One of my favorite and seemingly never-ending topics of discussion is budget airlines. Many people I know have drawn a hard line in the sand vowing to never/never again fly a budget carrier while others fly them frequently. It’s always an interesting dialogue or debate, and there’s no shortage of horror vs. success stories when this topic comes up.
To clarify, when I use the term “budget airline” I am referring to airlines that sell tickets that are normally drastically cheaper than most large international airlines and major alliance members. Budget airlines offer their additional services a la carte. What you pay for is simply a seat on the plane. In most cases, your ticket will not include checked luggage, a meal, refreshments, a pre-chosen assigned seat, and sometimes not even a full-sized carry-on bag for the overhead bin. If you’d like any of those things, you would have to purchase them as an add-on to your ticket, thus increasing the overall investment. Due to the pressure to compete with budget airlines, many major air carriers are now offering a basic economy option which is similar to the standard ticket of their budget competitors.
A few examples of budget carriers are RyanAir, Easy Jet, WizzAir, Spirit, Frontier, Norwegian, Wow Air, and Jet Star.
As an avid and frequent traveler, I’ve flown on countless airlines ranging from budget all the way up to some of the most luxurious in the world. Based on my experiences, I am totally comfortable flying budget airlines and I will continue to do so. Here are four reasons why:
ONE: “BUDGET” does not mean unsafe
It’s astounding how many times I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “a flight for only 30 dollars? I don’t trust that! There’s no way that’s safe!” People assume that the airline is somehow cutting corners when it comes to safety and regulations. It’s important to understand that the ticket price does not reflect safety! The ticket price often reflects what amenities/perks are included, brand equity, and sometimes comfort. You also shouldn’t assume more expensive or more well-known airlines are always more comfortable. Due to the solid legroom in economy and newer aircrafts Norwegian uses for transatlantic flights out of JFK, Norwegian has been my airline of choice recently when traveling to Europe in Economy. Their Premium cabin is also a good value when compared to similar product offerings from other airlines.
TWO: I don’t need/utilize the additional amenities I’m charged for on major carriers
When it comes to traveling, two things are almost always a guarantee for me: I will only have a carry-on bag (no checked luggage) and I will fall asleep within seconds of boarding. If the price of checked luggage is somehow already baked into the price of a flight, technically I’m paying for a service I don’t need. Depending on how I feel and how long the flight is, I tend to sleep through the snack and drink service which is also a service I don’t always need even if it’s included. For long haul flights, if I don’t sleep all the way through and end up getting hungry, purchasing food a la carte has proved to be a better deal for me.
When it comes to seat preference, I am a window seat girl all the way! However, if the flight is 3 hours or less and it costs more than $10 dollars each way to choose a seat, it’s not worth it for me. I am fine not having my preferred seat on short flights. When it comes to long hauls, I like to check-in as early as possible hoping to luck out with a window seat, or I’ll ask the airline attendant if there are any window seats available. It has worked out for me every time thus far.
THREE: Flying budget airlines gives me greater flexibility
It’s a simple concept: I like to keep my options open. If I were to rule out budget carriers, this would limit me significantly when country hopping within regions like Europe and Southeast Asia. Not only does ruling out budget airlines limit your options of flight times, but it may also eliminate some routes altogether. There are lots of tiny regional airports that service mostly small or budget airlines in lieu of major international carriers. Therefore, being open to budget airlines increases my flexibility with both flight times and airport options.
FOUR: I follow instructions
This point is definitely my favorite! While I don’t deny that airlines have screwed people over in the past, there’s a big difference between being a victim of an airline issue and simply not following instructions that are clearly stated.
I’ve been flying budget airlines since 2012 but I didn’t fly two of the most infamous budget carriers (Spirit and Ryanair) until 2017 and 2018 respectively. Prior to booking, I asked around in my network of travel friends to see what their thoughts were. I asked, “are they REALLY as bad as people say, or are people just not paying attention and following instructions?” Most of the feedback I received from frequent flyers was what I expected: you won’t have an issue if you follow instructions.
Most of the complaints I hear about budget airlines is that they “scam people with hidden fees.” From what I’ve seen, there is nothing HIDDEN about the fees! I cannot and will not speak about airlines I have never flown, however, any time I’ve booked with a budget carrier, all information was clearly stated prior to me purchasing my ticket. Bag dimensions, weight limits, number of pieces alotted, boarding pass expectations, etc. have always been outlined in the booking process. In addition, I received numerous emails between the booking confirmation and the actual flight reminding me of those things.
I triple check EVERYTHING to make sure I’m never caught slippin’! If I make the mistake and bring a big ass bag that doesn’t meet the requirements, that’s on me!
All in all, my experiences have been just fine with budget carriers and I will continue to use them. Please note that it is important to always stay abreast of the financial health of airlines you are considering purchasing tickets from, whether budget or not. I’ve flown WOW Air before and had a great experience. However, they recently (as of 2019) had issues with several of their aircraft being repossessed.
Have you flown budget air carriers before? Are you for, against, or indifferent? What are some of your favorite budget airlines to fly?