Ryanair 737-800 basic economy is surprisingly sucky *and* pleasant

Ryanair 737-800 basic economy is surprisingly sucky *and* pleasant

I’ve been writing airline reviews for many years now, and it’s always baffled me how the most common request I get (over and over) is to give the basic Ryanair 737-800 economy experience a try.

Wouldn’t it be more fun to read a review about some fancy-pants international business class seat that only travel influencers fly? Why does everyone want to see me squirm on an ultra low cost carrier out of tiny overcrowded airports I can barely pronounce?

But hey. I live to serve, and today I’m serving up a Ryanair review from London (Stansted) to Dublin. Squirming included!

London, England (STN) – Dublin, Ireland (DUB)
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Aircraft: 737-8AS
Registration: EI-FRS
Duration: 52 minutes
Seat: 6A (regular economy)

Ryanair 737-800 side view
Ryanair 737-800 side view illustration by Norebbo.com
fr225 flight track
Our route from STN to DUB this afternoon as FR225.

My full review of Ryanair 737-800 basic economy from London (STN) to Dublin

Do I dare kick off this Ryanair review with the admission that I paid $300 to ride in a car from one end of London to another? Well, I knew it was gonna be expensive to take a taxi from LHR to STN but…my god! It would’ve been cheaper to fly! Oh well.

My delayed arrival into Heathrow from Dubai forced me into it since it was the fastest option and I really didn’t want to miss my flight over to Dublin.

London black cab
If you’ve ever wondered what a $300 taxi ride looks like, here you go. In my defense, I had planned to take the bus, but my delayed arrival into LHR from DXB wouldn’t get me there in time.

Arrival at the London Stansted Airport

Believe me. I didn’t want to tell you what I paid on cab fare to get to STN, but as you’ll see, it ended up being a crucial part of my very first Ryanair experience. Starting this review any other way would’ve been unthinkable.

Stansted airport exterior
Arrival at Stansted Airport, feeling absolutely shell shocked from what had just happened. Did I really just pay someone $300 to drive me from one end of London to the other just so I could do a stupid Ryanair review?!

How is Stansted Airport even considered to be London? Figuring in the time and cost it took to get here, that’s like calling San Diego International Airport an alternative to LAX. It’s just not.

Stansted Airport entrance
Maybe if I act casual nobody will notice how big of an idiot I am…
Welcome to Stansted Airport
Bitterness aside, I was actually surprised to see how large Stansted airport is. I was kinda (sorta) expecting it to be a tiny desolate shack out in the middle of nowhere! Well, I guess I was right about the “out in the middle of nowhere” part.
Stansted Airport departures board
The current status of FR225 over to Dublin: “Please Wait”.
Ryanair check in Stansted Airport
FYI, even though I had a mobile boarding pass and they threatened to fine me if I checked in at the airport (it said so on my boarding pass), I still had to stand in line to have my documents verified. Turns out that (as a US citizen with a US passport) they were required to verify my travel visa – even though no visa is required for US citizens to travel between the UK and Dublin. It’s complicated, but you can read more about the silly requirement here.

In addition to the visa issue, one of the things that always confuses me when traveling in internationally is the process for going through customs when making a connecting flights in Europe. No, I wasn’t technically making a connection today, though I was technically traveling between two European countries.

Did I need to go though customs and passport control for this? Long story short: yes. Yes I did.

Inside though Stansted Airport terminal

I had a few minutes to spare after clearing security (and customs), so why not spend even more money on an overpriced lunch? By the way, if it wasn’t obvious by now, the angry music I chose for the intro to my video didn’t happen by accident. I was still feeling quite bitter.

food before Ryanair flight
Delicious looking food in a Ryanair review? I’ve gotta be like one of the first to ever do that.
SANspotter selfie Stansted Airport
Still worried that everyone is pointing and laughing at me for spending so much on cab fare.

If there was anything pleasantly surprising this morning, it was the realization that Stansted airport is pretty nice actually. Yeah, it’s a little crowded, but it wasn’t hard to find a quiet spot to get away from it all.

Stansted Airport crowded
What’s funny is that I don’t see a single person smiling in this pic. This central section of STN is hell for sure, but there are indeed quiet places to escape to if you’re willing to walk a bit.

On a side note, how much you wanna bet that taxi driver laughed his ass off all the way back to Heathrow?

Ryanair 737-800
Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for this?

Boarding Ryanair flight 225 (FR225) to Dublin

The gate for my flight over to Dublin was posted just 10 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin. I guess they were trying to keep everyone in the main terminal spending money in the shops and restaurants, which totally worked because, well, I’m not even going to admit how much I paid for that noodle bowl.

Ryanair 737-800 EI-EVL
More Ryanair 737 scenery as I walk to the gate. I mean, this *is* supposed to be a Ryanair review, and there’s no way I was going to miss an opportunity to post a pick of EI-EVL.

When it comes to flying Ryanair, there are two choices: Non Priority, and Priority. I splurged for the Priority option, only because I wanted a seat ahead of the wing for decent views of the wing and engine. Which have been totally lacking from my reviews lately, I know.

Ryanair Priority vs. Non Priority
Ryanair Priority vs. Non Priority. So many dang rules!
Ryanair boarding process
I still don’t see anyone smiling. Doesn’t anyone care that I’m trying to make an epic Ryanair review?
EI-FRS Ryanair 737-800
EI-FRS is the plane operating as FR225 over to Dublin this afternoon.

This being my very first Ryanair flight and all, I found the boarding process to be…interesting. You see, I assumed that we’d actually be boarding the plane once they let us out onto the tarmac. Silly me. There were still people deplaning from the previous flight!

Boarding Ryanair FR225 Stansted Airport
Little did I know that I’d be standing in this spot for the next 15 minutes.

As a hardcore AvGeek who likes being around airplanes, I didn’t mind having to stand out here in the hot sun while the cabin crew did what they needed to do to prep this flight over to Dublin. The guy standing behind me, however, was spewing profanity like an angry marine.

737-800 EI-FRS
How fun would it have been to make a silly comment about how ratty and worn down Ryanair planes are? Unfortunately, this particular 737-800 was as spotless and clean as Air Force One.

Ok, here we go! It’s not often I’m able to get air stair footage such as this, and I was quickly reminded of how awkward it is to be pointing a camera directly into the rear ends of complete strangers.

Ryanair 737 air stairs
Quite possibly the most awkward pic on all of SANspotter.com.
Ryanair 737-800 close up
That’s better.

My first impressions of the Ryanair 737-800 Basic economy seats

As I mentioned earlier, I paid a little extra to be seated towards the front for this Ryanair review, which ended up being a decent choice. Keep in mind that Rose one through five are considered “premium” seats with a few extra inches of legroom. I was in row 6 (the first row of regular economy).

For what it’s worth, I was definitely prepared for kneecap-crushing leg room (like what you saw in my Air France A321 economy class review) – but woefully unprepared for the yellow headrests.

Welcome onboard Ryanair
Welcome onboard! At the very least, this is starting out to be a far more friendly experience than my recent easyJet flight.
Ryanair Boeing 737 sky interior
Wait a sec. I was expecting something a lot worse than this (which, if you’ve read my Avelo Airlines review, is a common feeling I have when stepping onboard an ultra low cost airline).
Ryanair leg room
The legroom. HOW is it even possible that it’s better than Air Canada Rouge? My hatred of that airline from the great white north just fell to a depressing new low…
Ryanair safety card
This right here is one of the primary reasons why I’ve been anxious to do a full review of Ryanair. What’s not to love (and hate) about the safety card plastered to the back of an obnoxiously yellow headrest? Making it all the more annoying is the fact that you’ve gotta look at it for the entire flight.
Ryanair tray table
It’s not as if I have any plans on utilizing this tray table while in flight, but…this pic is necessary for the review.
SANspotter selfie Ryanair
This isn’t so bad! As a matter of fact, I was feeling quite comfortable here in seat 6A. Yeah, the seat colors are somewhat questionable, but otherwise, this wasn’t any worse than what we get on any of the big 3 airlines back in the US.

Departure from the Stansted Airport

For a guy who had been up all night flying a redeye in from Dubai (and then being extorted out of $300 to get from Heathrow to Stansted), I was in an awfully good mood just moments before pushing off the gate.

Ryanair review
FR225 is officially underway! Should I be worried?
Stansted Airport
Stansted isn’t the most exciting airport in all the world, but it sure was fun to experience it for myself. Perhaps I’ll see it again in a future Ryanair review?

Hard to believe we didn’t crash and burn on the takeoff, isn’t it? YES, I’m joking. But seriously, despite all the negativity I’ve heard about Ryanair over the years, this had been a pleasantly normal experience so far. Except for the yellow headrests of course.

Ryanair takeoff
Feeling slightly confused about what’s more interesting. Is it the scenery outside? Or the yellow headrests?
Ryanair yellow headrests
You know, there’s just so much I could say about the design of these Ryanair 737 cabins. Maybe it’s best that I don’t say anything.
Sanspotter Ryanair review
The look of relief knowing that you just survived a Ryanair takeoff.

Onboard service

Much how it is on Spirit Airlines back in the US, there is indeed full cabin service on Ryanair. However, you’re gonna pay dearly for it, and I couldn’t justify spending the money. Yeah, I was still just a little bitter about that $300 taxi ride this morning.

Ryanair cabin service
I wonder if either of my two seatmates would have offered to buy me a snack if they knew that I was stupid enough to pay $300 for a taxi this morning?

From what I could tell, food on Ryanair is very much like how it is here in the United States on airlines such as Spirit and Frontier. There’s a menu at every seat, and the flight attendant will come down the aisle with the food cart. Just know that nothing is free and you’re going to pay dearly for anything. Even water.

As far as the food itself, it looked to be exactly the same as what we will get here on either Spirit or Frontier. It’s basically prepackaged cafeteria food (the kind with a long shelf life) and you’re going to pay quite a lot for very little.

FR225 review
In the end, I had no regrets about skipping the snack service.

The descent and landing

Flying time between London and Dublin is just a short 45 minutes, and there was actually very little cruise time at full altitude. As soon as we were up, we started the descent down, and…man I’ve forgotten how beautiful Ireland is.

Ryanair 737 wing and engine
The thing about Ryanair reviews is that they are usually very short. That’s the outskirts of Dublin already!

As we made the approach into Dublin, I had an interesting thought: I snickered when I first saw the safety information printed so boldly on the headrest, but having evacuation instructions right there in our faces will come in handy if we survive a crash landing. Call me morbid, but it’s actually quite a brilliant design detail.

Ireland landscape
Tell me that Ireland isn’t one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen. I’ll bet you can’t!
FR225 approach to Dublin
I’ll also bet anything that there isn’t a single farmer down there who gives a crap that FR225 is tracking directly over their fields.
737-800 silhouette
“Maverick, you’re at 3/4 of a mile. Call the ball.”

Arrival in Dublin

It’s been many years since I’ve last been in Ireland, and it was a pretty good feeling to be back. It was also a pretty good feeling knowing that it was a Ryanair review that brought me here. Why? Well, it helped me reach the conclusion that this isn’t that bad of an airline actually. Yeah, the boarding process was a bit sketchy, but I think that I’d fly Ryanair all the time if I lived in Europe.

Ryanair Dublin
Pulling up to some familiar company here at DUB. I’ve seen more than my fair share of Ryanair 737-800’s today, that’s for sure.

I’d also highly recommended paying a little extra for perks such as reserved seats and priority boarding like I did. Although, priority boarding might mean standing out on the tarmac for 15 minutes while everyone else gets to wait inside, so beware.

Ryanair thin seats
Not that I was trying to get a pic of how slim these seats are but…check out how slim these seats are!
Ryanair air stairs
Ok Scott, let’s not trip and fall face first down these stairs…
Ryanair 737
Alright. Mission accomplished. Was it worth the $300 taxi ride from Heathrow to Stansted? No. It was fun though, so I guess that I can’t complain. Much.
Sanspotter Ryanair review Dublin Airport
A typical stone-cold reaction from SANspotter, revealing nary an indication of how satisfying this Ryanair review was to put together. It was fun. I promise.

Ryanair 737-800 basic economy pros and cons

As you just read, my first ever Ryanair experience was good. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really consider it to be all that different than a lot of other airline these days (anywhere else in the world). Sure, the seats were very narrow and firm (and the leg room was atrocious). But it still felt like a lot of other Boeing 737-800 experiences I’ve had over the years. Ryanair isn’t that different.


  • It’s hard to complain about anything when they charge so little to fly across Europe.
  • There is food available on board (if you’re willing to pay for it), so it’s not like you’re going to starve or anything.
  • The aircraft I was on was shockingly clean and well-maintained.
  • Full-size tray tables on an ultra low-cost airline? You’ve got to be kidding!


  • Those effin’ seats! Not only are they extremely narrow, but they’re extremely hard as well. RIP to your delicate derriere on flights longer than 2 hours.
  • The way they make passengers queue up outside (prior to boarding) can be problematic when the weather ain’t so great.



Comments (8)

  1. Brenda Richardson

    January 28, 2020
    • SANspotter

      January 28, 2020
  2. Joe Lodge

    February 16, 2020
    • SANspotter

      February 16, 2020
  3. Tony

    May 7, 2020
  4. Peter

    November 22, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      November 22, 2022
      • Peter

        August 7, 2023

Give a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.