Ranking & Review of Europe's Top Budget Airlines

Nowhere has the rise of budget airlines transformed travel so much as in Europe. Today, low-cost airlines are competing against each other to give travelers the cheapest ticket prices from the UK to as far as Turkey. Dirt cheap tickets means there is absolutely no excuse not to pack your backpack and hop on a plane, but navigating the many traps and loopholes that come with flying on a budget airlines is no easy task. Popular budget airlines, like EasyJet and Ryanair, are able to offer such inexpensive flights because they make a large portion of their profits on the various hidden and outrageously high fees that they charge passengers once they are at the airport or on the flight. These low-cost airlines have stricter regulations than on the airlines you're probably accustomed to flying on, and the creativity of Europe's budget airlines to find new ways to squeeze every last cent out of you seems to be endless. If you’ve never flown a budget airlines, then pay attention - if you're not careful that €15 round-trip ticket from Madrid to London might end up costing you more like €100. A cheap flight is rarely as cheap as you think it's going to be – once the various fees have been added. Fear not, as we have ranked the top five most popular european budget airlines (from best [1] to worst [5] travel experience).

 

1. Norwegian

Want to know what it's like to fly on Norwegian from Berlin to New York? Play the video to find out.

Norwegian is the third largest low-cost aircraft carrier in Europe and is probably the most comfortable  for travelers choosing between affordable airlines. Norwegian offers cheap flights to over 100 destinations in Europe. Last year, the airline even launched ten new routes from three U.S. airports not normally associated with transatlantic air travel. As of last year, Norwegian started offering flights from the UK to the US for as low as $99 one way. Luckily, Norwegian doesn’t have so many hidden fees, so you can travel with ease on this airlines.

Hidden Fees to Watch Out for on Norwegian

  • Overweight bag fee on European flights with Norwegian

    • Excess baggage charges apply to any items over the 2 bag limit, and to items over 20 kg the added charge is 11 EUR  per kilo, per leg. Be sure to check your ticket for bag specifications before your flight to avoid these hefty overweight charges. 

  • Click here for a complete list of fees on Norwegian

 

2. Ryanair

Although Ryanair can be one of the most grueling budget airline experiences with its endless labyrinth of traps and schemes to shake every last penny out of your pocket, it is also one of the most popular budget airlines. Why? £13 flights from Madrid to Marrakech round trip, £17 from London to Paris, and even as little as £10 euros from Rome to Berlin. Ryanair is an Irish company that began in 1984 and saw major success with its low-cost business model. By 2016, Ryanair was the largest European airline by scheduled passengers flown, and carried more international passengers than any other airline. Today the airlines offers flights to 34 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Despite having some of the best deals and safety ratings, Ryanair sucks at customer service. Expect to pay for everything from printing your ticket at the airport to picking your own seat. Luckily for us, Ryanair was barred from charging customers to use the toilets on flights (yes… they seriously tried that, click here to read more). Ryanair is the perfect airlines for those looking to get from point A to point B and nothing fancier than that. If you find yourself flying this budget airline, remember that everyone who flies with Ryanair has to check-in online. The fee for not doing so can be up to £50+!

Hidden Fees to Watch Out for on Ryanair  

  • Check-in online to avoid the boarding pass reprint fee of £45-£50

    • This is the trap that most travelers fall victim to when flying with Ryanair, so don’t forget to check-in online before your flight! Remember: ALL PASSENGERS MUST CHECK-IN ONLINE.

  • Late check-in fee of £50+.

    • Be sure to check in at least 2 hours before your flight.

  • Oversized bag fee of £10 - £50 for up to 20kg.

    • If you are worried you might be over the luggage requirements, it pays to check your bag ahead of time online for £10 - £50 for up to 20kg.

  • Name Change Fee of £110- £160

    • SPELL YOUR NAME CORRECTLY. Ryanair charges a whopping £110- £160 to change the name on your ticket if it does not perfectly match the name on your passport.   

  • For a complete list of all Ryanair’s added fees, click here.

3. EasyJet

The British low-cost airline EasyJet flies to 31 countries in and around Europe. EasyJet is one of the most popular european budget airlines among study abroad students and backpackers - flying over 65 million passengers annually. EasyJet is comparable to Ryanair when it comes to hassle with hidden fees and low grade of customer service. EasyJet operates with the same standard as Ryanair, however EasyJet tickets are slightly more expensive overall. Therefore, if you have a choice between Ryanair and EasyJet, choose Ryanair and save a buck for the same treatment.  EasyJet has seen much success since its start in 1995 as the company focuses on developing strong positions in Europe’s leading airports which means EasyJet flies between major airports frequently.

Hidden Fees to Watch Out for on EasyJet

  • Checked overweight bag fee,  £10 per excess kilo

    • EasyJet charges £10 per excess kilo, so be sure to check that your bag the correct weight.

    • If you know your bag will be overweight, you can pre-check it online for a lesser fee of £9 per 3kg.

  • Hand luggage fee, exceeding 20kg

    • If your hand luggage exceeds 20kg, then EasyJet will force you to check it at the bag drop desk for £35 or at the gate for a hefty £45 per flight.

  • For a full list of EasyJet fees, click here

 

4. Vueling

Vueling Airlines is the largest Spanish budget airline in Spain carrying around 24 million passengers per year. Vueling is based in Barcelona and flies to over 100 destinations covering nearly all major cities in Spain, Europe, and North Africa. The reviews on Vueling are mixed. Many passengers complain of delayed flights and getting caught in some of the classic low-cost airline scams like forgetting to check-in online. However, other travelers say it's a great deal for the cheap price of tickets and even boast about a positive customer service experience. Although reviews are mixed on this airlines, one thing is clear: Vueling struggles with on time arrivals, especially during the summer. If you have somewhere important to be on a busy holiday then you might consider flying a different airline. Although Vueling has not kept up with competitors when it comes to on time arrival, they have been slowly improving with a 4.44% increase of on time arrivals since 2015. I have flown this airline plenty of times while living in Spain and have personally never had a problem with them. Vueling offers great ticket prices, but they come with a lot less hidden fees and traps than Ryanair and EasyJet do. Vueling is a good option for short distances and slightly more comfort than the competitors if you're not in a rush to get to your destination.

Things to beware of when flying Vueling:

  • Overweight checked luggage (+23 kg/passenger)

    • + €12.00/kg (each way)

  • Excess hand luggage, overweight or oversized

    • + €35.00 at airport

  • Click here for a full list of Vueling fees.

 

5. Wizz Air

Avoid Wizz Air at all costs! Wizz Air is known to be one of the cheapest budget airlines, but it is NOT worth the hassle (or even harassment) you will have to deal with. If you are traveling in Eastern Europe you will probably come across Wizz Air in your search for flights. Wizz Air is a Hungarian low-cost airline established in 2003 that serves 35 countries in major cities in Europe, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. Many of you are probably accustomed to bringing a small bag with wheels on board free of charge, but on Wizz air this will cost you extra. From personal experience, the Wizz Air cabin baggage size allowance is ridiculously strict; I was charged €40 for having a carry-on with wheels despite being within the size requirement for a free carry-on bag (seriously! wheels??). The airport staff can get pretty nasty if your bag is just millimeters bigger than their requirements for a small free piece of hand luggage: 2 x 32 x 25cm, or the equivalent of a small hold-all or shoulder bag. If you fly this airlines be prepared for no customer service and high hidden fees. 

Hidden Fees to Watch Out for on Wizz Air  

  • BEWARE baggage fees change depending if you are traveling during the high season or low season for air travel. This can tack on an extra £10 - £30 to a baggage fee.

    • High season:

      • 20 May – 1 October 2017

      • 9 December 2017 - 07 January 2018

      • 23 Mar 2018 – 15 Apr 2018

      • 19 May 2018 – 30 Sep 2018

  • Oversized cabin bag (56 x 45 x 25cm)

    • £9 if you pay online when you book your flight (as opposed to £30-£40 at the airport).

  • For a complete list of Wizz Air fees, click here.