This one goes out to all my study abroad friends who have been flying those budget airlines to see the world.
Last week I got on my last Ryanair flight.
To say it was a bittersweet experience would not be an overstatement at all.
For the past five months during study abroad, I feel like I’ve lived a significant portion of time at the airport. (It was confirmed at Stansted last week when my phone automatically logged into the airport’s WiFi network. Whelp.) I feel like a lot of people back home don’t understand how I’ve been able to hop from country to country so regularly. (Trust me, it’s not because I have boatloads of hidden money. I’m still just a journalism student).
It’s the budget airlines that made seeing the world possible. Europe has really honed the budget airlines – a concept that I believe should be more developed in the U.S. A budget airline is a low-cost airline that offers lower fares and usually fewer amenities. For example, you’re only allowed one carry-on and sometimes not even a personal item or you have to pay for drinks on the plane.
Yet to fly from London to Paris to Amsterdam to Lisbon, flights could cost as low as $50. A few hours of work could pay for me to go to a completely different culture!
What an amazing concept.
So when I boarded my Ryanair flight that would carry me two hours away to Madrid, it hit me that that would be the last time in a while that I would be on a flight like it. The next flight I would get on would be British Airways. Despite the headaches and lack of customer service and zero to none comfort that I oftentimes experienced on Ryanair (and you too Easy Jet), I really do think it was a crucial part of my study abroad experience.
From flying these airlines I learned how to effectively pack, narrowing down exactly what I needed and how to reuse outfits. I also learned how to become a better planner. I can tell you multiple ways of how to get to the airport, how much time it’ll take and which security line to go to. At one point on my flight to Morocco the TSA officer at security told me he recognized me from the week before when I was headed to Portugal (oops, happens).
For each flight I’ve got on there’s been at least five stories associated with it. Like that one time we got to the airport as our flight to Amsterdam was going to take off, but Easy Jet being notoriously late was delayed an hour – giving us just enough time to make it to our gate on time. Or that time when we were leaving Pisa headed back to London and the plane began to land but jumped back up to the sky. The pilot later explained that a rookie was landing the plane and he started descending too late. It was weird that he was so calm, but we eventually landed safely at Luton so whatever.
Finally, those flights taught me how to soak up the experience with the people around me. It was about the relationships I built. My travel buddies and I bonded over the stress that traveling can bring, always celebrated making it to our gate on time and even cried when we missed a flight (that of course couldn’t be refunded because it’s a budget airline). There’s been highs and lows and Ryanair has flown us on all of them. Also want to give an honorable mention to National Express that got us to and from the airport, even if they were slow in doing so.
So as I wrap up my last week of study abroad and prepare to pack and get on my American Airlines flight headed to Chicago, I knew I wanted to write something to thank Ryanair for being Ryanair. I wouldn’t have seen Europe and North Africa without you. Though I won’t be yearning for flying you while I’m in the States, my experience with it has encouraged me to venture around the U.S. more. There’s so much to see and do! Even just in L.A. where I spend the majority of my year.
The love of traveling has definitely been ignited in me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I just wish more forms of budget airlines existed in the U.S. to make it easier. But until then, Spirit Airlines, I’m coming for you.