How can budget airline tickets be so cheap?

Posted in: Budget Air Travel


Unloading bags and loading up passengers

As part of our CheapoSearch flights launch celebration, we’re spending some time this week discussing common questions readers have about traveling on Europe’s low-cost carriers. A good place to start is with the most obvious question of all:

How can budget airlines be so cheap?

First of all, budget airlines manage to keep their own costs down, which translates into a cheaper ticket price. For example, many low-cost routes fly in and out of secondary airports with low landing fees. Many low-cost airlines have also eliminated conventional customer service departments, replacing them with toll-based telephone numbers that levy exorbitant per-minute charges (see: easyJet).

Additionally, the operating costs of low-cost carriers are quite minimal. Though practices vary, for the most part you’ll find baggage handlers checking tickets, planes being unloaded minutes before they’re filled with new customers, and planes not being completely cleaned during general flying hours. In the photo we snapped above, note that luggage is being removed from the plane at the same time that the next load of passengers is climbing aboard. (Talk about a quick turn-around!)

Budget airlines also make money off of additional products and services, from snacks and scratch-off cards sold in the air to the sale of affiliated services through their websites like car rentals, hotel reservations, tours, transfer services, credit cards, and travel insurance.

Low-cost airlines also charge for a dizzying range of “perks,” including seat assignments, airport check in (what a perk!), and checking bags (ditto). Some airlines charge for bookings not made with the airline’s co-branded credit card.

Do you know of other ways that low-cost carriers keep their prices down? Comment below.

For more frequently asked questions about budget airlines in Europe, check out our article on “budget airline basics.”

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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2 thoughts on “How can budget airline tickets be so cheap?”

  1. Thanks for the information..I was wondering to know how they get there profit out of the cheap flights? When I was traveling Geneva through budget flight they said its 114$ for the flight and I was surprised..What is the behind story any idea?

  2. Airline tickets are sold based on supply and demand. If the airline thinks there are too many open seats, they lower prices.


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