equipment: Airbus A320 (Operated by Lauda Europe)
Route: London Stansted - Zagreb - London Stansted
Date: 20th November - 24th November 2021

Since I haven’t been back to Croatia in over a year, I was looking into taking a short break mostly because the PCR and antigen tests were scrapped for vaccinated passengers. The second prevailing reason for taking a trip was the fare of £16 for the return flight. I thought I got the deal of the century when I found out a week later the same flight would cost me a whole £10. I guess I overpaid £6. Knowing about the strict basic fare bag policy I’ve ordered a small sports shoulder bag from Decathlon for £5 since it was the exact dimensions stated by Ryanair. It was a bit of a challenge stuffing everything I needed in it for the five-day trip, but I managed!

Left our East London flat for Stratford bus station at 03:45 to catch the National Express coach departing at 05:02. I haven’t flown from Stansted before and never used public transportation to it, so I made sure I left plenty of time for the commute. The coach ride took around 45 minutes, mostly because of no motorway traffic that early Saturday morning. The return fare for the National Express coach cost £13.90 and I bought it directly from Ryanair’s website.

Arrived at Stansted Airport a bit before 6 AM just to run into a huge crowd at security. I’ve heard about those and that some would buy a Fast Track pass, but it turned out that the crowd was passing through quickly and it took around 20-25 minutes to go through the gates and the security check. At that time, I had more than 2 hours left for the flight departure. The gate was announced some 50 minutes before, but the Ryanair app notified me some 15 minutes before which gate will probably be used, so I decided to head to it a bit earlier, so I managed to get there first. At that point, I thought the flight would be mostly empty because only the two of us arrived at the gate even after it was announced on the flight information screens. Several minutes later people started flooding in and since I was standing right in front of the gate desk, I saw on the computer screen saying that there will be 140 passengers on today’s flight. Of course, there was a couple of passengers that showed up at the non-priority line with the regular cabin bags, just to be smacked with a £47 fee for the bag that doesn’t fit the basic fare bag allowance. There is no chance in the world they couldn’t know what the bag policy with Ryanair is since it literally asks you a few times during the booking process and sends you an email every several days prior to your flight. That’s on them.

Boarding started on time and because they let us down the jetbridge too soon, all of us had to wait on it for the next 5 or so minutes until we were let out onto the tarmac. Once on board, it was clear that the flight was almost completely full. I was seated at 11B, which means I got the middle seat, but that didn’t really pose a problem for a two-hour flight. Zagreb flights are operated by Lauda and the cabin looked well maintained, but without any visible branding, except on the floor carpet. The flight departed on time and was for the most part quite uneventful. The cabin crew were offering food, drinks and some luxury goods from their catalogue. We landed in Zagreb also on time. The passport control took some 20 minutes to go through and I found out I don’t need to fill out the Croatian passenger locator form since I am a citizen. I just had to present my NHS app QR code with the proof of being fully vaccinated. After that, I went to the car rental desk and learned that next time I should pay for the additional car insurance at the desk and not through Ryanair’s website since it would be a bit cheaper.

The return flight was early in the morning, at 06:45 to be exact. Several other flights were scheduled around that time, so the airport was slowly filling up after 5 AM. Security was practically empty when I went through with one visibly irritated ground staff barking orders at passengers that wouldn’t remove all of their belongings and put them in a tray. I knew I was still in the Balkans.

After the passport check I went to Cafe Nero and after paying the bill for a cafe latte, a small bottle of Jana water and a carrot cake, I thought I was already in London. Almost an hour before the scheduled departure I went to gate 28 and again ended up first in line. When boarding started, the ground staff asked us to show the NHS vaccination QR code and the locator form. I completely forgot about preparing those on my phone and had to dig for a minute in front of a lady which felt like hours.

Once all of the passengers boarded, it seemed the flight was around 90% full. This time I was seated next to an aisle, in row 20. The couple next to me was going through the Lonely Planet London booklet, so I guess there are some tourists visiting London. This flight also took off on time and for most of its duration, passengers were sleeping or trying to. 

We landed at Stansted a bit ahead of time, disembarked at the tarmac next to the terminal building and walked to the e-gates. There were already hundreds if not thousands of people slowly moving in line and it seemed like I’ll be stuck there for the next hour or two. Surprisingly after a while, the line started moving slowly and I was through it maybe 20-25 minutes later. I was out of the terminal building and managed to catch the departing National Express bus as soon as I reached the parking bay. 

This was my first trip with Ryanair and from what I’ve been hearing and reading, I was prepared for the worst, but in the end, it ended up a very pleasant and cheap experience. If I’d manage to catch such cheap tickets in the future, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing them.

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  1. Nemjee09:12

    Looking at those pictures of the ZAG terminal, makes me wonder if they should have rather put carpets in stead of those tiles. Looks a bit sterile like this, as if you were in a hospital or something. Dark coloured (or even gray) carpet would have created a nice contrast.

    Btw was the crew Croatian?

    1. Anonymous09:40

      Have you used the airport yourself, Nemaja?

    2. Nemjee10:16

      No which is why I wrote this:

      Looking at those pictures of the ZAG terminal...

    3. I believe the crew was mixed, but couldn't say for sure.

      Also, I prefer those tiles next to the carpet which ones it stains, it's hart to clean and then you have them all over.

    4. Anonymous18:51

      Carpet sounds like the worst idea ever. Reminds me of American shows from the '90s. Unfortunately, 5 years ago while visiting NYC, I found out that Newark airport still has those... how tasteless

    5. Anonymous18:55

      You shpuld travel more. Singapore Changi Airport, hands dow the best in the world, is famous fot its carpets which have a different design in each terminal.

    6. Anonymous00:40

      Good, Nemaja, then post your experience when you have actually used it as a passenger. Thanks.

    7. Anonymous06:43

      I've flown through ZAG twice and found it to be sterile and it always felt empty.

    8. Anonymous17:09

      Funnily enough, I have been to Singapore Changi airport (layover from Brisbane to Amsterdam). Don't remember that the carpets impressed me much tho. But I will give it another try for future travels to Australia.

  2. Anonymous09:36

    Croatia Airlines is much better and just as cheap once you've added Ryanair's extras on, not to mention the Bus journey from Stansted to central London.

    1. He didn't add any of Ryanair's extras, so basic ticket for £16 and a bus ride to Stansted £14. Does Croatia offer the return London for £30 ?

    2. If you need bags to bring tubs of Celebration back, then it might, but for £20 each way you could carry backpack and a cabin carry on. Also, to reach Heathrow from most of parts of London, you still have to pay for the Tube or Heathrow Express.

      Definitely still beats OU, by far.

    3. Anonymous10:43

      When you say much better, I guess you have some metrics on which you based your opinion?

      Otherwise, there isn't much sense in your comment.

    4. Anonymous12:55

      Are fares that low in general? If yes then no wonder BA suspended ZAG in November. I don't think they can compete with that.

    5. Anonymous15:18

      Usually they're not that low. Maybe right now its common to see low fares on Zagreb flights cause its their new base and they're trying to attract new customers, but as soon as a couple of months pass by the prices are going to be in the 70s round trip if not more.

  3. Anonymous09:39

    Why the low-costs need to have an ugly livery?

  4. Anonymous11:26

    Thanks for the nice report.

    Love your comments about the confusing experience at ZAG (behavior of staff vs. food prices) :). I feel the same every time I fly through BEG.

    On another note, as I also live in London, and my parents in Nis, I was considering flying Ryanair to VIE and onwards to INI. Would be two separate tickets, but with enough time in between, and the return journey would cost about €60 (in January). The only thing that puts me off is having to land in a third country, which might complicate the covid-related bureaucracy.

    1. Anonymous12:56

      Why not fly LTN-BEG? Or are they unreasonably expensive?

      Also these VIE and ZAG fares won't last, at some point they will have to increase them. I guess once they chase away competition.

    2. Anonymous14:05

      LTN-BEG is not very expensive, but it would mean waking up at 2:30 am and then going through the jungle of Belgrade taxis and bus station to get to Nis, while landing in Nis and taking a 15-minute, 400-dinar taxi home is a definition of easy travel :)

    3. Anonymous14:40

      E pa ne moze i jare i pare! ))

    4. Anonymous00:46

      Luton-Belgrade is actually very expensive. Try Timisoara instead. Always very cheap and reliable. Reminds me of Maastricht vs Liège.
      TSR was always the cheapest option from London compared to BEG.

  5. Anonymous18:45

    Last Monday I flew from Zagreb to Memmingen. Same as here the ticket was really cheap. I bought additionally a carry-on baggage for 20€. I have a feeling that about 90% of passengers didn't do that. Not sure how these airlines survive with such prices and what salaries they pay their employees.

    1. Anonymous19:14

      What was the load?

    2. Mario20:58

      It was not more than 50-60%, but the plane was quite big.

    3. I am wondering the same. With airfares so low, I doubt they can even cover their fuel expenses, not to mention salaries, aircraft lease, etc. I'm really happy to see ZAG and FR working together to offer new routes and I hope this brings not just tourist but also some business and investment opportunities into the local economy.

  6. Ryanair has really changed everything. I'm also going home for Christmas for the first time in a year and a half. I'm traveling from Copenhagen but will be flying from Malmø to Zagreb with Ryan and the ticket isn't this crazy cheap but it's still cheap - €60 round trip. I just need to cross the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmø.
    That's about 8 to 10 times cheaper than what I would've normally paid for the cheapest OU flight.


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