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May
20

Do Low-Cost Airlines Mean Big-Time Headache?

RyanAir

RyanAir

Low-Cost Airlines are a great way to travel within Europe. The fares are usually rock-bottom, there’s usually no penalty for a one-way and while there are usually no amenitites, for flights of one-hour, who needs, them? The only problem is:

  1. Most of them land miles and miles away from where you think you’re going
  2. They’ll leave without you if you’re late.
  3. They’ll leave without you if you’re early
  4. they’ll charge you and arm and a leg unless you doing everything to the letter of the law on their website WHICH is constantly changing.
  5. They could just cancel your flight and not tell you
  6. They might just kick you off in mid-flight if you weigh too much (just kidding)

BUT….they can be cheap as hell. Is is worth it? Let’s break it down:

Up until 1992, European governments only allowed the expensive national airlines, the ‘flag-carriers’, such as British Airways and Lufthansa to fly in their air-space. Then came the European Open-Skies Treaty of 1992 enabling airlines to fly anywhere in the European Union without government approval. Low-cost airlines sprung up everywhere slashing fares, turning travel within Europe into something easily affordable, such as Ryannair’s $12 flights. EasyJet, RyanAir , Germanwings and Air Berlin are the most popular.

So Easy

Discount airlines in Europe are a no frills operation. They are most often one-way tickets. They only sell over the phone or on their website. They are ticketless, just print your e-ticket and show up at the departure gate with passport in hand, and Voila!

ryanair air hostesses

ryanair air hostesses

Pricing can be a little harder to figure out. Fares are subject to great swings according to demand, often on an hourly basis, There are no real rules for obtaining the cheapest fares. In fact, fares can vary from as little as £1 or £2 on special promotions, right up to £500 – such as a London-Geneva return flight, during the February half-term weekend (winter holidays in most of the schools).

But here are ways to better your chances of getting the cheapest flights out there:

  • Book mid-week
  • Fly early in the morning or late at night
  • low season: Spring and Autumn
  • Check for specials on their websites that could show up 3-5 weeks before departure.
  • Avoid public holidays
  • Don’t book your ticket less than two weeks in advance
  • Book return tickets

Connecting tickets

Most low-cost carriers offer single “point to point” flights. To make a connection with a low-cost carrier, you need to purchase two separate tickets, it can save you money, for sure, but be aware that there are disadvantages:

  • If your first flight is delayed, so that you miss the connection, it is your responsibility.
  • 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.

Very few low-cost carriers offer connecting tickets to different airlines, but then again most traditional carriers don’t offer them either.

Here’s a list of which airline offers them and which actively tell you NOT to use their flights for connecting flight purposes:

Ryanair always leads the way in NOT being consumer friendly., which they can get away with when the offer such fares as: €0.01 all inclusive one-way during promotions, however always check the full final cost of the fare including all “taxes” and “fees” before booking. Most Ryanair flights that are advertised for €0.01 end up costing at least €10 after such fees, even before airport tax. But really when all is said and done, the average price one-way is London-Milan can cost you about €20 but with baggage fees and taxes it might go up about €20 more.

Ryanair loves to add-on fees.  For example, €15-20 per bag per segment. The fee for overweight luggage is hefty at €40 per kilo. There is no free checked baggage allowance on Ryanair, plus they have strict carry-on rules about cabin baggage, only one piece weighing no more than 10 kilos.

can yours fit in this?

can yours fit in this?

Ryanair  has 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 Morocco, with over 1,000 routes. But because they use small airports you may be far from where you want to go. Coach tickets from airport to city center may be available through Ryanair, also check the airport’s website.

overhead-bins are full

overhead-bins are full

EasyJet does not offer connecting tickets,. They also advise passengers who need to connect to give themselves two-hours to make their connecting flight. EasyJet has hubs in 3 London airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Luton) as well as Basel, Berlin, Bristol, Madrid, Dortmund, Edinburgh, Geneva, Paris (CDG and Orly), Liverpool 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 tend to operate out of principal airports, such as Barcelona rather than Barcelona Girona, in Spain.

easyjet flies

easyjet flies

Tickets can range from €20 to €420, all inclusive one-way.

There are no advance seat assignments. However, Easyjet offers the option for pre-boarding for a small surcharge. This could be well worth the money for some travelers.

easy jet, you can't miss it

easy jet, you can't miss it

Air Berlin! Are you kidding me? Look at these uniforms, they’re fantastic!!!

new air berlin uniforms

new air berlin uniforms

Air Berlin DOES offer connecting flights on their website. Air Berlin Europe’s third largest discount airline, operates a huge network between Austria, France, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Greece and the UK. Tickets can be booked one-way at no penalty. They are also one of the few European budget airlines offering connecting flights, i.e. via their hubs in Nürnberg, Germany (NUE) or Palma de Mallorca, Spain (PMI). The main long-haul hub is Dusseldorf, Germany (DUS), secondary long-haul connections via Berlin (TXL) and Munich (MUC) in Germany or Zurich (ZRH) in Switzerland. Works in an alliance with Fly Niki, Belair, LGW and LTU (continental flights), LTU (long-haul Africa, America, Asia) Hainan Airlines (to China) and S7 Airlines (to Russia).

Air Berlin goes places

Air Berlin goes places

Also one of the very few low-cost-airlines which serves free beverages, food, newspapers, magazines and sweets on their flights, even on short ones, and that also allows seat reservations, even before check-in. They also offer a free frequent flyer program called “TopBonus”.

air berlin

air berlin

Tickets start from €29 all inclusive one-way.

The maximum free baggage allowance for checked baggage is 20 kg.

  • Norwegian are civilized! They recommend a connection time of 2 hours. But if you still miss the connection, Norwegian will rebook you to a later flight.
  • Wizzair do not offer connecting flights, and accept no liability for missed connections.
  • Germanwings offers connecting flights, and can often check your luggage through to your destination.
  • bmibaby do not offer connecting flights, and do not accept responsibility for missed connections.

Low-Cost Airlines do  fill a huge gap as people now move around Europe freely for work and study. They are like commuter trains, and should be treated as such. It becomes much trickier when you have children and you’re traveling to, or even worse, trying to connect to another flight which will take your tired family to its vacation destination. It’s nearly impossible and should be avoided. Often large carriers like British Airways or Air France offer competitive prices, perhaps slightly higher, but at least you’ll have all the security that comes with flying with them. I’d try that before I get dumped off in a field somewhere when I think I’m in Paris.

There are many more airlines servicing Europe. For more info, please go to: www.flylowcostairlines.org

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