Ryanair's $13 flights to Europe: All blarney


You might have read that the low-cost carrier Ryanair is floating the notion of starting flights between the United Kingdom and America for just $13 each way before taxes. The Irish airline wants to begin service between London and Dublin and New York City, California, and Boston for prices beginning around €10. The story, still not much more than a rumor since nothing has been confirmed, has floated to the top tier of the news ladder mostly because consumers could use some silver linings.

Even if the transatlantic flights happen (and starting up flights between continents is a laborious bureaucratic process that requires a lot more than simply renting gate space), don't count on the flights necessarily being a savings salvation. The no-frills Ryanair is one of the biggest airline names in Europe, yes, but it's also one of the most reviled, thanks to its lousy customer service and insidious pricing schemes.

Let's look under the hood at the real cost of Ryanair's flights. The carrier is always advertising its flights within Europe for similarly scandalous rates. But of course, when customers try booking the elusive €1 rate, they almost invariably find them sold out. That's because the airline allocates very few seats to the lowest price, and rates escalate dramatically from there. That's called lead-in pricing, and it's one of the most basic tricks in the travel-selling playbook.