Pros and Cons
Budget Air Pros
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 charges only.
Transportation is quick.
Prove it. OK, here's one example. Traveling from Paris to Warsaw by train will take a minimum of 15 hours, with many connections taking 20 hours. An air journey takes just two and a quarter hours.
Multi-stop holidays in Europe can be effortlessly and inexpensively scheduled.
How easily? The low-cost carrier business model is based on one-way fares, not roundtrips. Leisure travelers who don't have to adhere to strict schedules can flexibly plan very affordable hops around Europe.
Approached the right way, the experience can be enjoyable, even exotic.
Come again? This is a matter of taste, we suppose, but the bare bones aesthetic of a Ryanair aircraft or the crisp and clean feel of an airberlin plane are both downright charming, in different ways of course, at first blush. Various aspects of the budget air experience can be recast as enjoyable and interesting, from flight attendant uniforms to in-flight publications.
Ok, let's cut to the chase: cheap fares.
How? Plan ahead. Sign up for airline newsletters to take advantage of promotional fare sales. Check the Ryanair site, for example, to remain abreast of Ryanair sales. Or, better yet, read our article on cheapo fares which includes links to a number of airline promo sites.
Budget Air Cons
Secondary airports are often quite distant from the cities they purportedly serve.
How far? Oslo Torp is 113km (71 miles) north of Oslo. Stockholm Skavsta is located about 100km (65 miles) from Stockholm. Frankfurt Hahn sits 120 km (75 miles) west of Frankfurt. These are particularly extreme examples, but they serve to make the point. (Trust us. We once missed the last bus out of Stansted.)
Cancellations are common and passengers will not automatically be rebooked.
Come again? Some airlines (easyJet and Ryanair 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.
Additional charges mount up and make cheap flights far less of a bargain than they appear to be.
What sorts of additional charges? Charges are assessed for (optional) insurance, checked luggage (Many carriers charge up to €20 or more for a bag), overweight luggage, priority boarding (see below), checking in at the airport, and using an unaffiliated credit card.
Cattle-call boarding process (common to many budget airlines) is unpleasant.
How?: Ryanair sells the right to board early for €7. Many carriers also charge you to select your seat on-line. Even with priority boarding, the hassle and hustle are still no fun.
Last-minute fares can be much higher than those on "full-fare" airlines.
How much more expensive? Well, this all depends on the route in question. You can expect next day fares on popular routes to be anything but cheap. This is especially the case when it comes to secondary airports far from the cities they purportedly serve. Getting to and from secondary airports (take Stansted again, in the case of London) often involves considerable effort, up to two hours transit time, and additional charges.
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