This article is a travel topic
This is one of several Wikitravel articles about Discount airlines.
Europe has a number of low cost airlines, some of the largest and most established being easyJet, Ryanair Norwegian and Wizz Air. These airlines have stirred up air travel within Europe by dramatically cutting fares.
The European Open-Skies Treaty of 1992 blew the lid off the system in place before, where national government would restrict access to their airspace to expensive 'flag-carriers', such as British Airways or Lufthansa. This enabled airlines to fly anywhere they wished in the European Union without government approval.
Ryanair was the first airline in Europe to try this model, and now has many followers offering low fares across the continent. These are boom times for cheap air travel in the European Union, with fares on some routes as low as €10 (GBP9, USD12) one-way including tax. or even lower during special sale periods. Fares rise heavily on popular routes and on the days close to departure.
But do not overlook other European airlines; for example, depending on the destination, dates and time, the usually expensive Swiss airline can be cheaper than a so-called discount airline when all costs and times are included from source to destination.
Tickets and pricing
Most discount airlines in Europe sell their tickets exclusively over their website or over the phone, and tickets are not available via travel agents. Most are ticketless; you simply turn up at the check-in desk or even just at the departure gate with your passport and confirmation number (and print-out of your e-ticket). A credit or debit card is a very good idea for booking tickets.
The pricing structure is complex, with fares fluctuating strongly according to demand, often on an hourly basis, but the same "charge as much as the passenger will pay" principle that was invented by traditional carriers applies. There are no hard and fast rules for obtaining the cheapest fares. In fact, fares can vary from as little as €1 or €2 on special promotions, right up to €700 - such as a London-Geneva return flight, during the February half-term weekend (winter holidays in most of the schools).
The following will, however, increase your probability of obtaining very inexpensive fares:
- Do fly mid-week
- Do fly early in the morning or late at night
- Do fly in low season (Spring and Autumn)
- Do make use of sales. These sometimes appear 3-5 weeks prior to departure, however this is by no means guaranteed.
- Don't fly during public holidays.
- Don't book your ticket less than two weeks in advance
- Opt for return tickets, but keep in mind, in most cases airlines will charge extra fees for changes of date or time.
For most traditional airlines it is possible to book a flight from A to C with a connection at B on a single ticket. For many low-cost carriers, this is not possible as they only offer single "point to point" flights. To make a connection with a low-cost carrier, you need to purchase two separate tickets, one from A to B, and another from B to C, and these count as separate contracts. Connecting low-cost flights can save on cost but it has a few disadvantages:
- You are not guaranteed to make the complete journey to your final destination. If your first flight is delayed, so that you miss the connection, it is your responsibility. The airline fulfilled the first contract by bringing you to the connection point albeit delayed, and it is your problem that you failed to arrive at the airport in time to get your second flight. Travel insurance may sometimes cover an event like this, paying for another ticket on a later flight, but only if you have arranged a safe connection time.
- All checked luggage will need to be picked up at your connection point as if that were your final destination. It then needs to be checked in again as if you are departing from that airport.
However, some low-cost carriers want a share of the market transporting connecting passengers, and have policies which allow for connecting tickets. Note that "connecting flights" here refers to connections to another flight on the same airline.
Planning low-cost flight connections can be complicated and requires access to vast amounts of data.
Very few low-cost carriers offer connecting tickets with different airlines.
- Ryanair does not offer connecting tickets, and discourages people from flying with them if they need to connect.
- EasyJet do not offer connecting tickets, and advise passengers who need to connect to calculate a two hour connection time.
- Transavia do not offer connecting flights on their website. Their general conditions of carriage say "If a passenger is prevented from travelling within the period of validity of the ticket because Carrier: ... (5) causes the passenger to miss a connection; ... the validity of such passenger’s ticket will be extended until Carrier’s first flight on which space is available for that passenger in the class of service for which the fare has been paid."
- Norwegian generally operate point-to-point and recommend a connection time of 2 hours. If you have calculated two hours but still miss the connection, Norwegian will rebook you to a later flight subject to available space. Connecting flights can sometimes be booked on a single ticket online ("onlining") for a surcharge of 40 NOK, and in those cases they are responsible for bringing you to your destination.
- Wizzair do not offer connecting flights, and accept no liability for missed connections. Passengers are advised to calculate "sufficient time". Click here for general information and here to download a pdf copy of their conditions of carriage.
- Jet2 do not offer connecting flights, and accept no responsibility for missed connections. Click here for their FAQ page and here on their terms and conditions.
- Smart Wings do not offer connecting flights unless expressly stated otherwise. They recommend a two hour connecting time, but do not guarantee the connection. Click here for their 'Conditions of Carriage' page or see their FAQ page
- Discount airlines are often much more strict about their fares. For example, you have to pay an extra fee for your baggage, e.g. 25 € one-way at Ryanair. While in traditional airlines they usually allow some baggage over the weight limit, WizzAir will charge you €6 for each kg over the limit. Also, some airlines have lower limits than the usual 20 kg. A few kilograms of weight can double your ticket price. Check your terms carefully and weigh your luggage before a journey. You should weigh and measure your hand luggage too; some discount airlines have lattice boxes at the gate to measure your hand luggage.
- Food is usually not served during the flight, or it is available for a fee. It's best to bring your own food and water. Liquids are allowed through security only in bottles of 100 mL or less (and contained in a clear, 1-liter bag), but you can bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a drinking fountain or restroom tap. Alternatively, buy bottled water after security check.
- In-flight entertainment isn't normally provided either. Again, bring your own (laptop, music player, book or magazine)--although electronic devices are not allowed during landing and takeoff, as they are not with traditional carriers. While some planes have a Wifi network, service could be dependent on geography.
- Most discount airlines try to lower airport fees, so they often use smaller and more distant airports, sometimes quite far away from the city they state they fly to. For example Paris Beauvais Airport is some 90 km from Paris, bus costs about €14 one-way and it takes about 1h15 to get to Paris (taxi would be €130-150 one-way), "Frankfurt-Hahn" near the hamlet "Hahn", is actually nearer to the Netherlands (about 100 km) than to Frankfurt (about 125km). Ryanair (the biggest discount airline) became infamous in the 2000s for using nearly exclusively such airports, but in recent years have begun moving to main hubs such as Frankfurt International, which unlike Hahn is actually in Frankfurt.
- Discount airlines do not wait for late running passengers, since an idle plane waiting for a passenger costs money. Check in desks shut promptly at the advertised time. If you are one minute late, they will not let you check in. Also, if you do not get to the boarding gate in time, you may find the plane gone and your luggage sitting on the ground. In these circumstances you will not get a refund, but you may get a transfer to a later flight if there is room.
- It's possible (but rare) that airlines change their schedule with as little as week before departure, so the flight is up to 10 hours earlier/later than in the original reservation. Options they typically give are: accept the change; re-book on a different flight (normally you still have to pay the difference in ticket price but no fee); or accept a refund. Note that purchasing another ticket with either that airline or another at a week's notice may be very expensive relative to your original purchase. When flying low cost it is always better to have good cancellation policy from the supplier connecting with the flight (next flight in your itinerary; hotel at your destination; car rental at the destination airport etc).
- Many discount airliners are "point-to-point" airlines, and do not sell connecting tickets if you need to take two planes to reach your destination. This means you might need to collect your luggage and check it in again for the next leg of the journey, and they do not take responsibility if you miss your connection, even if your connecting flight is with the same airline. This could force you to purchase a new ticket for the next flight. Some low cost carriers (notably Ryanair) do offer end-to-end tickets, but normally only if you book the entire journey as a single ticket.
- Especially Ryanair desires a internet-check-in. Checking in at the airport costs a surcharge of about 50 € one-way per person.
Other points to consider
- Do check out deals from the traditional carriers as well, especially on return trips they may have offers rivalling those of the discount carriers. Following competition from discount airlines, traditional carriers such as BA have also cut their fares on competing routes, and are often only about 20% more expensive than discount airlines, a price worth paying if the journey to the airport is cheaper and faster. Sometimes they can even be cheaper than discount airlines, especially during public holidays.
- Also check high speed rail connections in countries where they are available (France, Spain, Germany, Italy, UK). Railway companies have started to offer discounted advance fares (as low as €20 one-way) in response to competition from budget airlines. Travelling by high speed train can often be faster and cheaper than by discount airline, once you take into account the cost and time needed to get to the airport, as well as lenghty embarking/disembarking procedures.
- Contrary to public perceptions, most budget airlines have an excellent safety record.
- The flight frequency and departure/arrival times are usually worse on discount carriers compared to traditional ones.
- Traditional carriers will rebook you on the next available flight for free if something happens. Low cost carriers often charge for this or force you to buy a new ticket.
easyJet  carried 30.3 million in 2005 making them just smaller than Ryanair and the 7th busiest airline in Europe. Fares are priced as single segment one way trips. Their website allows you to book multiple flights simultaneously however, and even allows you to exchange a flight you have purchased for a different flight of your choice on their website providing a partial refund (e.g. changing to a flight on a different date and/or with different passenger names). If you change planes at an Easyjet hub you must collect your luggage and check it in again at the hub. You can book a return at the same time as the outbound but you get no discount for doing so. Some of the advanced features on the Easyjet website are only available if you create an account for yourself on the website.
Following Ryanair, easyJet has no free weight allowance for luggage, and charge for all checked luggage. However, they do not charge extra for printing a boarding pass at the airport.
EasyJet has hubs in 4 London airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend) as well as Basel, Berlin, (SXF and TXL) Madrid, Dortmund, Geneva, Paris (CDG and Orly), and various other UK and European airports. As well as these hubs they serve 70 other airports throughout Europe, Morocco, Egypt and Israel with over 260 routes.
EasyJet operate an ever-expanding network, keep your eyes peeled to their site. Unlike Ryanair, easyJet have always tended to operate out of principal airports, such as Barcelona rather than Barcelona Girona, in Spain.
Tickets can range from €20 to €420, all inclusive one-way.
Seating on easyJet is now allocated and a passenger can pay to choose the seat of their choice. The previous model of unallocated seating and the resulting 'free-for-all' has been abandoned by the airline.
Ryanair , with 65 Million passengers in 2009 is Europe's largest low-cost carrier, the 3rd largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger numbers and the largest in the world in terms of international passenger numbers. Ryanair carries more international passengers than any other airline. Fares are priced as single segment one-way trips. If you wish to change planes at one of Ryanair's hubs, then you must book the two segments separately. Luggage is not transferred and must be collected and checked in again. You can book a return at the same time as the outbound but there is no discount for doing so. If you miss a second flight due to a delay in the earlier Ryanair flight, you will not get a refund for the missed flight and will be forced to buy a new ticket at the applicable price, which may be higher than you originally paid.
A major overhaul of Ryanair's website in 2013-2014 made booking a much simpler process than it had been in the past. Gone are the tickets offered for as low as €0.01 all inclusive one-way, but these tended not to include certain unavoidable "taxes" and "fees" prior to booking and would often charge a credit card fee of €6 per person and segment, which could only be avoided with a prepaid Mastercard credit card. The flight would often end up costing at least €10 after such fees, but they have either since been dropped or combined with the flight price, so the price you first see when booking a flight is now likely to be the one you eventually pay.
Some optional fees such as €25 per bag per segment still exist. The fee for overweight luggage is €10 per kilo, substantially lower than it used to be. There is no free checked baggage allowance on Ryanair, plus they have strict carry-on rules about cabin baggage, only one piece which may weigh no more than 20 kilograms. The cabin baggage rules are not always seem to be enforced though. Airports which are heavily dependent upon Ryanair flights tend to be stricter about enforcing cabin baggage rules and will often check that cabin baggage conforms to Ryanairs limit on dimensions, which is currently 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. Other airports, such as Düsseldorf Weeze, will ask passengers to put their cabin luggage on a set of scales, if they suspect that the luggage may be overweight.
Ryanair operate a large network in Europe, and are generally (but not always) the cheapest airline on the routes where they compete with another airline. They have 41 hubs: in Shannon, Dublin, Glasgow (Prestwick), Liverpool, London (Stansted & Luton), Madrid, Brussels (Charleroi), Düsseldorf (Weeze), Frankfurt (Hahn), Stockholm (Skavsta), Milan Bergamo, Rome, Kaunas, Barcelona (Girona). They serve 142 European destinations as well as Israel and Morocco, with over 1,000 routes.
While this is now changing, Ryanair has traditionally used small airports that can be quite far from the the city they purport to serve so check your travelling time and cost estimates carefully. Coach tickets from airport to city centre may be available through Ryanair, but there may be local competition with more favourable schedules and/or fares. Check through the airport's website, or do an online search for "airport coach" plus the name of the airport.
Ryanair keeps extremely low prices by setting a standard customer behaviour (typically an airport to airport travel without on flight meal and hand luggage only) and placing additional fees for every addition you need. So although you may be able to pick up a €20 fare for a London - Milan flight, in-flight meals and snacks are charged at a premium and there are other charges for things like items of checked-in luggage. Ryanair's "no-frills" approach is aimed at travellers requiring a basic cheap transport service. Beware of getting on last when the plane is fully booked. Because everyone takes the maximum size hand baggage to avoid paying the suitcase fee the containers for hand baggage rapidly get filled up. If there is no room for yours it will be put underneath with the checked-in baggage and you will have to wait for it to arrive at the carousel.
In order to offer faster check-in to passengers with hand luggage only, Ryanair allows passengers to check-in in advance via their website. If booked in advance, there the fixed fare per single trip per checked bag is €25 (€35 in July and August and for international flights to and from the Canary Islands). The cost if paid at the airport is €40. Luggage weight limits are 10kg for hand luggage and 20kg for checked luggage. It is possible to check in a second piece of luggage, but this is charged at €35 and limited to 15kg (€40 in July and August and for international flights to and from the Canary Islands).
Compared to most other budget airlines, Ryanair provides very limited compensation in the event of flight cancellations, despite the EU regulations. Typically, Ryanair will only provide a replacement seat on a later Ryanair flight (which can depart up to 3 days later than the original flight), or a full refund of the single journey price. Alternative travel arrangements and accommodation are not normally provided by Ryanair. Passengers wishing to return on the same day are normally forced to purchase a new non-advance ticket with a different airline, which can far exceed the price of the original ticket. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain insurance against flight cancellation when travelling with Ryanair.
Also bear in mind that since October 2009, Ryanair is very strict about checking in online and printing your boarding pass at home. You will be charged with a £50/€50 issuing fee if you try checking in at the airport, or £15/€15 if you need to reprint your boarding pass. You must have deposited any checked-in luggage no later than 40 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. When flying with Ryanair it is advisable to get to the airport early as bag drop desks (as Ryanair terms them) can often have long queues.
Following the rules above and you can get to most of Europe extremely cheaply, especially during off-season. In November 2016, a one-day sale saw most major routes for as low as two pounds/euros each way - but these went very quickly! It's worth checking the website regularly to see the latest deals.
Other low cost airlines
There are 62 low cost airlines in Europe, and this number is rapidly changing. Here are a few of the biggest, grouped by their base country. A number of them are beginning to or have already offered flights just beyond the European Union to Russia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Cyprus, Jordan and/or Turkey while others offer longer haul flights to the United Arab Emirates (Dubai or Abu Dhabi), United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Indonesia (Bali), etc. on scheduled or on a chartered basis at very competitive fares. See their respective sites as to where they go and for how much money.
- airBaltic  have a wide variety of cheap fares from Riga, which can be used as a transit point. E.g. it is cheaper to travel Odessa-Riga-Kiev with airBaltic than Odessa-Kiev directly with regular-fare airlines.
- Ryanair  has 18 cheap flights  from Kaunas (second biggest city in Lithuania).
- Wizzair  offers regular flights from Skopje to Friedrischshafen, Oslo-Torp, Barcelona, Hamburg Luebeck, Nuremberg, Cologne, Gothenburg, Frankfurt Hahn, Malmo, Milan Bergamo and Paris Beauvais. Also, there are flights from Ohrid to Basel Mulhouse Freiburg.
- Wizzair  offers regular flights to Sofia, Bourgas and seasonal (summer) flights to Varna.
- Easyjet  offers regular flights to Sofia.
- Ryanair  offers regular flights from Plovdiv to Bergamo-Orio al Serio, Hahn , London-Stansted.
- Blue Air  operates 24 routes.
- Ryanair  has cheap flights from Constanta to Pisa or Milan Bergamo. Ryanair pulled out the Constanta-Bologna route.
- Wizzair  is currently the cheapest operator out of Bucharest, and has many routes to major European cities.
- Eurowings  offer flights from Belgrade to Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart.
- Norwegian Air Shuttle  operates routes from Belgrade to Oslo and Stockholm.
- Wizzair  offers regular flights from Belgrade to Dortmund and London-Luton.
- AirBaltic  offers regular flights from Belgrade to Riga.
- Easyjet (flies under the British flag)  offers regular flights to Pristina from Basel/Freiburg and Geneva.
Western and Central Europe
- Aer Lingus  operate many routes to and from the Republic of Ireland.
- Ryanair (see above).
- EasyJet (see above) .
- Jet2  operate out of UK airports Belfast, Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford, London Stansted, Newcastle and Manchester Airports to destinations throughout continental Europe.
- TUI Airways  Operates from many UK airports to destinations across Europe and Northern Africa, as well as to Tel Aviv.
- Smartwings  operates out of Prague.
- Condor  operates out of major airports in Germany mainly to holiday destinations and sells tickets starting at 29,00 € one-way within Europe, putting it into the discount airline bracket as well. Offers free food and beverages catered by Lufthansa parent.
- Eurowings  operate a large network out of German airports Berlin, Cologne-Bonn, Hamburg, and Stuttgart. The airline also offers guaranteed connection flights between some of its destinations (from €20 all inclusive, one-way, to all destinations).
- TUIfly , formerly Hapag-Lloyd Express, operates a large network out of Stuttgart, Cologne/Bonn, Hanover, Hamburg and Berlin. Flies as far as Greece and Israel (from €20 all inclusive, one-way).
- Wizzair  is a Hungarian airline which operates out of Poland and Hungary (fares are from €20 all inclusive, one-way.) At the beginning they charged for all checked luggage, but in the last years they allow weights up to 15 kg free. Please check in advance as the policy on baggage can change without any notice.
- Wizzair  (flies under the Hungarian flag. See under Hungary above)
- Norwegian  operates direct flights from Warsaw to Oslo-Gardermoen, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm-Arlanda, Athens, Dubrovnik, Split, Rome, Salzburg, Paris-Orly and Malaga; from Krakow to Oslo-Gardermoen, Oslo-Rygge, Bergen, Stavanger, Copenhagen-Kastrup and Stockholm-Arlanda; from Wroclaw, Szczecin and Gdansk to Oslo-Gardermoen.
- Helvetic  operates out of Zürich to mainly destinations around the Mediterranean.
France and the Benelux
- Brussels Airlines , the successor of SN Brussels Airlines and Virgin Express, operates from Brussels to destinations in Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and other countries. With b.light, fares start at €99 all inclusive, return. Brussels Airlines also has an extensive network of destinations in Africa.
- Jetairfly  has very cheap flights to far off cities in Europe, America, the Caribbean and even Asia.
- Air Pegasus is a Turkish airline that flies from Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels into Asia, with connections in Istanbul .
- easyJet  flies to serveral destinations from Amsterdam Schiphol.
- Ryanair  has many cheap flights from Eindhoven Airport.
- transavia.com  operates out of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Groningen to many European destinations.
- EasyJet  travels from Lisbon to several Europe destinations.
- Ryanair  travels around Portugal and to European destinations.
- Air Europa  Based in Madrid, travels around Spain, Europe and South America.
- Vueling  operates out of Barcelona (Spain) to many Spanish, European, middle east and African destinations.
- Blu-Express  operates within Italy and to Thailand & Mediterranean destinations.
Greece, Turkey and Cyprus
- Aegean Airlines  operates from Athens to the Greek islands and the biggest cities of Europe.
- Corendon  operates out of Turkey to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
- Easyjet  operates from Istanbul to Basel/Mulhouse , Antalya
- Onur Air  operates a Turkish domestic network.
- Pegasus Airlines  operates from Istanbul to Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Great Britain, Austria, Greece, Ukraine and a domestic network.
- Anadolujet , the discount wing of national carrier Turkish Air, operates a domestic network and flies to London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Brussels, and Vienna.
- Norwegian  operates out of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Spain and the UK. Has very cheap flights. Took over Sweden's FlyNordic in 2008. Main hubs: Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London-Gatwick, Alicante and Malaga. Domestic flights within Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, and international flights to destinations in Europe. Norwegian operates in 25 European countries (plus Morocco, Thailand, U.S.A. and the United Arab Emirates), and has flights to more than 124 destinations.
Based outside Europe
- AirTransat  is a Canadian airline which operates from several Canadian cities (Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Québec City) to the UK and Europe (fares are from $99 all inclusive, one-way).
Low cost airline hubs
If you cannot find a direct flight with a low cost carrier, it may be necessary to change flights at a low cost airline hub. Make sure you leave plenty of time for connections, as you will not be refunded if you miss a flight. It may be sensible to stay overnight in a city near the hub to be sure you won't miss the flight.
List of low cost airline hubs
|Airport name (airport code)
||Low cost airlines
| Alicante (ALC)
||Easyjet, Ryanair, Jet2, transavia
|Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
||Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden
||Vueling, Easyjet, tuiFly, Eurowings, Jet2
|Orio al Serio Airport (Bergamo - BGY)
||Ryanair, My Air, Alitalia and many others flying Europe-wide, see 
|Berlin Schoenefeld (Brandenburg - SXF)
||Easyjet, Ryanair, Eurowings, tuiFly, Condor
|Berlin Tegel (TXL)
|Bucharest Baneasa (BBU)
||Blue Air, Wizz Air, Eurowings, MyAir, EasyJet
|Bratislava Ivánka (BTS)
||Wizz Air, Ryanair, Sun D´Or
||Brussels Airlines, Sterling, Condor, Jetairfly
|Brussels South (CRL)
||Ryanair, Jetairfly, Wizz Air
||Wizz Air, EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet2.com, AerLingus, Eurowings, Norwegian Air, Transavia, Volotea
||Easyjet, Eurowings, tuiFly, Wizz Air
||Ryanair, CityJet, Eurowings
|Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS)
|East Midlands (EMA)
||Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, Peak District
||airbaltic, Blue Wings, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, Eurowings, Intersky, Norwegian, Pegasus, TUIfly,
|Leeds Bradford (LBA)
||Leeds, Yorkshire Dales
||Easyjet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Jet2
||Liverpool, Manchester, Preston
|London Luton (LTN)
||Easyjet, Ryanair, TUI Airways, Wizz Air
|London Stansted (STN)
||Easyjet, Ryanair, Jet2, TUI Airways
|London Gatwick (LGW)
|London Southend (SEN)
||EasyJet, Ryanair, TUI Airways, SmartWings
||Easyjet, Brussels Airlines, tuiFly, Eurowings
||Easyjet, Jet2, Ryanair, TUI Airways
|Paris Beauvais (BVA)
||Blue Air, Ryanair, Wizz Air
|Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
|Paris Orly (ORY)
|| Ryanair, Easyjet, tuiFly, Wizzair
||tuiFly, Condor, Easyjet, Ryanair, Eurowings
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