", as it is commonly known, (official name: Beauvais-Tillé Airport) is located a little over an hour away from Paris. It services budget airlines, such as RyanAir or Wizz Air, and also minor national airlines, such as Air Moldova. Shuttles ferry passengers to the airport from the Palais des Congres in Paris every 30 minutes. Each shuttle conveniently lists the flights that it is serving on the windshield. Shuttle tickets cost about $20 (15 Euro), and can be purchased for cash at a kiosk, or with a credit card right at the shuttle stop. The airport isn't large and is divided into Terminals 1 and 2, which are literally just a few steps apart.
Terminal 1 from the outside:
Inside were check-in stands, a couple of fast food place, and a security checkpoint with a very long queue:
Terminal 2 from without:
On the inside:
I printed the boarding passes ahead of time. It costs extra if you want to print them at the airport (10 Euro/$13, if I recall correctly). Baggage, aside from one carry-on item, also costs extra. Per RyanAir's policy, if you're not a resident of the European Union, you have to present your visa at the check-in stand, where a staff member will stamp your boarding pass for confirmation. At this point, you can head to the security checkpoint.
After the thorough European-style security check, I was finally in the small waiting area, which had only 3 gates.
The runway was just outside the window, and the planes would taxi right up to the building for boarding. There were neither boarding ramps or shuttles. Passengers simply walked to the plane on foot. An interesting thing about RyanAir is how quickly each flight is prepared for take-off. Unlike full-service airlines, which can take an hour or more to refuel, resupply and service the plane, RyanAir's procedure looks more or less like this (from the eyes of a bystander): the flight arrives, the passengers disembark, 5-10 minutes later passengers board and the flight takes off again… the photo below shows passengers leaving the terminal to board the plane literally before it's done disembarking.
The boarding pass for the Vilnius flight was checked on the second floor of the terminal, for some reason. Passengers went up the stairs, presented their passports and boarding passes, then went down the stairs on the other side from where they could exit directly onto the runway. Again, there was a pretty long queue.
There were two queues: priority passengers and everyone else. Priority passengers (there were around 20 on our flight, mostly passengers with small children) can pay quite a lot for this privilege, sometimes nearly twice the price of the regular fare, but they are the first to be allowed onto the plane, and so get first choice of seating. Everyone else grabs whatever's left. With RyanAir, the first person in line gets the best seats…
In our case, things got ahead of themselves. The priority passengers were already on the runway before the plane had even landed. After standing around for a good ten minutes, they went back inside. The plane showed up nearly 50 minutes late. Finally…
Boarding began immediately…
RyanAir only uses one type of plane: the Boeing 737-800.
I don't know if all of the RyanAir planes have names, but our flight was named after the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region in Poland, possibly to show that the airline had opened new routes into this part of Poland.
The boarding passes were checked once again upon entering the plane (three times so far, if you're counting!) Leg room was adequate. The seats didn't recline. Two things that really bothered me were: 1) the design of the seat makes it impossible to stretch your legs out under it, and 2) the windows were below eye level for the average person so I had to duck my head to look out. By the end of the two-hour flight my neck was getting stiff.
The front row seats on the right side had been thoughtfully provided with a carpet cover on the wall, so that passengers could stretch their legs.
One last look at the airport, and off we go…
All of RyanAir's planes, as is expected of a real low-budget carrier, have only one seating class.
The plane was 100% full. The cabin crew consisted of 4 flight attendants: three girls and one guy. They spoke only English, and judging from the names on their badges were either from Ireland or Britain. The captain greeted passengers in English, which was be followed by a recording in French. Messages during the flight were in English only.
After the preflight safety demonstration, we took off very sharply.
Unusually, instead of a safety card, the safety instructions were depicted on the backs of the seats.
The flight attendants began pushing the food cart around while we were still climbing. Each seat pocket contained a menu:
You can pay with either cash or credit card. Cards don't always work due to technical issues, so it is best to keep cash handy.
A/C vent, flight attendant button, reading lights:
The in-flight magazine claimed that RyanAir is the most punctual airline in the world, better even than Lufthansa
After feeding the passengers, the flight attendants began selling the usual duty-free merchandise: perfume and key chains, even cigarettes, though of course smoking during the flight was forbidden… A view out the window:
The restroom was in very respectable condition, clean and fresh
The landing was jarring, with a bounce and rather sharp braking on the wet airstrip. It felt like the pilots confused our stately Boeing for a nimble fighter jet. Vilnius was rainy.
Passengers had to make their way to the terminal on foot.
Arrivals are processed at Vilnius airport's older terminal. Departures leave from the new one.
An interesting feature: information phones instead of the ubiquitous information booths.