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What Is a Low-Cost Airline and Should You Fly With One?


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The rise of low-cost airlines has completely revolutionized the way we travel.

Low-cost carriers/budget airlines are here to stay. They have made air travel more accessible and affordable for millions of people around the world. But what exactly is a low-cost airline? Are they safe? And should you fly with one? What are the main differences between low-cost airlines and full-service airlines?

In this blog post, we’ll answer all these questions and more.

Did you miss a connecting flight? File a compensation claim online.

EasyJet plane
EasyJet plane

1. What Is a Low-Cost Airline?

A low-cost airline, as the name suggests, is an airline that offers low-cost airfares. The concept was introduced in the 1970s by American airline Southwest, and since then, many airlines worldwide have followed suit.

Low-cost airlines are known for their no-frills services and low fares.

They typically offer point-to-point services, which means they fly directly to specific destinations without any connecting flights. In order to keep their costs low, low-cost airlines often use small and simple airports, and they operate with a single type of aircraft.

A low-cost airline, as the name suggests, is an airline that offers low-cost airfares. The concept was introduced in the 1970s by American airline Southwest, and since then, many airlines worldwide have followed suit.

2. Are Low-Cost Airlines Safe?

One of the biggest concerns that people have when it comes to flying with a low-cost airline is safety. However, it’s important to note that safety standards are the same for all airlines, regardless of their cost structure.

Low-cost airlines are subject to the same strict safety regulations as other airlines. In fact, some low-cost airlines have a better safety record than their full-service counterparts. Whenever in doubts, you can research the safety record of an airline before you book your flight.

2.1 Do You Have the Same Air Passenger Rights With Low-Cost Airlines?

Yes, passengers flying with low-cost airlines have the same rights as those flying with traditional airlines. In the UK and the European Union (EU), these rights are particularly robust. Under European laws, airlines must provide assistance in the event of significant delays or cancellations. That includes meals, refreshments, and overnight accommodation if necessary.

Yes, passengers flying with low-cost airlines have the same rights as those flying with traditional airlines.

If your flight is overbooked, delayed for 3+ hours or cancelled less than 2 weeks before the day of departure, you may be entitled to UK/EU flight compensation.

It’s important to note that these rights apply to any flight departing from an UK/EU airport, regardless of the airline, and to any flight arriving at an UK/EU airport if the airline is headquartered in the UK/EU.

  • If it’s a non-European airline, like Pegasus, you are protected by European flight compensation regulations only when traveling from Europe.
  • If it’s a European airline, like easyJet or Ryanair, you are protected both when traveling from and to European airports.

When it comes to air passenger rights, unless otherwise stated, we talk about air passenger rights in the EU, EEA and UK. When we say Europe or European, we mean EU, EEA or UK. This is done for the simplicity, since the according laws in these countries are about the same.

Ryanair airplane
Ryanair airplane

3. What Are the Pros and Cons of Flying With a Low-Cost Airline?

The biggest benefit of flying with a low-cost airline is the cost.

The fares are typically much lower than those of full-service airlines. Low-cost airlines also usually charge for additional services such as checked bags, meals, and seat selection. This means that if you don’t need these services, you can save even more money.

The downside is that low-cost airlines offer basic, no-frills services, and they may not fly to the same destinations as full-service airlines. It’s also important to note that their fares are often non-refundable and non-changeable, which can be a problem if your plans change.

Read more: Pros and Cons of Low Cost Air Travel

3.1 Low-Cost Airlines Don’t Sell Connecting Flights (Mostly)

The majority of low-cost airlines operate on a point-to-point basis.

That means they don’t offer connecting flights.

If you wish to travel further or to a destination not covered by their routes, you would need to book another separate flight with the same or a different airline.

This process, known as self-transferring, allows passengers more flexibility in their journey, as they can choose the airline, destination, and timing of their connecting flight based on their individual needs and preferences. However, it’s crucial to consider the practicalities of self-transferring, including the responsibility of collecting and re-checking luggage, and ensuring sufficient time between flights to account for potential delays.

Therefore, while self-transferring can be a cost-effective solution, it does require careful planning and consideration. In short, self-transfer flights are less safe and convenient than connecting flights.

Read more:

3.2 Low-Cost Airlines Don’t Include Checked Baggage

One crucial aspect to consider when flying with low-cost airlines is their strict baggage policy. For the best deal and the lowest price, you would need to travel light, with a small carry-on bag only.

European low-cost airlines like Wizz Air, Ryanair, and easyJet, in particular, have a reputation for their extreme carry-on size limits. These airlines allow a small carry-on bag that often must fit under the seat in front of you. It’s the size of what you call a personal item with some other airlines. Any additional or larger bags would require a fee.

Therefore, if you choose to fly with these airlines, it’s essential to pack minimally and efficiently, to avoid unexpected costs and make the most out of their competitive ticket prices.

Or, fly with another airline.

Not always low-cost airlines are cheaper in the end.

Baggage carousel
Baggage carousel – Photo by Markus Winkler

4. What Should You Consider Before Booking a Flight with a Low-Cost Airline?

To make the most of your journey:

  • Read the fine print. Before you book a flight with a low-cost airline, it’s important to read the fine print. Make sure you understand the baggage policies, seat selection fees, and any other additional charges.
  • Read reviews from other travelers. Especially, if it’s an airline you have never heard of or flown with.
  • You should also consider the convenience factor – low-cost airlines often fly to secondary airports, which may be further from your final destination and harder to get to. That may mean extra travel time and extra expenses.
  • Are you really getting a good deal? Finally, consider whether the low fares are worth the basic services and lack of amenities.

Europe is a hub for numerous low-cost carriers that provide economical travel options across the continent and beyond. Here are a few popular ones:

  1. Ryanair. Hailing from Ireland, Ryanair is one of the biggest low-cost carriers in the world, known for its extensive network of routes.
  2. easyJet. This UK-based low-cost carrier is reputed for its competitive fares and widespread reach across Europe.
  3. Vueling. This Spanish low-cost airline is a favorite among budget travelers, providing an affordable means to explore the beautiful landscapes of Spain, surrounding regions, and not only.
  4. Wizz Air. Originating from Hungary, Wizz Air has grown significantly over the last few years. At the moment airline offers low fares not only to European destinations, but also to Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.
  5. Eurowings. Operated by Lufthansa, Eurowings has successfully positioned itself as a low-cost carrier with a wide European network, while maintaining some full-service airline features.

6. Low-Cost Carriers vs. Full-Service Airlines – A Comparison

When comparing low-cost carriers and full-service airlines, the most apparent difference lies in the pricing and services.

Low-cost carriers primarily focus on getting passengers from point A to B at the lowest possible cost, often compromising on amenities. On the other hand, full-service airlines provide a broader range of services and amenities, which justifies their higher prices.

FeatureLow-Cost CarriersFull-Service Airlines
Ticket PricingLower fares, usually charge for additional servicesHigher fares, but includes most services
Baggage PolicyStrict policies, charge for checked luggage, sometimes also for carry-onMore lenient, often include at least one checked bag in the ticket price. Unless it’s Economy Light
Connecting FlightsMostly noAvailable
In-Flight AmenitiesMinimal amenities, airlines charge for meals and refreshmentsWide range of amenities, including meals, entertainment, and blankets
Seat SelectionUsually charge for advance seat selectionOften included in ticket price, particularly on long-haul flights
Airport LocationOften use secondary airports that may be further from city centers.Generally operate from major airports, closer to city centers.

7. How to Maximize Your Experience With Low-Cost Airlines?

Despite the no-frills approach, there are ways to elevate your travel experience with low-cost carriers. Always arrive prepared – bring your own food, drinks, and entertainment. Also, consider paying for extra legroom if you’re on a longer flight.

Remember, the key to a successful journey with a low-cost airline lies in understanding their business model and aligning your expectations accordingly. Don’t expect the same level of comfort or service as a full-service airline. Instead, embrace the concept of affordable travel that enables you to explore more places without breaking the bank. As long as you’re well-prepared and flexible, flying with low-cost airlines can be a practical and rewarding experience.

Ipanema beach, Rio de Janeiro
Ipanema beach, Rio de Janeiro

8. The Future of Low-Cost Airlines

The future of low-cost airlines looks promising as these carriers continue to evolve, adopting hybrid models to cater to diverse market needs. We’re likely to see low-cost carriers offering ancillary services for additional fees, thereby allowing passengers to customize their travel experience.

With the rise of long-haul low-cost airlines, destinations that were previously unreachable for budget travelers are now becoming accessible. These carriers are expanding their networks, connecting continents, and thereby reshaping the geography of global air travel.

You can travel to Tahiti with a low-cost airline! Thanks to Frenchbee.

However, as the lines between low-cost and full-service airlines blur, travelers are urged to be savvy in their choices. Look beyond the ticket price and consider the overall value of the flight. Discounted fares may seem appealing, but remember that additional charges can quickly add up, potentially making a full-service airline the more cost-effective option.

Ultimately, the choice between low-cost and full-service airlines comes down to individual preference and travel needs. Whether you value affordability or comfort, there is a wide variety of airlines to suit every traveler’s needs.

What is your experience with low-cost airlines? What is the cheapest flight you have ever been on? Will you continue traveling with low-cost carriers?

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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