Do you want to save money flying with a low cost airline, but you’re wondering: are low cost airlines worth it? Here is my experience of keeping flights with budget airlines actually budget.
When we went on our mini-retirement in September, we booked some last-minute deals just before we went. Of course, we went looking for low-cost airlines, since other airlines were extremely expensive.
We decided to get a cheap plane ticket and go with a low cost airline, to save costs. I have some experience with low cost airlines, from my years as a student, so my experience came in handy.
In my experience, budget airlines are worth it in saved money and time. Often the premium airlines don’t have direct flights to places you want to visit, making you need to take an indirect flight that costs a lot more time. Obviously the low cost airlines are also cheaper, most of the time.
For example, I flew for $250 from Copenhagen to Los Angeles in January 2017 with Norwegian airlines. I flew for $40 from Bogota to Cartagena (within Colombia). I flew for $80 from Los Angeles to New Orleans with Spirit Airlines.
But, what’s the catch? There has to be a catch with these kinds of prices.
Yes, budget airlines do have other ways to make money, which is different than other airlines. They charge you extra for EVERYTHING, which can be very frustrating when you don’t know this.
I always check beforehand what are the restrictions on the flight, making sure that what we’re booking is actually the best time versus money tradeoff. This helps you save money on flights and gets you to your holiday destination without stress.
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Let’s go into my experience: how can you travel on a budget with low cost airlines? What kinds of things do you need to keep in the back of your mind?
Low Cost Airlines Are Safe!
There is often a lot of people being skeptic around budget airlines. Isn’t flying with them terrible? Aren’t they very unsafe?
I want to start by stressing that budget airlines are just as safe – no need to worry about that.
In this article, it is stated that the latest industry figures show that departure LOCATION is the determinant of airplane safety – NOT airline.
Any airline knows that having a history with crashes or reputation damage is extremely bad for business. This will cost a lot more money than can ever be saved on safety procedures.
9 Tips For Flying On A Budget With Low Cost Airlines
Here are the 9 tips for flying on a budget with low cost airlines!
1. Compare Flights
The first step is to go to a website like Skyscanner or Kayak and compare the prices of the airline.
You need to make sure you’ve collected the flights that are cheap and have little layover time. Except when you want to have a couple of days to explore a specific area, layovers are just additional time spent traveling that can be spent more efficiently.
Once you’ve found a couple, go to the website of the specific carrier and check if it’s available there cheaper. Often it is.
2. Check The Luggage Policy
The first thing that I do when looking into specific flights that I’ve preselected, is if the luggage is included yes or no. When you’re using SkyScanner, which is my personal go-to, you can see if the flight has luggage included or not.
Nowadays, many airlines don’t have luggage included in the price. With low cost airlines, even a carry-on can be paid at times. Be sure to check what is included, so you can purchase anything that is missing.
Because airlines charge extra for luggage or carry-ons, be sure to pack as light as possible in order to avoid those fees and fly on a budget.
If you want to include extra luggage, you want to include that when you’re buying your ticket. This is often cheaper compared to booking your luggage at the airport, where you’ll be often charged double.
For example, with Spirit you pay $30 for your first checked back during booking. If you want to add this bag before or during online check-in, you pay $40. But if you wait until the airport desk you need to pay $50.
So: travel light and arrange your luggage the moment you book your flight.
3. Check The Weight Of Your Bag
Double-check that you’re not overpacking and your bag is under the maximum allowed weight, otherwise additional charges apply. Especially when you fly with carry-on only, it will be a hard pill to swallow when your bag has too much weight and you need to check it in.
You can do this with an electric luggage scale or be creative with your own scale. Put yourself on the scale with luggage and compare the weight to putting yourself on the scale with luggage.
I did it this way for years, but have to admit that luggage scales come in handy.
4. Be Aware Of Additional Fees
Besides luggage, there are a lot of different additional fees. These fees are often low, to make it more tempting for you pay for the additional services. Be aware of them and decide beforehand if you need them.
If you’re flying with an entire family or flying more often, these additional fees can add up in the end.
These additional fees are the most common:
- Checked luggage fee – as discussed in the previous point
- Carry-on luggage fee – this is not for all airlines
- Selecting a seat when you book – a lot of airlines do this automatically and you really need to cancel your seat reservation before you press next
- Selecting extra legroom
- Cancellation insurance
- Fees when you want to change your flight
It’s good to think about what fees you might want to pay for and leave out the rest.
If you were to accept all these fees and pay for them, you would have a more expensive flight compared to a normal airline. This is their business model and that’s how they make their money. That’s okay, because you know what fees they are charging and you are not falling for it!
5. Make Sure You Spell Your Name Correctly
It never happened to me, but I’ve heard horror stories of people needing to pay $200 to change their names on their flight tickets because they had made a typo. That’s steep!
In some cases, it is cheaper to buy a new ticket.
Avoid fees like this by making sure you spelled your name correctly.
6. Bring Your Own Snacks & Drinks
I had a flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles with a low-cost carrier and it was only $250. When I checked in I understood why – you had to pay $50 to select meals on board of the plane.
Airplane food is not always so appealing to me, so I decided that I could bring my own snacks and food for way less. So I did!
Be aware that low cost airlines often don’t offer food or drinks included with their price.
If you’re having a short flight, bringing your own snacks will do. If you’re having a longer flight, you can bring entire salads and meals on board. Just think about anyone with allergies and don’t bring peanuts, and PLEASE don’t bring things like fish or eggs – that smells.
I’ve not had any problems bringing my own snacks and drinks, just be aware that you need to bring an empty bottle through customs and can fill it up once you’re through.
7. Deselect The Automatic Costs – Like Seat Selection
Airlines are very smart. When you’re booking you can choose your seat for an additional fee, but they’ve selected one automatically once you go through the process. Deselect this, as this means automatic costs added to your flight.
When you check in, you will be assigned a seat automatically.
If you’re flying with multiple people, some budget airlines (like Ryanair in Europe) will put anyone you booked your flight with on the other side of the airline. This is another trick so you pay them for seat selection.
I LOVE to see when everyone is in their seat, they try to change seats with multiple people so that in the end they sit next to their friend or family anyways. The creativity people have when it gets to these kinds of things is amazing and I love it!
Some airlines also select things like insurance, which you may want to deselect as well. Go through the process of booking slowly to see what costs you can (and want) to avoid.
8. Bring Your Boarding Pass
Many airlines require you to print your boarding pass before you fly. The more advanced airlines require digital tickets on the phone, but when I visited Central America every ticket needed to be printed. If you don’t have your boarding pass and they need to print this for you, this can cost anywhere between $5 and $10.
Personally I always keep a printed copy with me, since there may be some technical issues with your phone.
9. Where Is Your Airport?
Last but not least, know where your airport is. With budget airlines, it is possible that the airports are NOT within the city you’re flying to but in a cheaper area. For example, I once took a flight to Milan for $20 and found out that I needed to pay another $20 for the 1.5hr bus ride to the actual city.
Be prepared and always check where the airport is before you book your flight, you don’t want to have these unexpected surprises.
Low Cost Airlines Are Worth It.. Sometimes
Sometimes, low cost airlines are worth it. Other times, it is just as expensive as flying with a regular airline and there is absolutely no cost or time benefit. It really depends on your case.
You’re mostly paying for the extra service if you want it. If you don’t mind not selecting your seat or traveling lightly, you’re okay.
Mostly I would say that flying with a low cost carrier enables you to have money on travel expenses and fly cheap.
Flying with a budget ariline, you should check:
- Compare flights
- Check the luggage policy
- Check the weight of your bag
- Be aware of additional fees
- Spell your name correctly
- Bring your own snacks and drinks
- Deselect automatic costs
- Bring your boarding pass
- Check the location of the airport
Do you think low cost airlines are worth it?
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