Trip Review: Flying Ryanair’s Boeing 737 During COVID-19

Simple Flying recently got the chance to travel with Ryanair during the current pandemic. The flight from Stansted to Eindhoven was different from anything that the team had experienced with the airline before. Here’s the story.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
Simple Flying reviews Ryanair during the current Coronavirus crisis. Photo: Simple Flying

Booking the flight

The need to travel was relatively sudden, and, given the current state of the industry and advice to avoid nonessential travel where at all possible, flight choices were reasonably slim. However, under a week before the trip, Ryanair was selling tickets for just £32.99 per person.

However, Ryanair was also selling a host of other extras. Priority boarding with an extra cabin bag was £10, which was purchased. However, the airline was also selling fast track security passes for £7. This is even though the fast track security option at Stansted is currently unavailable.

Arriving at Stansted

Arriving at Stansted Airport was a bizarre experience for anybody who regularly uses the facility. The express drop off zone at the front of the terminal was empty. Thankfully it was also free as the mid-stay car park drop off is currently closed.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
The drop-off area was deserted. Photo: Simple Flying

The airport is currently open from 5:00. As our flight was at 6:15, we arrived as soon as the airport was open. Upon walking inside, we joined a big queue for security. This comprised of passengers from Ryanair’s early Sofia and Eindhoven flights.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
The queue to reach the security check area. Photo: Simple Flying

A bizarre security experience

The security procedure itself was incredibly bizarre, and not something I was used to. At the entrance to the security entrance, all passengers were required to take a mask and disposable gloves if they did not already have them.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
Each passenger was issued with blue disposable gloves. Photo: Simple Flying

We were then directed to join a queue for the two open lanes operating at half capacity. Due to social distancing, this queue took up a majority of the queuing space available. However, this is where things start to get interesting.

We must’ve spent a good 15-20 minutes queuing for security. Only two security lanes have so far been fitted with plexiglass to protect staff. Each of these is only operating at half capacity, meaning that only four passengers can be placing bags into trays at any one time.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
Very few flights are currently operating from Stansted. Photo: Simple Flying

The whole time that we were queuing, a man who I could only assume was a member of management at the airport continuously shouted at us to be prepared by the time we reached the front of the queue. Unfortunately, he also kept belittling the line for not being prepared and thus making the process longer. In fact, at one point, the gentleman even remarked that we should “bring back national training.”

It wasn’t all bad, however. Indeed, the actual process of getting through the security checkpoint was by far the fastest that I’ve ever experienced at the airport.

The departure lounge

I was delighted to see that I wouldn’t need to trek through World Duty Free, something I hate with a passion at Stansted. The duty-free shop was closed, meaning that I could proceed through the Fast-Track Plus corridor straight into the departure lounge.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
World Duty Free was closed, meaning that passengers were directed straight into the departure lounge. Photo: Simple Flying

The lounge itself was deserted. Passengers needed to proceed straight to the gate due to the timing of the flights. Signs noted that Boots was open. However, it was not near the main lounge. After a little trek, we arrived and purchased sandwiches and coffee from the only member of staff present, a pharmacist.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
The departure lounge was deserted. Photo: Simple Flying

Boarding the flight

Boarding the flight was possibly the most painless experience that I’ve ever experienced with Ryanair. There was no queue to board. When I arrived at the gate, I was asked to fill in a health declaration form for the Dutch authorities, confirming I neither had coronavirus, nor any of the symptoms. I was initially given a different form for the Sofia flight by accident, but this was swiftly rectified.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
It was necessary to fill out a health declaration before the flight. Photo: Simple Flying

At the gate, my boarding pass and passport were checked without being handled by the agent. I was then told to have a nice flight. I had my companion’s large carry-on bag with me, despite not having paid for priority boarding myself. However, nobody seemed to be policing bag sizes.

Boarding was only through the front door, given the small number of passengers on the flight. The night prior, the trip was looking slightly full going by the tool to purchase a seat allocation, but in reality, many of these seats remained unfilled.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
Despite many seats being blocked before the flight, there were very few passengers. Photo: Ryanair App

The flight itself

The flight itself was rather pleasant. Apart from the safety briefing, the crew kept to themselves. There were no annoying scratchcard sales, no refreshments given, and no annoying trumpet on landing.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
We purchased food in Boots before the flight. Photo: Simple Flying

However, we’ve heard a lot of talks recently about new policies on Ryanair flights, including facemasks. Contrary to many recent reports in the media, there was no requirement to ask for permission from the cabin crew to use the toilet. There were also no special announcements as a result of the current measures.

A couple of passengers, two rows in front of me, didn’t wear masks during the flight despite Ryanair’s repeated requests on social media. However, no members of the crew asked them to put their masks on.

The gentleman in front of me was facing discomfort with the mask provided by Stansted Airport. He was presented with a disposable medical mask by the cabin crew upon request.

Ryanair, Coronavirus, Special Measures
Many aircraft are currently parked at Stansted Airport. Photo: Simple Flying

Arrival into Eindhoven

The Ryanair flight to Eindhoven was one of just three to operate to the airport today. Having landed 16 minutes early, we taxied toward the terminal, and then began to disembark. The crew halted the disembarkation process after 40 passengers due to restrictions in the terminal. As we were only stopped once, one would assume fewer than 80 passengers were on board the flight.

After walking to the terminal, members of the airport fire service then reviewed our signed health declarations and gave us an information pack on current restrictions in The Netherlands. We then joined the passport control queue to enter the Schengen zone, something which wasn’t at all long.

My passport was then checked by a member of the airport’s border control team. However, I wasn’t asked to remove my mask for the process. After this, it was a short walk out of the terminal to a waiting bus bound for the city center.

Have you flown since coronavirus restrictions came into force? How did you find the experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.