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FlYING WITH A LOW-COST AIRLINE FOR THE FIRST TIME? READ THIS!

FlYING WITH A LOW-COST AIRLINE FOR THE FIRST TIME? READ THIS!
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Heading to Europe (or maybe Asia) for the first time and wondering about super cheap flights? Check this guide to flying with low-cost airlines for the first time.

This post was originally written in January 2016 (hey, it was one of the first posts on this blog), but I gave it a lot of love and updated it with useful tips and advice in April 2020.

Before we start, here’s what you can expect to read in this post.

Long story short, I’ll try to bust all the myths about low-coast airlines and all the concerns you might have. Are low-cost airlines safe? Why are low-cost airlines so cheap? What are things you need to know before flying with low-cost airlines? Without further ado, let’s get started!

Flying to Marseille be like
Me in Marseille after buying a £5 ticket

So.. these suspiciously cheap flights. Are they legit?

When I saw a flight for £5 ($7) for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t find a reason why a flight would be so cheap. Cheaper than a bus to the airport (how is that even possible?).

That happened in September 2014, when I came to study in Scotland. I hesitated, but in the end, I bought that ticket. Fast forward 6 years, I’ve taken nearly 100 flights with low-cost airlines and saved thousands of GBP.

When people come to Europe (or Asia, another continent that is known for notoriously cheap flights – AirAsia is probably the cheapest airline in the world) for the first time and see these cheap flights, they think “are low-cost airlines safe”? I’ll try to answer this question.

Are low-cost airlines safe?

Many people are still very suspicious about flying with low-cost airlines and tend to think that lower price comes at the expense of the safety on board. It’s not true: none of the airlines would ever risk the lives of its staff and customers. So yes, low-cost airlines are safe.

In fact, Ryanair, the 5th biggest airline in the world and one of the cheapest airlines in Europe and in the world, never suffered a fatality. Neither did Easyjet, another one of the biggest budget airlines in Europe.

Guide to flying with low-cost airlines

Then why are low-cost flights are so cheap?

Why are low-cost flights so cheap that it’s hard to believe that it’s not a scam? That’s because the low price comes at the expense of your comfort. Some of the cheapest flights you can find depart on weird inconvenient times, from an airport that is very far away and have a tiny leg space.

Moreover, they take into account demand for the route. You won’t find a flight to Greece in summer for just £10, that would be £100 or more!

Staff working for low-cost airlines gets paid less (and you will notice younger staff, almost 18-year-olds). According to Glassdoor, a Cabin Crew member of Ryanair, earns about £14,000 a year vs British Airways crew members earn £17,000 per year.

Finally, low-cost airlines do most of their operations online – you need to buy your ticket online, then check-in online and then you print your own ticket and head straight to the departures (unless you have a bag to check in).

Why do we fly with low-cost airlines so often?

Personally, we fly with low-cost airlines very often. They are fast, cheap and pretty decent. You need to remember, that it’s just transport and the main reason to use them is to get to your final destination. Of course, you wouldn’t get the same service or the level of comfort as in a regular airline, but does that really matter when you’re paying £30 ($35) for a RETURN ticket?

Of course, I wouldn’t fly over the Atlantic Ocean with Ryanair (but might consider doing it with Norwegian if the price is good enough), but the flight between Paris and Seville is definitely doable.

So, here’s the main part of the guide to flying with budget airlines: things you should you know before flying with low-cost airlines in Europe or Asia (for the first time).

guide to flying with budget airlines

10 things you should know before flying with low-cost airlines for the first time

1. Check their hand baggage policy

The first thing you need to know before flying with budget airlines is that every airline has its own (strict) baggage policy. Before you buy your ticket, make sure to check the baggage policy to understand, how much more you will need to pay.

Recently (about a year ago), most of the low-cost airlines in Europe updated their baggage policy and made it even stricter. For instance, if you’re flying with Ryanair, you are only allowed to bring a small backpack, e.g. Fjallraven Kånken would be fit, for example. One of my favourite backpacks for travelling with low-cost airlines is my yellow backpack by Doughnut Backpacks – I can fit enough clothes and essentials to survive a weekend in Europe.

The baggage policies of European low-cost airlines

These baggage policies of European low-cost airlines are correct as of April 2020. However, the industry is changing a lot, so it makes sense to check the requirements prior to purchasing your ticket.

The baggage policies of European low-cost airlines

These baggage policies of European low-cost airlines are correct as of April 2020. However, the industry is changing a lot, so it makes sense to check the requirements prior to purchasing your ticket.

Please note that these are requirements for the lowest fare. You can always purchase a priority check-in and baggage or a more expensive fare to be able to bring more bags (or bigger bags) with you!

Ryanair – 1 small backpack, maximum dimensions 40x20x25

Easyjet – 1 cabin-sized suitcase with maximum dimensions up to 56x45x25. You can’t bring anything else, not even a small clutch.

WizzAir – 1 small backpack, maximum dimensions 40x20x25

Norwegian – 1 underseat bag, 30 x 20 x 38cm

Vueling – 1 cabin bag 55x40x20 + a small underseat bag no bigger than 35x20x20

Eurowings – 1 cabin bag only – 55x40x23

Volotea – 1 cabin bag 55x40x20 + a small underseat bag no bigger than 35x20x20

2. If you’re flying with your partner or friends, be prepared to be seated separately.

There is a very high chance, that if you booked your flights from separate accounts, you won’t be sitting together. Even if you did, it still doesn’t guarantee you the fact, that you will be sitting next to each other. How to avoid sitting separately? Well, paying for your seats in advance. Actually some airlines (read Ryanair) even developed an algorithm to sit you as far away from your family, friends or your partner as possible.

Last time I flew with Easyjet (February 2020) and WizzAir (early March 2020), people on the same booking were given seats next to each other.

Malecon

3. Be ready for delays and cancellations

Many of the low-cost airlines are not the most punctual airlines in the world. Be ready for 20-50 minute delays and be ready to fix and reschedule some of your plans upon arrival. Some airlines will even make you stand in the boarding area for 30-50 minutes if the plane is late.

Low-cost airlines are also famous for cancelling their flights if the weather conditions are slightly worse than average. I don’t want to scare you, but once we were left without a flight back in Portugal and had to buy a last-minute BA flight just because of light snow in London. Yes, we got a refund of £30, but we had to spend £250 on a new flight.

4. Be ready that your hand luggage will be weighed and measured

Bringing a bigger and heavier suitcase as your hand luggage might be very risky. Even though the hand luggage check is a very selective procedure that happens at the gate, if your bag is bigger and it's visible, you will be asked to fit it in the frame.

If it doesn't fit, well, you will be asked to pay extra to send it to the hold. This extra can be 30-60 EUR (35-65 USD) - more expensive than the flight in most of the cases.

Balkan trip: Strega to Tirana Strega Bus Station

5. If you need checked baggage, purchase it when booking the flight.

Another rule of flying with budget airlines is that you need to purchase additional luggage when booking your flight - that's when it's the cheapest. Of course, you can also do it later online, but it might be slightly more expensive. What you shouldn't do is to purchase extra luggage at the airport - that could be up to 3 times more expensive than the initial online price.

6. Never forget to print your ticket or save it on your mobile (doesn't apply to all the nationalities)

In case of most low-cost airlines, you need to check-in in advance and either print your ticket or save a mobile boarding pass on your phone, unless it's mentioned otherwise. If you forget to check-in online, you will have to pay to do it at the airport and the fee for that can exceed the price of the ticket. Even printing your ticket at the airport can be quite expensive.

However, please note that mobile boarding pass doesn't work in case you need a visa for the country you're travelling to (in case of some airlines, namely Ryanair). In this case, you need to print your ticket and head to a special counter at the airport to have your visa checked. If you have an Indian passport and you're travelling from the UK to Italy, you would need to do it. If you have a Russian passport and you're travelling from Moldova to Spain, you will also have to print your ticket. If you need to print your ticket, that would be indicated during the online check-in process on the airline website.

7. Food is quite expensive on board

Another thing you need to know before flying with low-cost airlines is that the food can be quite expensive on board. Moreover, the choice is rather limited as well. It's okay to bring your own snacks and even food on board. Some of the airports in London have a decent takeaway variety, where you can buy food and bring it with you to the plane.

how to fly with budget airlines in Europe
There is a good variety of food you can get at the airports in London

8. Prepare to commute to the airport for quite a while

Don't expect to arrive at Heathrow with Ryanair - you'll be stuck in Stansted or Luton instead. These airports are quite far from the city centre and getting there might be more expensive than what you have paid for your flight. You don't need to take a taxi - there is always public transport, from trains to coaches, but one-way train ticket from Stansted to London Liverpool street can cost £20. Some of the low-cost airports in Europe (the one in Paris, for example) are so far that the only way to get there would be by buying a spot in a shuttle that the airline is organising. Make sure to do it online in advance to avoid disappointment.

9. Don't arrive at the airport too early

Another advice for flying with budget airlines in Europe and Asia (although, this point mainly applies is Europe). You don't need to arrive 3 hours before departure as you already have your boarding pass. That, of course, unless you have baggage to check in.

10. Download airline's app to your smartphone

Finally, the last advice for flying with low-cost airlines for the first time is to download an airline's app to your smartphone. You can lose your ticket very easily, but the airline app will save you money and pain. Moreover, some of the apps (Easyjet, for example), are great and will tell you about all the delays, gate information and useful things you need to know before your flight.

Weekend in Basel in December: Magical Basel Christmas Market
Travelling in Europe is fun!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found the tips useful. Here are some of my other posts you might like and find useful.

Some of my other posts you might like:

Does Expedia Gold really work? Expedia Rewards review

What is ETIAS visa waiver and how it can affect your travel to Europe

5 nightmare hostels of my life

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Debbie

Monday 14th of March 2016

Great tips! Especially for the baggage and snacks. Those prices can really add up when you're trying to stay within a budget!

Liza

Monday 28th of March 2016

Thanks for your comment, Debbie ;)

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