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Discount airlines in Europe

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Discount airlines in Europe

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Departures board at Cologne/Bonn airport

This is one of the WikiTravel Travel topics

Europe has a number of low cost airlines, the largest and most established being EasyJet, Ryanair, and Air Berlin. 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. The de-regulation of Europe's skies enabled a European airline run like Southwest to become a reality.

Ryanair was the first airline in Europe to try this model, and now have many imitators offering low fares across the continent. These are boom times for low-cost air travel in Europe, and with fares on some routes as low as €10 (£7, US$12) one-way including tax, millions are discovering the joy of travelling across Europe cheaply and quickly.


easyJet plane in takeoff

EasyJet fares are priced as single segment one way trips. If you wish to change planes in a hub then you must book the two segments separately (meaning also that you collect your luggage and check 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.

EasyJet has hubs in 3 London airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Luton) as well as Paris (CDG and Orly), Berlin, Dortmund, Liverpool, Bristol and various other UK airport. As well as these hubs they serve 45 other airports throughout Europe, with 180 routes.

EasyJet operate an ever-expanding network, keep your eyes peeled to their site. They have an extensive UK domestic network, and operate to and between large European airports. Unlike Ryanair, easyJet tend to operate out of principal airports, such as Barcelona and not Barcelona Girona, in Spain.


Ryanair plane

Ryanair fares are priced as single segment one way trips. If you wish to change planes in a hub then you must book the two segments separately. You can book a return at the same time as the outbound but you get no discount for doing so.

Ryanair operate a huge network in Europe, and are generally (but not always) the cheapest airline on the routes where they compete with another airline. They have hubs in Shannon, Dublin, Glasgow (Prestwick), Liverpool, London, Brussels (Charleroi), Frankfurt (Hahn), Stockholm (Skavsta), Milan Bergamo, Rome and Barcelona. They serve 82 other European destinations, with 209 routes.

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.

  • Air Berlin operate a very large network from numerous German and Austrian airports, and London. They book through tickets.
  • Blue Air operate an expanding network to/from Bucharest, Romania (to Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, etc).
  • BMI Baby, a subsidiary of bmi, have bases in Teeside, Cardiff, Manchester and Nottingham East Midlands. They operate domestic flights to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and also have a small number of flights out of Gatwick.
  • Centralwings operates out of Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice) to several European destinations.
  • Condor operates out of major airports in Germany (doesn't use obscure airfields) and sells tickets starting at 29,00 Euros one-way within Europe, putting it into the discount airline bracket as well.
  • FlyBe operates out of the UK to many European Destinations
  • Monarch operates out of several UK cities
  • German Wings operate a large network out of Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart.
  • Hapag-Lloyd Express operate a large network out of Stuttgart, Cologne/Bonn, Hanover, Hamburg and Berlin.
  • Iceland Express operates out of London Stansted and Copenhagen to Reykjavik.
  • jet2 operate out of Leeds/Bradford to continental Europe, and from Belfast to Prague.
  • Onur Air operates a Turkish domestic network.
  • Sky Europe operate out of Bratislava and Budapest.
  • Smartwings operates out of Prague.
  • Sterling operate from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo and Copenhagen.
  • Transavia (former BasiqAir), Operates out of Amsterdam to many European destinations.
  • Virgin Express operate out of Brussels.
  • Wizzair operates from Poland and Hungary

Low cost airline resources

There are some very useful websites to use when booking connecting low cost airline flights. One is Openjet. This site will find the cheapest way of getting between the 91 cities served by Easyjet, MytravelLite, BMIbaby, Volareweb, Basiq Air, HLX and Germanwings. Another is Low Fare Flights, this UK site compares budget airfares on over 300 european routes, originating from the UK only. Applefares covers European-based routes: you can give it a range of airports or even countries, and find the cheapest flight to any destination on a range of dates. It searches the airlines that Openjet uses, plus Air 2000, BMI, Duo, Sky Europe, Sterling, V Bird and Virgin Express. Skyscanner offers a similar service with additional tools, such as fare graphs for a given route over a month and cheap weekend flights from any given city. Unfortunately Ryanair actively keeps its fares off any of these fare comparison websites, forcing users to go directly to The most recent website in this category is dohop which cleverly composes multileg journeys based on low-cost airlines.

Also of use are two information sites: which lists all 54 European low cost airlines (plus many other low cost airlines all over the world) and which has country-by-country maps and information detailing all the low cost airline routes to and from each European destination. is another good resource, and has up-to-date low-cost airline route news.