Today Ryanair have announced that from 1st November, their policy on cabin baggage will change. Currently, up to two bags can be taken on board, one of standard dimensions (55cm x 40cm x 20cm) and one smaller item (35cm x 20cm x 20cm). Currently, a small wheelie fits and can be stowed in the overhead bins, while the smaller bag, perhaps a day sack, can be placed under the seat in front. On busy routes, some passengers are asked to place their larger bag in the hold free of charge.
Today Ryanair have announced changes to their policy. Basically, customers opting not to pay for Priority Boarding will lose the right to take some of their carry on with them as they board the plane, instead handing it to staff to put it in the hold.
I have two Ryanair flights coming up, one in October to Venice and one in December to Salzburg. My Salzburg flight will be affected by the changes. I was planning to take a bag that was smaller than their maximum dimensions but slightly larger than those of a smaller item. Now, I have to either rethink the size of that bag or pay a £6 priority boarding fee for each leg to be able to take the luggage I planned. The Ryanair website states that the policy will be introduced on 1st November for all travellers, regardless of when they’ve booked.
That’s not playing fair. We took out the contract and now the details are unilaterally being changed. If I take the bag I planned, and the policy is implemented as per the rules, I’ll either have to check it at the gate free of charge and incur a delay when I arrive waiting for luggage, or risk being denied boarding. So effectively, my flight has gone up by £12 if I wish to take the luggage I planned. Had I paid for Priority Boarding at the time of booking, it would have cost £5 each way; to do so retrospectively it will be £6 each way.
I understand why Ryanair have taken this step. The amount of luggage being dragged on board is reaching ridiculous levels and boarding is a much slower process because of it. But it does seem underhand to introduce a change to existing bookings without notice. Will this be the end of my love affair with Ryanair? Probably not. Do I feel like I’ve been cheated out of £12? Yes. The Ryanair haters are going to have a field day with this, and for once, rightly so.
Are you affected? Full details from Ryanair’s website here:
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know it’s perfectly possible to have a day out in Europe, so long as you don’t live too far away from the airport and the flight schedules permit an early out, late back pairing. Following on from my days out in Amsterdam, Belfast, Bremen and Lisbon, the latest trip saw me heading to the Hungarian capital Budapest. The links to those previous day trips can be found at the end of this post. As with the others, I’ve been to Budapest before, but well over a decade ago, so I was keen to revisit what had been an enjoyable destination.
Arriving at midday local time after a civilised 8.30am flight, it was good to hear the famous Ryanair on time hurrah and even better to find that Hungary’s border police valued speed over anything else. An easy bus and metro ride got me into the centre of Budapest, giving me about six and a half hours in the city after the commute to and from the airport had been factored in. Once again, having waited for a flash sale, I paid less for my flight than I would have done for a train ticket into London, with my time equating to less than £5 per hour of sightseeing. I thought that was good value. The one day travel card, good for bus, tram and metro, was also excellent value at 1650 forints, about £5.
First stop was an old haunt: Cafe Gerbeaud. Located in Pest, this famous coffee house has been a fixture for well over a century and still knows how to put on the style. A cappuccino and some delicious biscuits topped up the massive breakfast of huevos rancheros I’d wolfed down at Stansted. The sun was pleasantly warm for October and so I decided to take a stroll along the banks of the Danube and over the city’s famous Chain Bridge.
With skies blue and visibility good, it was too tempting to take the funicular up Buda’s Castle Hill. The ticket wasn’t included in the travel card, more’s the pity, but it was 1200 forints for a single ride – hardly break the bank rates. The views from the top were as fine as any in Europe, with landmarks like Pest’s parliament building easy to spot.
The castle occupies a prominent position, as you might expect. There are wine tastings to sample and museums to explore, but one of the great pleasures is just to sit in the sunshine and admire that view over Pest. As luck would have it, the changing of the guard ceremony was about to start in front of the Presidential Palace just as I reached the top. A forest of cameras, phones, selfie sticks and mobile phones recorded the occasion, but there was plenty of room for everyone to get their shot.
The weather was just too good to resist and so I continued my stroll through Buda’s castle district to picture postcard Fishermen’s Bastion. It’s not a place to hurry, unless an out of control Segway rider is heading your way. There are loads of museums and plenty of cobbled streets, and as access to traffic is limited it’s easy to wander around.
The white domes of Fishermen’s Bastion have a touch of the Sacre Coeur about them. The place was constructed between 1901 and 1903, designed to complement the Church of Our Lady which dominates the square adjacent to it. There’s no need to pay to enter for the view, or to have a coffee in the expensive cafe in the ramparts, though, as you can enjoy the same splendid vistas for nothing if you walk a little further along.
Back on the bus, I headed down to the river to search out an old Turkish Bath I’d read about. Instead, I found what looked like an abandoned sanatorium but what was actually a working thermal baths. It turned out to be the Lukács baths, whose website provided a bit of background missing from other web posts about Budapest’s baths:
“The Lukács Thermal Bath has a rich historical background: monastery baths were built in this area as early as the 12th century, the first spa hotel was built in the 1880s, a drinking cure hall was added in 1937, and a daytime hospital was established in 1979. At the end of the 20th century, the thermal bath was thoroughly renovated and all facilities were modernised.”
Budapest has loads of them dotted about the city, including the swanky baths at the Gellert Hotel and the famous Széchenyi Baths in City Park. These were less well known, perhaps off the tourist track because it looked like no one had maintained them for an age. Undeniably atmospheric, I decided against a dip in case the building fell on me and in any case, it was late afternoon and getting a little chilly. Instead, I decided to go back to Pest instead for a stroll through City Park. The lake had been drained for cleaning, alas, so I cut my losses and caught a bus to the market.
I could wander around a market all day, and Budapest’s, housed in a glorious building down by the river, is no exception. Ropes of paprika hung like Christmas decorations from greengrocery stalls and rows of salamis adorned the butchers. I’d been tipped off about a cheese pastry, a kind of crispy rolled croissant filled with cream cheese and dipped in finely grated cheese. It was deliciously more-ish.
Temptation would have to be resisted though, for almost next door was one of Budapest’s newer architectural efforts. Known as Bálna or the whale, this modern structure connects several old warehouses with a confection of glass and steel. It opened, I read, in November 2013 after protracted disputes between the city and the developer, but not all of the units inside had been filled – a mix of shops, bars and restaurants – leading to some commentators renaming it the white elephant.
It was getting late. The sun had cast a pink hue over the Gellert and left the faintest of reflections in the Danube. There was just time for a light supper before heading back to the airport for my 9.35pm flight back home.
Previous day trips…