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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

Is it worth flying with ultra low-cost airlines?

Updated: May 20

The complete guide to navigating low-cost airlines!


Is it truly worthwhile to travel with low-cost airlines? The answer: it varies. It's crucial to carefully consider when purchasing tickets and crunch the numbers.


Join me as I delve into making informed decisions when flying with low-cost airlines!


I've had extensive experience flying with low-cost airlines across the globe, spanning Asia, Europe, the USA, and Latin America. While I've always reached my destination relatively safely—I'm still here today—not without encountering some challenging situations and questioning why I opted for that particular flight.


Following my recent experience flying with WIZZ in Europe in January 2024, I felt compelled to compile a comprehensive guide outlining everything you need to scrutinize with a detached, analytical mindset—something that tends to vanish when confronted with the tempting prices these companies offer—before purchasing any low-cost tickets.


Airplane aisle, with all seats occupied.


What are the main low-cost airlines currently?


Europe:

  1. Ryanair

  2. EasyJet

  3. Wizz Air

  4. Vueling

  5. Eurowings


Asia - Pacific:

  1. AirAsia

  2. Jetstar Airways

  3. IndiGo

  4. Scoot

  5. Cebu Pacific


Americas:

  1. Southwest Airlines (USA)

  2. Spirit Airlines (USA)

  3. JetBlue Airways (USA)

  4. Volaris (Mexico)

  5. Interjet (Mexico)


Middle East:

  1. Air Arabia

  2. Flydubai

  3. Jazeera Airways

  4. Flynas


 Of these, I have had experiences with WIZZ Air, Ryanair, Jetblue, AirAsia, and the now-defunct VivaAir (Colombian).




Unbeatable prices (apparently)


Yes, low-cost companies have really good prices, extremely competitive fares.


The segment we took on our 3-week trip through the Balkans was Milan - Belgrade, which cost €40.00 each way.


This is a relatively high price for these internal flights in Europe: it is possible to find direct flights between European airports starting from €35 ROUND TRIP, with luck even less than that. Look at this quick search I did on the day I wrote this post through Google Flights, the tickets are really cheap:


print of a flight search on Google Flights, From Milan to Paris, less expensive round ticket is €35

The heart beats even faster when we see these prices: it's now or never, nobody can stop me!


HOWEVER, take it easy, pay attention, and keep a cool head at this moment, because there are other factors you should consider before clicking "buy."


Check the airports


Many of these companies use secondary airports as a strategy to reduce ticket costs - these airports usually have fewer flights, less infrastructure, and charge lower fees.


Take a good look at the search screen I put above, the first Ryanair flight leaves from BGY airport and lands at BVA. The ticket is sold as Milan - Paris, but in reality, BGY airport is in Bergamo and BVA is in Beauvais.


Bergamo is 60km from Milan and 90km from Malpensa, the city's main international airport, and by public transportation (train and subway) it takes about 2 hours to get from Bergamo do Malpensa. The direct bus that connects the airports costs €20.


From Beauvais to Charles De Gaulle airport, the main airport in the French capital, it's 80 km, which means 2 to 4 hours by train and subway, depending on the day of the week and time. The bus that connects the two airports costs €40.


So make sure that the departure and arrival airports are suitable for you, and do the math: in the screenshot I put above, the €55 flight (still an excellent price) is between MPX (Malpensa) and CDG (Charles de Gaule) - if you plan to visit these two cities, this flight is much more worthwhile..


print of a flight search on Google Flights, From Budapest to London, less expensive round ticket is €47



Flight Departure and Arrival Times


To keep costs low, many low-cost airlines operate during off-peak hours at airports.


So be prepared for check-ins in the middle of the night, to land when public transportation has already ceased operations for the day, to go through immigration with huge queues at only one open counter, and to find all shops and restaurants closed, along with all the other hassles associated with alternative travel times.


If you can handle these minor inconveniences, let's continue reading to see if flying low-cost is really worth it.


Extra fees


It is widely known that low-cost airlines charge for everything extra.


What is included in the fare is only the transportation from point A to B; anything else you want must be paid for separately.


For example:

  • Carry-on luggage

  • Checked luggage

  • Seat selection

  • Comfort and extra-space seats (if available)

  • Check-in at the airport counter (in person or at a kiosk)

  • Any onboard service

  • Food

  • Water (yes, including water)

Usually, these tickets do not include ANY baggage. Pay close attention to this. Neither carry-on nor checked baggage. The only thing usually included is the personal item, which would be equivalent to a woman's purse, wallet, or school-sized backpack.


Just take a look at the price table for this Ryanair flight: the round-trip fare between London and Prague is £30.63, but if you want to bring a carry-on bag of up to 10kg, it will cost an additional £21.43 per flight, so the total cost of the ticket will be £73.49.


Screenshot of ticket purchase, with prices of optional items on Ryanair

So be really careful and before buying, do the math to decide if flying low-cost is really worth it.


Compare with other flight options, including traditional airlines. Take into account the cost of getting to and from the airport and the time involved.


Check-in


I've always checked in through the app or online, so I can't evaluate the service at the low-cost airlines' counters and kiosks. I strongly recommend that you also check in electronically.




Alterations and Cancellations


Low-cost fares do not allow any type of alteration and do not provide any refund, unless at the time of purchase you have paid the extra fee for such a service.


Look again at the Ryanair table I provided above, the round-trip ticket costs £30.63. If you want to have the option of rescheduling, there will be an additional cost of £73.43 per leg. So, unless you really need some other benefit that this extra fee provides, it makes no sense to buy the ticket that allows changes.


Only buy the ticket when you are absolutely sure that you will make that flight, on that exact date, and know that if something happens and you need any kind of modification, you will have to buy a new ticket.




When it's time to fly


I don't even need to say that, when it's time to board, it's a good idea to bring your snack and a lot of patience and goodwill (and don't forget to have your water bottle filled after going through security).


Goodwill is needed because the interior of the planes is, at the very least, dreadful.

To give you an idea, the seats on WizzAir don't recline. None of the seats recline. The space between the seats is absolutely reduced.


For short trips, I think it's worth it. You take a deep breath and try to forget and look on the bright side: you researched, did the math, and this was really the best cost-benefit. Maybe that's the only way you could afford this trip and that's amazing!


Don't expect comfort, don't expect service, don't expect anything.


Go with the lowest possible expectations, because in the end you'll feel better, after all, you arrived alive at your destination and that's what matters.




My opinion - is it worth flying ultra low cost?


In summary, flying with ultra-low-cost airlines is an option that is worth it in many circumstances, but it is important to pay close attention when buying the ticket and to be prepared when flying.


When considering flying with a low-cost airline, it is essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, as well as to understand the specific policies of each company. With careful planning, it is possible to enjoy an affordable and rewarding travel experience. Bon voyage! 🛫✈️



Need cellphone while traveling? I have been using the virtual chip from AIRALO - if you want to test it, on your first purchase use the coupon DANAE2375 and you will get US$3 off



Other posts about travel planning

 


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And now, after all these great tips, save this pin to your Pinterest account, so you can find this post that helps you decide if it's worth flying with ultra low-cost airlines whenever you need it!


 Pin for PINTEREST: shows an aircraft at the airport, at night, with the words: is it worth flying low cost? the complete guide to not falling into a trap. www.danae-explore.com/en

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