We’ve come a long way since air travel was just for the moneyed, jet-set elite who could afford a luxury that was beyond the means of normal folk. In recent decades, budget air travel has grown exponentially, as airlines across the world have developed more and more routes and methods to make airfare affordable for even the most thrifty traveler.
How do they do it? First off these companies cut costs on their own end. Most budget carriers use a single type of aircraft so that in-flight and service crew only needs to be trained for one model. This also keeps maintenance cheaper.
On the flights themselves, many of the features are trimmed in order to keep things cheaper. For instance, on Ryanair, seats do not recline or have back pockets, and most carriers are more restrictive about baggage allowed, and require a la carte payment for in-flight food and drinks - if these are provided. These operators rely on quick clean-up and turnaround after each flight, to maximize the number of flights in order to make up for the low ticket price. One thing you’ll definitely have to remember is to read the fine print. Often there are hidden costs for things that are included on regular airlines - such as checked baggage - and these can offset the savings of a budget ticket.
What does this all mean? Basically, you’re giving up some of the comforts of traditional air lines in exchange for prices that make air travel more accessible than ever. This has changed the concept of flying for countless people, who no longer see it as a luxury, rather, as something you can do on a whim the next time you have a 3-day weekend.
So without further ado, please put your tray tables in the upright position, and let's take a look at the top low-cost airlines.
This Irish wonder is much more than just a successful budget airline. The company is so popular with travelers that in 2016 it flew more passengers than any other European airline and more international passengers than any competitor.
How does RyanAir do it? With a fleet of more than 400 Boeing 737s that hit destinations in 32 countries in Europe, as well as Morocco and Israel.
Critics would also say that part of RyanAir’s success is due to a cost-cutting nature that goes beyond no frills flying, creating a passenger experience and customer service level that are below many competitors. That said, the company is taking steps to make the airline more family friendly and has added long-haul routes from Europe to the Americas.
The EasyJet orange livery has become a byword for affordability and convenience in recent years, as the company has grown to be the second-largest budget airline, serving destinations in more than 30 countries. The company has used the slogan “making flying as affordable as a pair of jeans,” and that’s not just designer jeans, with flights from Paris to London for less than $40.
And unlike RyanAir, with EasyJet passengers are more likely to fly to the main airport in their destination city, which has helped make the company very popular with business travelers.
EasyJet also operates easyJetHotels, which links customers booking flights to hotels at their destination, helping users quickly book an affordable and convenient travel package online.
No Frills doesn't have to mean no comfort, and jetBlue has become the 6th largest airline in the United States through combining affordable routes to 101 destinations with customer service and a comfortable experience that doesn’t leave you feeling like you got crammed in a flying sardine can.
With low prices and in-air amenities like free snacks, live in-flight television, and ample legroom, the company has been a serious competitor for major airlines as well as low cost carriers.
JetBlue is far from being a pond-hopping domestic airline, with international destinations across the Americas, including Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, and more.
It’s been almost 5 decades since Herb Kelleher and Rollin King reportedly wrote up the idea for Southwest Airlines on a cocktail napkin at a bar in San Antonio, changing the world of domestic US air travel forever.
What worked in the late sixties still works today - affordable flights with quick, easy turnaround, great service, a top of the line customer service and a safety record that remains spotless to this day.
Today Southwest flies to more than 100 destinations in 40 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and continues to inspire the biggest names in the aviation industry.
“Norwegian” may be a bit of a misnomer, as this airline has become the 8th largest airline in Europe, the largest in Scandinavia, and the sixth