Are budget airlines a good deal?
With budget airlines, you can fly between European cities for startlingly low prices. But, is there a hitch to that €20 flight from London to Venice? Maybe. Here’s our quick recap of budget airline advantages and disadvantages.
1) You can fly for cheap, especially with advance planning.
How? There are many ways to fly for close to nothing. Lots of airlines offer promotional fares that are essentially free, requiring customers to pay for taxes and incremental charges only.
2) Transportation is quick.
For example, traveling from Paris to Warsaw in the case of SkyExpress—onboard games and lotteries.
Budget airline cons
1) Secondary airports are often quite distant from the cities they purportedly serve.
How far? Oslo Sandefjord is 90km (56 miles) north of Oslo. Stockholm Skavsta is located about 89km (55 miles) from Stockholm. Frankfurt Hahn sits 103 km (64 miles) west of Frankfurt. These are particularly extreme examples, but they serve to make the point.
2) Cancellations are common and passengers will not automatically be rebooked.
Some airlines (easyJet, Ryanair, and Volareweb are among the most notorious) are known to occasionally cancel flights on various grounds. EasyJet offers as its only recourse a telephone line that you must call to rebook or generate a refund—and that charges you per minute. If you live outside of Europe, you may find it to be quite difficult to obtain refunds or rebook given the restrictions and means of communication at hand.
3) Additional charges mount up and make cheap flights far less of a bargain than they appear to be.
Charges are assessed for (optional) insurance, checked luggage (We’ve seen one carrier charge up to €20 for a bag), overweight luggage, priority boarding (see below), checking in at the airport, and using an unaffiliated credit card.
4) Cattle-call boarding process (common to many budget airlines) is unpleasant.
Ryanair and easyJet both sell the right to board early for €6. Many carriers also charge you to select your seat on-line. Even with priority boarding, the hassle and hustle are still no fun.
5) Last-minute fares can be much higher than those on “full-fare” airlines.
Even on so-called “budget airlines,” you can expect next-day fares on popular routes to be anything but cheap. This is especially the case when flying into secondary airports far from the cities they purportedly serve. Getting to and from secondary airports (take Stansted, in the case of London) often involves considerable effort, up to two hours transit time, and additional charges.
Are they worth it?
So, given all these advantages and disadvantages, are low cost airlines worth it? We think so. You just need to know the rules and know how to avoid extra charges and hassles.
What do you think? Are budget airlines a great deal, or more trouble than they’re worth? Comment below.