Sometimes when you travel, it’s essential to cut down on as much unnecessary expenditure as possible, including flying. In this article, we are going to help you choose the top low-cost airlines in Europe with the best prices and services.
There is a wide array of budget airlines in Europe, and this huge load of information can be confusing for amateur travellers. Worry not, as we are going to provide clear and detailed information on each airline, as well as give you some tips on how to choose the best airline for your trip.
Budget Airlines Vs Traditional Airlines
If you plan on flying budget, you need to know that the experience is different from traditional flying. There are things you might have taken for granted on traditional flights that won’t be available on low-cost flights.
So, before jumping into which airline to choose, in this part, we are gonna discuss what you gain and what you lose by flying budget.
What You Lose
There are quite a few things you have to give up if you decide to book a low-cost flying ticket. First-time flyers better be prepared, as these changes might be a bit hard to adjust to.
Free Extra Services
Some budget airlines take the phrase “no frills” to another level, and not in a good sense.
For one thing, there won’t be the usual amenities that are available for free on normal flights. This means no headphones or small screens, food and drinks, wifi, or priority boarding. You name it.
You also won’t be able to choose your own seat. The seat will be digitally allotted to you, and if you want to pick seats, you have to pay some extra fees to do it. For instance, there are the “airport check-in fees” or the “boarding pass re-issue fee” (which, by the way, costs about £20 - £24).
Of course, you do have the option of paying extra for these services if you want to. But beware, they can pile up and cost you a hefty sum. Sometimes you have to make do with what you have.
Be prepared to say goodbye to extra services if you plan to fly budget. Photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash
Plus, extra baggage fees can be a nightmare if you don’t do enough research. Most budget airlines only allow one carry-on and a personal item on board. If you want to bring anything more, you would have to pay extra fees.
When you research tickets, pay extra attention to the baggage fee, as they can be exorbitant. And don’t wait until you go to the airport to do it because getting fined there would cost you even more, possibly double or triple the cost of the ticket itself.
If you are new to flying and don’t know how baggage fees work, read our article on airline baggage fees breakdown for a comprehensive and easy-to-understand summary.
Comfortability & Convenience
If you plan to fly on a budget, be prepared to say goodbye to the reclining seats and movable legroom. Most low-cost aeroplanes are not that comfortable, as they always try to squeeze as many seats into the aeroplane’s space as much as possible.
Looking on the bright side, you would be safe from the annoyance of having someone in front reclining the seat so far back it might as well touch your face.
There are some airlines that offer seats with a bit of extra legroom, but you will have to pay more.
Low-cost airlines are notorious for their punctuality (or the lack thereof). This is due to the fact that limited resources (personnel, aircraft, equipment, management, etc.) have to be spread among aggressively packed flight schedules.
These delays can be from 15 minutes to a few hours, so if you are in a rush and absolutely need to be punctual, don’t book a budget flight ticket.
Fun fact: According to OAG, the top 5 most punctual European airlines in 2023 are: Eurowings, Iberia, Air Europa, Austrian Airlines AG dba Austrian, and ITA Airways.
What You Gain
We know the previous part might paint a horrible picture of low-cost flights (and it’s okay because not everything is sunshine and rainbows). However, flying this way is not without its merits.
This goes without saying. Budget airlines take their “budget” title seriously, with prices being as low as only a few Euros. You would be able to save a lot of money on flying if you choose to travel by budget airline.
There are tricks to booking the cheapest flights. For one thing, the timing is important - if you avoid the busy season and book flights at odd hours in the middle of the week, you will get a pretty good deal.
You can also reduce costs by shifting locations. Flights to major cities tend to cost more, but flights to secondary airports in adjacent towns don’t. If you find out that, say, a flight to and a bus ride from Schleißheim airport to Munich will cost less than a flight straight to Munich, by all means, go for it.
With just a few pounds, the whole world is within your reach if you play your cards right. Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash
Low-cost airlines also tend to provide a lot of discounts and membership packages for you to choose from, especially if you are a seasoned traveller. By subscribing to these packages, you can save even more money.
Diverse Destination Options
This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. Low-cost aeroplanes usually don’t land in main airports. They use secondary airports, which are often located in rather obscure locations, far away from the city centres.
It’s to save cost, but it also gives you the opportunity to explore new, less travelled paths. Who knows, maybe you can find interesting things there.
This also means it’d be a bit difficult to find transportation from the airports. The secondary airports do offer rides to the main cities, but it will cost you some extra pennies.
More Available Flights
Budget airlines gain revenues by increasing the number of flights they operate per day and decreasing ground time. This means that there would be flights at really odd hours, but it also means that you have more options to choose from when you book a ticket.
Top Low-Cost Airlines In Europe
In this section, we are going to talk about some of Europe’s best budget airlines, both in terms of prices and customer service. We will also rank these airlines based on personal experience and available reviews, so buckle up!
10. Blue Air
Based in Turin, Italy, Blue Air offers flights primarily across the Mediterranean. One advantage of choosing Blue Air is that it uses older aircraft, so the seats are a little bit wider and more comfortable than newer ones.
Their cheapest fare allows one carry-on bag, sized no more than 40 x 30 x 20 cm, but no personal item. Checked bags can cost anything from £9 if you book online and from £54 if you book at the airport, depending on route and weight.
Unlike RyanAir or WizzAir, the prices of seat selection, food, snacks and drinks vary by route. The option of online check-in also varies by route, so do your research carefully before you book.
One major downside of Blue Air might be its online booking system - the website is buggy, unresponsive, sometimes inaccurate, and generally quite an inconvenience. They do promise refunds and flight changes should the flights get cancelled, but the pending time can be quite long, lasting up to months.
9. Wizz Air
Aside from destinations in Western Europe and North Africa, this airline also offers flights to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, which other airlines rarely reach. So if you want to travel to, say, Warsaw or Budapest, Wizz Air is a great choice.
Like RyanAir, Wizz Air sells insanely cheap tickets. You are allowed a free carry carry-on bag to be placed under the seat. The condition is that it doesn’t exceed the 40 x 30 x 20 cm size.
Depending on the season, the weight of the bag, and whether you booked online or offline, baggage fees will be charged differently. They allow check-in bags up to 32kg, but it will cost you anywhere from £5 to £107. You can find out more about Wizz Air baggage policies here.
You could end up paying for a sleuth of extra fees if you’re not careful. These include the airport check-in fee (which will cost about £12, so remember to check in online), and a paper invoice fee (£3). And if you book the ticket with an ad-blocker, it will cost you another £9.
It’s also in your best interests to plan carefully before booking. Flight change fee can cost from £35 to £45, and flight cancellation fee starts from £65. There won’t be in-flight entertainment or WiFi, but you can purchase lounge access, advanced seat selection, and food &drinks.
There is, however, the option of Wizz Discount Club, which by joining in, you get discounts on fees and checked luggage.
Wizz Air is admittedly not the best in terms of punctuality or customer service. It doesn’t rank quite high in customer reviews, and there are inconveniences you have to deal with when you pick this airline. Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent choice for those who want to fly for the lowest price possible.
RyanAir would be one of the first names to pop up if you look up low-cost airlines in Europe, and not without good reasons.
For one thing, the airline is huge. It operates over 2,000 flights to over forty countries daily, with destinations ranging from Europe to North Africa. For another thing, its tickets are dirt cheap, priced as low as £5 (including taxes).
It’s also quite punctual. Despite the prejudice that low-cost airlines are never on time, RyanAir’s turnarounds are quite short, and thus, it’s harder for them to be late. In fact, the average delay time for RyanAir is 8 minutes and a half per flight.
So what’s the catch? Well, there are multiple. RyanAir is infamous for its excessive catalogue of extra baggage fees. It only allows a 40 x 20 x 25 (cm) free carry-on bag. If your bag is bigger than that, you would be hit with a £69.99 fine, which might be more expensive than the flight ticket itself.
Checked bags can cost from £12.99 - £35.99 each. Bags weighing over 20kg will be charged from £20.99 - £ 59.99 more per each extra kilo.
You would need to pay extra fees for food and drinks, security Fast Track, and seat selection - they do sell “premium” seats which are slightly bigger and provide a little more wiggle room.
But there are some things even money can not buy, as there won’t be any form of in-flight entertainment or WiFi whatsoever on RyanAir aeroplanes. There are, however, a lot of commercials played during the flight, so you can use those to save yourself from boredom.
7. Pegasus Airline
Based in Istanbul, Pegagus Airline offers its service primarily within Turkey, across Eastern Europe, the Balkan and the Middle East. Notably, it reaches rarer locations like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Qatar.
Pegasus Airlines' carry-on bag policy is laid-back. It allows a 55 x 40 x 20 cm bag plus one personal item. Pay attention though: There’s a difference between the baggage policies for domestic and international flights.
If you want to bring more luggage, you can upgrade to its Essential Advantage for extra baggage allowance. Or even Comfort Flex class, which allows for extra legroom seats, in-flight entertainment and a sandwich.
Except for the Comfort Flex class ticket, this airline also charges a penalty for flight cancellation or flight change. You can check out its fee policies and compare the packages here.
There are no WiFi or seatback screens. However, it does offer in-flight entertainment. The staff is friendly and helpful, so that’s one good point.
If you hate waiting, brace yourself, as the waiting line before the check-in can take a bit long. Pegasus Airline is also a repeated offender of late arrival, so make sure to not plan a schedule too tightly.
6. Norwegian Air
Based in Norway, Norwegian Air travels to an extensive list of locations, from Europe to South America, Africa, Africa, and Asia. If you are looking for a budget airline that offers long-haul flights, Norwegian Air would be a great choice.
While Norwegian Air’s tickets can be a tad more expensive than its counterparts like RyanAir or WizzAir, it does come with a benefit: Free WiFi on board. Yay!
There are, however, several ways of cutting down on this. The airline offers major discounts for anyone under 26 years old, which can reduce up to 50% of the total cost. You can also register for their loyalty program, which accumulates points as you fly more. You can exchange those points for added benefits.
For carry-on baggage policy, you are allowed one under-seat bag measuring under 30 x 20 x 38cm, plus an airport shopping bag and no checked bag.
If you pick their LowFare+ or Flex option, you would be allowed one more overhead bag and up to two more checked bags (which must not weigh over 23kg each).
You also won’t have to wait long to check-in. There are several check-in options at the airport.
While not being the cheapest airline out there (RyainAir takes that title), Condor offers good services, especially for long-haul flyers.
Condor Airlines is active primarily within the borders of Europe. However, it does provide direct flights to and from the North American and African continent, as well as a few destinations in Asia.
Probably the most frustrating problem you can encounter with Condor is how everything is based on flight zone, including things like food and drinks booking or seat selection.
It allows one carry-on piece of hand luggage, and the exact amount of luggage allowed depends on the flight zone and booked fare. If your luggage exceeds the allowed limit, you will be charged anywhere between £75 and £100 (yikes!).
On the upside, there is inflight entertainment in the form of drop-down screens for all kinds of flights. Long-haul flyers also get a free warm meal and a seatback screen, so there’s that.
Based just outside London, EasyJet mainly flies between the cities of Western Europe. Unlike many of its counterparts, EasyJet offers flights to destinations in Europe’s famous cities like Barcelona, Munich, Amsterdam, Rome, etc.
EasyJet Airline has one of the smallest seat sizes, measuring up to only 29 inches (smaller than RyanAir’s). They allow one under-seat bag as big as 56 x 45 x 25 cm with no weight limit and no personal item.
Checked bags can cost anything between £6.99 to £48 per bag, depending on weight and whether you booked online or not. Check-in, as always, is cheaper if you do it online.
If you want to have added benefits like extra legroom, additional bags, and priority boarding, you can register for its EasyJet Plus membership.
This airline operates quite short turnarounds. It’s also reviewed to have a good track record of punctuality and customer service. Plus, you have a 14-day window before the flight in which you can make changes for free.
Transavia is not exactly the most well-known low-cost budget airline, but this doesn’t mean that its services are subpar.
It offers cheap flights across European cities, the Middle East, and Africa. The destinations are diverse and exotic. So if you are adventurous and seek new, exciting things to try out, Transavia is an ideal option.
A Transavia ticket might cost anything from £17, depending on the route. It allows one bag, size 40 x 30 x 20 cm, to be taken on board.
For bags larger than that but measuring up to 55 x 35 x 25 cm, the first 70 pieces will be allowed to be taken on board, and the rest are transported free of charge at the hold.
Transavia allows checked bags weighing from 15kg to 32kg. The actual fare also depends on the route, which will show at the time of booking. The fares of booking luggage offline will cost about double or triple those when you book online.
One advantage of Transavia is its excellent customer service. The staff are nice and friendly, and extra fees like food and drinks are not exorbitant like those in some other airlines.
There’s no in-flight entertainment or WiFi on board, though. Luckily, Transavia flights are usually quite short, so it’s not that big of a problem.
Based near Barcelona, Vueling operates flights to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. It also provides a diverse and reasonably priced range of options for seat selection, drinks and snacks.
This airline is impressively lax with its baggage policy. You are allowed one carry-on bag, which measures up to 55 x 40 x 20 cm, a personal item, and an airport shopping bag. That is the most generous baggage policy we’ve seen in low-cost airlines. There’s no inflight entertainment, but they have free and speedy WiFi, so you have that.
We hereby champion Jet2 as the best low-cost airline in Europe. It manages to make your flight as pleasant as it is cheap, and flying with Jet2 generally remains a positive experience.
Another airline based in Britain, Jet2 is famous for its sterling customer services and customer experience. Jet2 excels in comfortability, quality service, on-time performance, cleanliness, and helpfulness.
Jet2 offers short-haul flights across Europe, including both scheduled routes and charter flights.
The prices might vary daily due to seasons, so it’s best to keep a close eye on its website if you want to strike a good deal. Or, you can check out our tips on when to buy the cheapest flight ticket.
For baggage, it does allow a 56 x 35 x 25 cm on board, on the condition that it does not weigh more than 10kg.
There’s no in-flight entertainment whatsoever, and if you want food, drinks, or seat selection, you have to pay some extra fees. Jet2’s no-frills policies are much like other airlines.
Choose The Right Backpack For Your Trip
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again: You should be extremely careful with your luggage, as one small mistake can cost you an insane amount of fines (trust us, we have learned the hard way).
Unsure of what to pack? No worries, read our essential travel packing list to find out. And what’s more, we do offer an excellent backpack option for budget travellers.
The CabinZero Classic 28L is the one bag you want to bring on any trip. Why is this backpack so great? For one thing, it fits the carry-on policies of almost every airline. Yes, you heard us right, almost every airline. You never have to worry about over-packing and any surcharges again!
The Classic backpack is water resistant. Its 600D Polyester fabric ensures the safety of your belongings. It can fit laptops ranging from 12" to 15.6", so you can always catch up on work when you travel.
The backpack is sturdy and reliable, a great companion when you are on the go. It is available in a wide range of vibrant, youthful colours.
And You’re Ready To Fly!
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about top low-cost airlines in Europe. For their insanely low prices, there would be inevitable downsides. But what are a few inconveniences in an adventurous journey, right?
So, make your preparations, pack your luggage, and get going! There’s a whole world out there, available for the low prices of a few Euros, at your fingertips.