When taking the plane to Ireland, priority boarding on Ryanair is a godsent for some, a bone of contention for others. And an additional fee for a small advantage. Let’s have a closer look at the pros and cons of this service offered by the Irish budget airline ...
Priority Boarding – What is it?
When you book with Ryanair, you will be offered the opportunity to pay extra for „Priority Boarding“. As Ryanair has no seat reservations, actual seats on a plane are taken by passengers on a „first come“ basis. This means the fleet of foot get the best seats. Priority Boarding may help in winning this race – you are effectively paying for the privilege to be in the first group of passengers to be released from the gate towards the plane.
Priority Boarding or Just a Headstart?
As I said above, you are amongst the first passengers to be sent on your way to the plane. Whether you will actually board first is a different story ... the ancient art of polite queuing is forgotten by most Europeans once the race starts. And the ground crew may release the stampede right behind you, negating any advantage unless you take off like Usain Bolt in the first place.
At Dublin Airport there are usually no problems, the planes are near the gate. In Frankfurt-Hahn it is a different story – if you have to tramp from Gate 7 (the „Schengen-Gate“, complete with passport control as you are leaving the Schengen-area) to Stand A3, about the furthest distance possible. During a recent flight four Priority passengers and around 26 non-priority passengers were released in the first stampede. An elderly lady amongst the priority passengers could not keep the pace and boarded last ...
How Does Priority Boarding Work?
Priority Boarding means, in theory, that two queues will be formed at the gate and that those in the Priority queue will be released first. Ground personnel at the gate monitors this process and ensures that those who paid get off first.
Does Priority Boarding Actually Work?
There is no further monitoring process upon actually boarding the plane, so whoever arrives first boards first. If buses are used to transfer passengers from gate to plane, expect Priority Boarding to extend as far as „boarding the bus first“. Which in effect often means that when the bus arrives at the plane, the Priority Boarding passengers will be the last off the bus ... thereby totally defeating the purpose.
At Budapest Airport service personnel in the terminal could not even be bothered to care – they let everyone board with or without priority in a haphazard way. Maybe a legacy of the class-free socialist dreamworld that imploded twentyfive years ago. Or a simple post-socialist "Am I bothered?" attitude.
So, Pay for Priority Boarding or Not?
Good question ... the fee is low and I like the extra bit of leeway it gives me when boarding. Also in three out of four cases it works fine for me and I am amongst the first passengers to board. So I’d have to say „Yes!“
On the other hand you may feel short-changed if something goes wrong (see the Budapest example) or if inconsiderate non-priority passengers overtake you on the tarmac (tackling them rugby-style is frowned upon by security).