The big daddy of them all, Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair maintains the most awe-inspiring route map and tends to add new destinations (and cancel unprofitable routes) at blistering, breakneck speed. At current count, Ryanair operates well over 500 routes, from Inverness to Brindisi; Tampere to Tenerife.

It's easy to have lots of opinions about Ryanair; we certainly do. It's a big monster of an airline. We've been pleased as punch on Ryanair, psyched to take advantage of insanely cheap fares, and we've also been annoyed beyond belief with the airline, distressed by enormous surcharges on too-heavy luggage and staff who appear to be completely clueless.

With Ryanair more than with the other airlines we describe here, it pays to be informed about potential penalties and pitfalls.

* Carry-on: One piece of luggage not to exceed 10 kg.
* Checked: Up to 3 bags with a combined weight of 15 kg. If booked on-line using Ryan Air, the first bag is €9 and the second and third bags are €18 each. Over 15 kg, €10 per kg. Check website for details.

Since Ryanair is a free for all when it comes to landing seats, it's a good idea to opt for priority boarding. In advance, book priority boarding status for free by checking in online. At the airport, you can pay €4 to receive priority.

Note: If you check in at the airport, you will also incur a €4 fee.

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