So here they are, the budget airlines that help fuel my passion for cheap travel. Every trip I take is built around the principle of finding a cheap flight first. Hopefully the pros outweigh the cons.
Best Budget Airlines
1. EasyJet – With 764 routes, the company has tons of destinations throughout Europe and a great mobile interface that is easy for purchasing tickets and downloading itineraries. There aren’t many agents in the airports and that’s part of the way they save you money. Make sure your phone is alive and well because without a mobile boarding pass you’re looking at a $40 fee to have an agent print a replacement. I’ve flown with them 4 times and have never had a bad experience.; the cheapest flight was about $38 from Geneva to Nice.
2. Ryanair – Has a dodgy reputation for hidden fees but I think that’s probably true of most budget airlines. Some of their flights are advertised for as little as $12 and they have A LOT of European destinations. Be careful when you book with them because a cheap ticket doesn’t always mean its going to save you in the long run. For example, their “Paris” airport is about 90 minutes North of the city center. That means that you’re going to have to spend extra on getting yourself to town. You also want to make sure that buses and trains will still be open and running at your arrival time. No one wants to be stuck an hour outside of the city over night.
3. AllegiantAir – Is known for cheap flights at randomly scattered hubs throughout the U.S. I’ve flown with them before to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa. All in all they can be pretty cheap but tend to have extremely limited routes and fly at rather awkward times (arriving anywhere at 10 pm sucks). The best deal I’ve ever seen them do is $140 each way from LAX to Hawaii.
4. Spirit – I’ve yet to fly with Spirit, but I’m pretty intrigued by them. They’re known for little to no leg room and I’m interested in better understanding their baggage policy. With regards to flights, they’re sort of all over the place. Flights from Atlanta to NYC are about the same as any other major airline, sometimes more. But on the other hand, $100 flights from ATL to LAX are pretty tough to beat. Combine that deal with the AllegiantAir Hawaii deal and you’re looking at $490 for a round trip flight to Hawaii.
5. Wowair – was the funkiest/most fun I’ve ever had on a plane. No, it’s probably not the comfiest transatlantic flight I’ll ever take, but the brand new purple plane complete with purple carpet made me feel like Snoop Dogg could walk out of the cockpit and deem it a soul plane reality show spin off. The whole plane was really quirky and unique. They really do have incredibly cheap flights to Reykjavik, once you’re there you can find connectors to London for pretty cheap.
6. Norwegian – I recently used this company for the first time and the results were great. Although I haven’t actually flown with them yet, they may be one of my favorite airlines of all time. My transatlantic routes with them were astronomically cheap: New York to Amsterdam for $240 and Copenhagen to New York for $180. Their website is really easy to navigate using a flexible month to get the cheapest flights. When I bought my flight, I converted the currency to Euros and used my AMEX (no fee for the conversion). The Euro wasn’t doing so hot that day, so it ended up saving me about $30 extra per ticket. Not saying that this method will work every time, but it’s at least worth trying.
7. AerLingus – the first transatlantic flight I ever purchased. I paid $670 for a roundtrip flight from Charlotte, NC to Dublin, Ireland. Although it may not be the absolutely cheapest of the companies I’ve mentioned, their customer service is great and their planes are comfy. Unlike the other budget airlines I’ve flown, quality was still a key concern. Each seat has it’s own device for viewing movies, the meals served are included in the price, and there is significantly more leg room compared to other flights.
A lot can be said about budget airlines, and not all of it is good. Choosing to fly budget means sacrificing your comfort, expecting hidden fees, and being prepared to miss out on the perks of major airlines (free soda and peanuts). I find all flying experiences to be pretty dismal: smelly passengers, screaming children, uncomfortable sleeping positions. If I’m putting myself through the torture of flying then I may as well be saving money in the process.