My Experience with Budget Airlines in Europe

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The more often I travel, the more often I come to the conclusion that I just don't complain enough.

I've been faced with plenty of situations that would warrant complaining from other people, mind you — lost reservations, missed flights, getting ripped off, unenthusiastic tour guides, annoying roommates… I've faced them all. But, at the end of the day, I look back on the vast majority of my travel experiences and only have positive memories.

Why is this? Well, you see, I'm just not much of a complainer. I'm laid-back enough to acknowledge that people make mistakes; that things are (more often than not) out of my control; that shit happens. Sure I might grumble a bit every now and again, but very rarely do I get so upset about something that I stew about it, or let it negatively impact my overall travel experience. To me, it's just not worth it.

This is probably why I don't understand why people complain so much about budget airlines in Europe.

Photo by Andy_Mitchell_UK, on Flickr

In Europe, where major world capitals lie mere hours apart by train or plane, a handful of “low-cost carriers” (LCCs) compete to offer the cheapest flights possible. This seems like it should be great news for people concerned with getting great travel discounts — right? Well it is. But at the same time it isn't.

You see, when the budget airline market is so competitive and said airlines have to keep coming up with more and more creative ways to cut costs, this usually translates to customers feeling the brunt of it.

Cramped planes. Poor customer service. Hidden fees out the ears. These are some of the common complaints people have about the budget airlines in Europe. And they are valid complaints, I suppose — the planes ARE sometimes cramped, the customer service DOES sometimes leave something to be desired, and the hidden fees ARE annoying.

But my question to these complainers is — what else did you expect?

Waiting for easyJet
Photo by abragad, on Flickr

The whole premise of a budget airline is to offer you the very base level of service for the lowest price possible. If you're only paying $30 for a flight, should you really be expecting gourmet food, a personal butler and loads of leg room? No. Probably not.

And, to be honest, my experience with these low-cost carriers hasn't been bad at all.

Manchester > Budapest on Jet2

Within 2 hours of arriving in Europe last summer, I was already on my first budget flight. A 3-hour hop from Manchester, England to Budapest, Hungary. I booked with Jet2, and airline that I admit I had never even heard of before it popped up in a flight search on Skyscanner.

Photo by Andy_Mitchell_UK, on Flickr

True to LCC form, Jet2 does tack on a lot of extra fees to its fares (for example, checking a bag will cost you £12.49, checking in at the airport instead of online adds an additional £10 to your ticket price, and choosing your seat costs between £3.99 and £8.49). But these were fees I was expecting, so I only grumbled a tiny bit before forking over my credit card number.

And the flight itself? Surprisingly fine. The check-in process at the airport was pretty typical, boarding wasn't stressful, and the plane itself was no more uncomfortable than the United one I'd just flown on from the East Coast to Manchester.

Photo by Keith Williamson, on Flickr

+1 for budget airlines in Europe.

Ljubljana > London on easyJet

My second experience with Europe's LCCs happened a little over halfway through my Euro trip. I had booked a one-way flight from Ljubljana, Slovenia to London Stansted on easyJet, and was interested to see how this budget airline would compare to Jet2.

Photo by Oberau-Online, on Flickr

Similar to Jet2, easyJet charges extra for checked luggage (£15.39 per bag), and even charges a bit more if you pay with a credit card instead of a debit card. When I flew with them, they still did the whole no-assigned-seating thing, but now you can choose a seat for £4.99. (You can also save money by finding discount codes for EasyJet Holidays, so perhaps some of those fees can kind of even out?)

Check-in again was simple, and the boarding, though sort of a free-for-all because of the lack of assigned seats, wasn't terrible, either. It just involved standing in line for a while, but everyone got a seat on the plane, so who cares?

by CLDoyle, on Flickr

Another +1 for budget airlines in Europe.

The Verdict?

True, I haven't flown RyanAir, which is usually the LCC that people complain about the most in Europe. But I think 2/2 positive encounters with budget airlines is a pretty good track record thus far.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't notice much of a difference between flying Jet2 and EasyJet than flying some of the U.S. airlines I tend to frequent when I'm at home. As long as you go into a LCC experience knowing what to expect (and realizing that the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies here), I don't really see a reason for so many complaints (and neither does this blogger).

I mean, people cram into chicken buses in Central America, pay for standing-room-only seats at Broadway shows, and sit on top of one another on Indian trains all to save money and don't complain about it. Why should flying on cheap airlines be any different?

And, I guess if you DO feel like complaining, take a second to remember that, without these airlines, travel would be much more difficult and expensive all across the world.


What kind of experiences have YOU had with budget airlines?



This post was brought to you my My Voucher Codes, which can help you save money with voucher codes (even on budget airlines).

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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49 Comments on “My Experience with Budget Airlines in Europe

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  1. Hi, so I didn’t get to use a budget airline when I was in Europe, but I did use two while in SE Asia. I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, Thailand NokAir and my friend and I LOVED them. It was at least 60$ cheaper than any of the other airlines, and I was pleasantly surprised. Check in was easy, the staff was extremely polite, and the food was delicious. You did have to pay extra to check a bag and have a carry on, and they did the pricing by weight. Luckily we were back packing so it only coast about five dollars for our bags since they weighed less than 15 pounds. Also, I bought the flight insurances for .75cents! I kind of wish that they flew in the US because I would fly NokAir over US Air, United, American anyday!

      Sounds like a good one to keep in mind for SE Asia!

    I completely agree with all of this. You get what you pay for, and when you’re not paying much, don’t expect much. Personally, on inexpensive, short haul flights like the ones these budget carriers fly as long as I arrive safely, I don’t care about much else. I flew with Ryan Air loads of times when I studied in Europe and didn’t encounter any problems that were different from those I had when I few US Air and Delta in the US. Yeah, the airport was a little out of the way but it was still a lot cheaper. Though, from what I’ve read Ryan Air seems to have gotten a little more annoying in the few years since I last flew them…

      Pick just about any airline, though, and you’ll find people complaining about it. I’m with you – as long as I arrive in one piece, that’s usually fine in my book!

    I spent an academic year studying in Italy. I flew Ryanair every time (12 journeys), and I must have done at least another 10 trips at other times. Never had a problem. The only complaints I’ve ever heard first hand were people who tried to take too much hand luggage or were careless with their boarding tickets. And tbh, they deserved whatever hassle they got- you are clearly told how much you can bring and that excess will have to be put in the hold for a fee, and you are told that if you lose your boarding card you will pay more. Follow the rules and there will rarely be a problem.

      Oh, and South/Central America really need to get on board with the budget flights! It’s so frustrating looking at evil long haul bus trips and constantly thinking to myself “In Europe/Asia I could fly this distance with EasyJet, RyanAir, AirAsia etc”.

        Yes, I agree that more parts of the world need to jump on the LCC bandwagon!

    If people are worried about the extra costs, they can calculate the total cost in advance and compare it to the other options and see what comes up as the cheapest option, or whether they’d prefer paying more after all for the sake of extra benefits. Otherwise, I agree – I rather have more possibilities to fly for lower rates than to have a fancier experience. It’s OK to vent if you’re feeling frustrated because of an experience, AND ultimately – travel is such a privilege, that for me personally, the glass is always half full when it comes to traveling.

    I flew EasyJet in January from Geneva to Budapest, and I have to say it was surprisingly positive. I had heard a lot of negative things from [mostly British] people so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The lines, while long, moved rather quickly. The agents were more pleasant than many I have dealt with in the USA. I was even slightly over my weight allowance [maybe a pound or less] so they let me take something out of my checked luggage and put in in my carry-on. No big deal. I know when I am in Europe again, I will look for EasyJet again. Or one of the many others flying around Europe.

      So far it seems most people have had positive experiences with EasyJet. Definitely an airline I would fly again, too!

    II lived in London for a few years and was always zipping around Europe on budget airlines – mosly RyanAir. ‘ve never had a truly horrendous experience with them (but I know some people have). For me, it just comes down to understanding the rules and knowing what to expect from the airline. I once paid £25 for a return flight to Italy, about 1/8th what it would normally cost. It was definitely worth the saving for me.

      And I think you’ve summed up my attitude perfectly, Bethaney!

    I’ve never flown a budget airline in Europe, but I’ve heard many complaints. Glad to hear it’s not nearly as bad some people make it out to be. Perhaps it’s just one of those “the grass is always greener” scenarios, but I would love it if there were more budget, or any, budget airlines in Canada. The cheapest round trip flight I can find right now from Edmonton (where I live) is for $241, and that’s to a city I could drive to for much less.

      Yeah, you Canadians have it rough with so few options!

    Hey I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what all the complaining is about! Thanks for linking to my blog too. Much appreciated 🙂

    I’ve never had the chance to enjoy one of the European budget airlines yet but was glad to read about your experiences. I’m not sure there is an airline out there that makes flying easy unless you’re flying first class! One of these days I need to test some of these airlines out too.

      And yet I’m sure there are still plenty of people in First Class who complain, too. 😉

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