Budget airlines are great. They allow us to hop around from city to city in closely packed regions like Europe and Southeast Asia for very cheap prices. Ryanair, easyJet, AirAsia, Allegiant Air — these are all great carriers that enable our travel dreams. However, anyone who has flown on a budget airline can tell you they aren’t the most comfortable experiences or straightward booking processes around. They’re cheap for a reason after all. Between smashed kneecaps and hidden charges, here are tip for getting the most out of budget airlines.
- Don’t expect luxury. The first step to enjoying budget airlines is to understand what they are. You can’t simultaneously offer $20 fares and allow for maximum leg room or seat padding. Understand that the money you’re saving on your flight is worth the slight discomfort you’ll experience in the air.
- Don’t check in a bag. There’s few things more discouraging in air travel then finding an amazingly cheap flight only to have the rug pulled from under your feet as they start to nickle and dime you with hidden fees. One such fee is for checked bags. What’s more, there’s usually a fee for a checked bag up to a certain weight, but anything more than that weight will cost yet another fee. Not only does this help them recoup costs from their cheap flights, but it also discourages people from checking in bags as they only have limited space on their planes. So as often as you can, only bring a carry on.
- Don’t choose your seats. Another unexpected fee you’ll come across is choosing your seats. Rather, just let the ticketing agent assign you a seat upon check in. Usually budget airlines fly short routes under three hours, so even the worst seat in manageable for a short period of time.
- Don’t pay with a credit card. Usually, paying for travel with credit cards is always recommended as you can accrue miles and points which will enable more travel in the future, but many budget airlines charge a fee, sometimes up to $5, when you try to pay with a credit card. Instead, pay with a debit card or direct bank withdrawal for avoid the fee. The miles you’d gain aren’t worth the fee.
- Be flexible. Flexibility, both in terms of travel dates and destinations, is key when flying budget airlines. Prices usually vary widely on budget airlines day by day. So if you can give yourself a week window instead of needing to fly on one particular day, you could potentially pay $40 instead of $80. Budget airlines also usually don’t fly into the city’s main airport. Rather, they’ll fly into a smaller airport further outside of the city center where they incur less fees. This helps them charge so little per flight. Allowing for flexibility will save you big bucks.
Budget airlines are great resources, especially for those on extended trips looking to stay on the road for as long as possible. They also help travelers get to smaller cities that the main airlines don’t fly to. As long as you are flexible, travel light, and don’t have high expectations, these airlines can be of great benefit to you and your travel plans.