Are Budget Airlines Really Cheaper?

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Written By DonaldMoon

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We have all been in contact with EasyJet and Ryanair with mixed experiences. Is it really cheaper booking with these supposedly low cost airlines?

There’s no denying that companies such as Ryanair and EasyJet have transformed the way we travel abroad. Flights all over Europe now depart from regional airports up and down the country, and the budget airlines have opened up the possibility of travelling to destinations in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia which are just not served by the more established airlines. But is flying EasyJet, Ryanair or the other budget airlines really always cheaper?

Charges

The main criticism of the budget airlines is the additional charges which they don’t tell you about until you reach the point of purchase. Although now fares have to be advertised inclusive of taxes, that does not stop them adding in an “administration charge” at the point of check out, or charging extra again to pay by credit or debit card. As these charges are on a per passenger than a per transaction rate, they can really bump up the cost for a family of four booking a return flight to Malaga. Traditional airlines do not generally charge administration charges or have hefty penalties for paying by card, so it is always worth comparing the prices between the two before booking.

Baggage

The main gripe about budget travel is the baggage charges. Most budget airlines will charge extra for each bag, and the charges can be as much as £40 per flight for a 20kg bag. It is possible to get around this by using a wheeled holdall which can be carried onto the flight with you, but you have to make sure that your wheeled holdall conforms with the budget airline’s rules about hand baggage. If you always use your baggage allowance, it may be cheaper to travel with a traditional airline who often give as much as 25kg checked baggage allowance free of charge as well as hand baggage.

Timing

Budget airlines have flipped the business model of traditional airlines. Before EasyJet and others revolutionised the industry, the cheapest seats on a flight were those sold in the few hours before the plane departed. With budget airlines, the cheapest seats are available as soon as the flight goes on sale, which could be as long as a year before departure. If you need to travel at short notice, prices will be much higher and the high prices could wipe out any price advantage the budget airline might have had. Traditional airlines have also adopted this pricing strategy, so if booking months in advance your best deal might not be with the budget carrier.

Parking and Journey

Try to think of your journey as a whole rather than just in terms of the flight price. If a traditional airline flies from your local airport, using them may be cheaper than driving many miles to another airport and then paying out for a fortnight’s parking. Other factors such as the timings of the flights also may influence your decision. It’s not true to say that budget airlines have less convenient flight times, but this can be the case and always check arrival and departure times before booking.

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