Ryanair Vs British Airways Economy – Which Is Best?

You may think that comparing Ryanair with British Airways is like comparing apples and oranges. However, could the comparison be more Granny Smith vs Golden Delicious? Simple Flying investigates.

Ryanair, British Airways, Economy
Is British Airways economy comparable to Ryanair? Top Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying | Bottom Photo: Ryanair

We’ll base this comparison on the route between London and Cologne. While Ryanair operates multiple daily flights on the route, British Airways operates the route seasonally. Simple Flying has flown with both carriers between London and Cologne, hence basing the comparison on this route.


Let’s start off nice and simple with price. The cheapest one-way fare offered by Ryanair is £13 from London to Cologne, however, from Cologne to London this works out at £12 given that the booking will be made in euros, tied with the current exchange rate.

British Airways, on the other hand, has prices as low as £40 for a one way trip from London to Cologne. However, it gets interesting when you look at the route in the opposite direction as the lowest fare is just £19. This is only £7 more than booking with Ryanair.

Ryanair, British Airways, Economy Comparison
Ryanair offers cheaper ticket prices (just). Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

What is included in the base price?

With Ryanair, your base ticket will only secure you a seat on the aircraft, in addition to one small bag which must fit under the seat in front of you. Anything else will be subject to extra charges.

However, the story isn’t much different at British Airways. In fact, the only thing that BA offers over the base fare that Ryanair does is that the passenger can have two items of hand luggage. One which goes below the seat in front, and one for the overhead locker.

The seat

Ryanair operates scheduled flights exclusively with the Boeing 737-800. With an all-economy layout, every passenger is sat in a 3-3 configuration. Meanwhile, British Airways operates short-haul flights almost exclusively with the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. While the aircraft has two cabins, this is also 3-3 in the economy cabin. However, IAG has issued a letter of intent to purchase Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, with some bound for British Airways.

Ryanair, British Airways, Economy
Inside Ryanair’s cabin. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

According to Seat Guru, Ryanair offers a seat pitch of 30 inches, while the seat width is just 17 inches onboard its Boeing 737-800s. In comparison, according to the same source, British Airways Airbus A320 family aircraft operating to Europe have a seat pitch of 30 inches, however, this drops to 29 inches on the airline’s new neo aircraft. Like Ryanair, the aircraft offers 17 inches of width. However, on Ryanair’s Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, the seat pitch will drop to 28 inches.

British Airways, Ryanair, Economy Comparison
British Airways’ Euro Traveller seat. Photo: Tom Boon

In-flight service

Again, in terms of the in-flight service for economy passengers, there’s not much in it since British Airways introduced a buy onboard menu. Both sets of economy passengers are required to pay for refreshments on board the aircraft. However, while British Airways’ buy onboard menu consists of Marks and Spencer products, the same cannot be said for Ryanair, as these are not branded.

British Airways, Ryanair, Economy Comparison
British Airways offers a Marks and Spencer buy onboard menu. Photo: British Airways


Airports are the only real difference between the two carriers flying economy from London to Cologne or back. London Stansted is Ryanair’s largest base. As such, it is no surprise that the low-cost Irish carrier flies to Cologne from there. However, the morning rotation is operated by the carrier’s Malta Air subsidiary out of Cologne.

Meanwhile, while British Airways’ largest base is at London Heathrow, it instead operates its seasonal Cologne route from London Gatwick Airport on the other side of London. While it takes 30 minutes to reach central London from Gatwick by train, the ride is around 45 minutes from London Stansted.

Given the choice would you fly with Ryanair or British Airways? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!