What if I told you that travelling across Europe can be cheaper than a restaurant meal? You’re probably thinking that I am goofing on you and I don’t blame you. A few years back, travelling around Europe by plane used to be a very expensive hobby. Today catching a plane from London to Rome for a weekend is easier than ever before. But before jumping into that, let’s rewind a bit.
What are budget Airlines?
Budget airlines are very popular in Europe for a reason. They offer significantly lower prices compared to standard carriers to the same destination. Nowadays, with the increase in low cost airlines it is one of the cheapest ways to get around. Not onlyare new airlinescoming into existence but also more and more destinations in Europe are becoming available. In most cases flights are much cheaper than traveling by bus or train. For example a bus from Athens to Thessaloniki in Greece takes 6-7 hours and costs 63€ (roundtrip). The same roundtrip would cost as low as 40€ flying with Ryanair. Not bad, huh?
Apart from the “big three” - Ryanair, Eurowings and EasyJet - most of the budget airlines operate in small regions. FlyNiki for example flies mainly in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy specialising in key cities such as Berlin, Vienna and Munich. In summer their flights are more frequent and many more European holiday destinations are available.
What makes them so cheap though?
1) You will need to pay for extra luggage
Rather than having a higher price ticket which would include a 23kg bag that not everyone needs, they allow a small 8kg carry-on bag (which is more than enough for a small trip) and then you can pay extra if you need a big one. Keep in mind that it is MUCH cheaper to buy ahead online.
Make sure to stick to the size and weight mentioned on the terms and conditions you agree upon. DO NOT GUESS. Measure and weigh your luggage ahead. Most of budget airlines adhere to this and most likely you will pay a big fine in the airport that would cost you as much as the ticket you paid.
2) You won’t have any free drinks or food during your flight.
Nothing is free. The ‘’free’’ food and complimentary drinks you get in a flight are paid in your higher priced ticket. To avoid this, get some food with you (it is allowed to get through security control) andget a foldable water bottle which you can fill up after security control. If you don't wanna get into the trouble of preparing food last minute, you can always order in the airplane. You save more than 100€ flying with a budget airline. Spending 10€ on a meal isn't that bad.
3) Print your ticket
Most of the Budget carriers give you the option to print your own ticket in an A4 printout. If you decide to print it at the airport desk this will cost you about 20-25€. Some airlines give the option of paperless ticket simply by scanning your phone screen. So, check before you fly.
4) The airport will be outside the major city
Many times the airlines land in destinations further away from the destination. This might not be always the case but it is very common in Europe.
Last year I flew from Bratislava Paris and from there to Morocco. I decided to spend 5 days in Paris to see the city as well. RyanAir offers flights on the fraction of the cost comparing to other airlines but it lands in the city of Beauvais which is about 90km away from the centre. You can reach the centre via Bus (8€ cost) or visit blablacar.com to find a shared car ride. This happens because those airports have much lower taxes in comparison to airports closer to the city. For me it was a great opportunity to spend a day in Beauvais and also explore this small town.
5) Read Terms and Conditions
Almost always the tickets are non refundable nor able to be changed. Always make sure to read the terms and conditions.
6) The aircraft is very basic inside.
The interior of the airplane and NOT the airplane itself have some eye catching differences. Seats are less comfortable with hard cushions and no reclining option and no TV. itis also noticeable that there will be tons of ads inside the airplane just like the metro or the bus. But again, this is an 1 to 4 hours flight max. It is not the end of the world so bring a good book and rock your earphones on.
Before booking with a Budget airline always make sure to keep in mind all these extra costs and decide if it’s worth it.
Are Budget Airlines safe?
Many times the word ‘’budget’’ implies cheaper quality. People are worried travelling with a flying metal coffin that can potentially fall apart at any moment. This is not the case in Europe and North America. The USA and EU have some of the strictest aviation safety laws in the world. Nothing that doesn’t fulfil these requirements is allowed to fly through European or American soil. Those companies go through the same checks are all airlines do.
In Europe, neither EasyJet nor RyanAir have had any fatal accidents nor have lost any aircraft the past 40 years. In the 10 worst aviation accidents in Europe (https://aviation-safety.net/statistics/worst/worst.php?continent=EU) no budget airlines were involved
One of the reasons Budget Airlines are much cheaper is the cost efficiency. Just like in Costco when you buy in bulk you have a premium price, in the same way RyanAir and EasyJet buy more than 100 aircrafts at the time so that the price is cheaper as well as they save on training costs since all the pilots just need to be trained on a specific type of aircraft.
Which are some of the best Budget Airlines in Europe?
- Air Baltic: Based in Latvia, it flies over 50 destinations including St. Petersburg and Prague.
- Air Berlin: German airlines to operates to the most popular European holiday destinations including the Greek islands and Spain.
- Blue Air: Romanian Airlines that connects East and West European destinations.
- EasyJet: British airlines operating both domestically and internationally with more than 600 destinations in 32 countries.
- Eurowings: Budget German Airlines that operates mainly in the European continent with some flights in Thailand as well.
- FlyNiki Even though it is a budget airline you always get refreshments and newspapers on flight.
FlyBe: Air Devon-based Airline operates to over 65 European airports.
- GermanWings Airlines: Cologne Based German airline operating mainly in Europe.
- Iberia Express: Best way to fly to Spain on a budget. It operates to 22 European destinations including Berlin, Mykonos and London
- Monarch: One of the oldest budget airlines. It is based at Luton Airport and operates to more than 65 destinations.
- Norwegian: They fly to over 126 destinations and recently they introduced long haul flights to NYC and LA
- Pegasus Airlines: The Budget version of Turkish airways. It operates to more than 100 destinations in Central Asia, Europe and N. Africa.
- RyanAir: Probably the biggest Budget airline in Europe. It flies in pretty much every country in Europe in more than 190 (!!!) destinations.
- Transavia: Dutch based airline operating mainly in Europe.
Wizz Air: This Hungarian low-cost carrier operates to more than 45 countries
- WOW Air: Iceland's very own Budget Airline. Operates flights to 16 destinations including London and Milan
Are Budget Airlines actually Cheaper?
AYE! Even after adding all the extra expenses, it is almost always cheaper to fly with a budget carrier. I recently booked my tickets for 5 cities. London, Copenhagen, Athens, Istanbul and Rome. I paid 320€ for 7 flights whereas if I booked through non budget airlines the cost was over 700€ so even if you don’t get free coffee and sandwich on the airplane you can spare 5-6€ since you saved over 50€-100€ for a single flight.
There is a reason they are called budget. If you can live without any unnecessary luxuries for a couple of hours, the savings are definitely worth it.
What is your experience with Budget Airlines? Do you prefer spending the extra money for activities in your destination or for a much more comfortable flight?