ULLCs offer a la carte pricing – you pay a cut-rate price for a seat, but everything else has an added fee: baggage, meals, seat location, any onboard luggage weighing more than 11lb, more leg room, even printing a boarding pass. ULCCs have been very successful in Europe and the US. As flying within the European continent, especially on long flights, is much cheaper per kilometer than flying across the Atlantic, the trans-Atlantic market was ripe for the picking and this is where some of the new ULLCs entered.
Global deregulation (allows foreign airlines to land anywhere they want in the US), online ticket sales and marketing (eliminates the need for costly ground staff), consolidation among mainline carriers (fares have increased but the number of available seats hasn’t), and better planes (can run longer and leaner – the Boeing Dreamliner is $15 million cheaper per year to run than comparable older jets) has allowed new entrants into the airline passenger business. Gate staff, catering and aircraft maintenance are outsourced. High utilization keeps the price down to about 6 cents a kilometer.
ULLCs especially in Europe use the smaller cheaper airports available in major cities. This is the airport with cheaper landing fees and thus keeping costs down. Check out which airlines fly into these smaller airports. For example, you can take JetBlue to Long Beach, an airport close to Los Angeles, instead of flying into LAX and, in Europe, Ryanair will fly into Eindhoven, Netherlands instead of Amsterdam airport while Norwegian Airlines flies into the smaller and harder to get to airports in Oslo and Stockholm. It happens throughout the world so always look into where you are flying. But be sure to check out how far the airports are from the city center — sometimes transportation from the airport to the city can actually make a budget airline more expensive. However, in general, these low-cost budget airlines are a good deal.
They are best for simple round-trip or one-way flights that require no connections. Connecting to different airports can be an issue. The airports can be in the middle of nowhere so taxi fares can wipe out any savings. Parking may be much cheaper at these secondary airports which may be a significant cost saving if you are driving your own car. Before buying a ticket, figure out which airports are used, how far they are from town, and how you’ll get to and from them.
They generally work best when you have time to spare. Factor in travel time to and from the airport, possible long check-in queues and strict check-in deadlines. There may be a required time between connecting flights.
Check luggage limits as they can be as low as 33 pounds. Can you tolerate no-frills service, small seats and steep prices for a limited selection of drinks and food. As you approach your travel dates, the more likely you are to find the best deal on one of the big national airlines which drop their fares to compete at the last moment. So always do some shopping then.
Most are not listed on traditional searches – use lowcostairlines.com, skyeurope.com and whichbudget.com to find ULCC.
EUROPE. ULCCs control 30% of the market and have expanded the market by making it possible for more people to fly.
Airtraffic.eu – is by far the best overview.
Whichbudget.com – has them all.
1. ryanair.com The original and largest ULCC in Europe. Goes everywhere from everywhere. Uses non-traditional airports. Charges for luggage by the kilo. Ryan sometimes provides shuttles to and from these airports at a cost or you have expensive taxi rides. But if one calculates the lost time, it may not save much money. Ryan once threatened to charge for use of the bathroom but backed down due to the outroar.
To attack costs and produce fares so low that they create their own demand, Ryan air avoided paying staff to facilitate transfers and investing in non-essential IT infrastructure. Anything that added complexity would have risked making aircraft turnaround times longer. For any low-cost operation, getting planes back into the air as quickly as possible trumps all. If passengers wanted to book two separate flights, they were welcome to do so. But Mr O’Leary had no intention of holding their hands.
Previously, the prospect of back-to-back flights with the airline—planning your own connections with no insurance against delays—was positively harrowing. A lot of has changed. Ryan Air has begun airside transfers at London Stansted and Barcelona El Prat airports (2016) – making it more like a hub and spoke carrier. With over 100 routes from Stansted, ample opportunities to switch planes are created. Instead of passing through customs and immigration, collecting baggage, and enduring a second round of security screening to catch the next flight (time-consuming, Ryanair is reluctant to guarantee its connection), airside transfers would allow the company to sell through-tickets.
Since 2013, Ryanair has rehabilitated its toxic reputation for customer service – gone are the punitively high surcharges and obfuscatory booking systems designed to trick customers. In their place are generous baggage allowances, a slick consumer-friendly website, and an ever-obliging social-media persona. The idea is to woo more business travellers with “Business Plus”, “My Ryanair Club”, a frequent-flyer programme and now booking multi-city tickets.
All travellers will benefit: search Marrakech to Edinburgh, for example, and Ryanair.com comes up blank. Most comparison websites follow suit, instead suggesting expensive over-night connections. Only by breaking up the journey into two stages—Marrakech to London, and London to Edinburgh—that Ryanair and Stansted emerge as the clear first choice, offering cheap transfers with a short layover.
Eventually transfers with full-service carriers at their respective hubs will start. A provisional deal has already been struck with Norwegian Air for long-haul transfers through Scandinavia. Interlining, whereby airlines table complementary flight schedules to swap passengers, is another of the practices historically avoided by Ryanair for reasons of complexity.
2. wizzair.com – Hungarian, good for eastern Europe. UK/Ireland to Eastern Europe. Has stylish planes with comfy seats.
3. easyjet.com – Serves virtually everywhere in Western Europe, Stockholm, Iceland, Riga, Moscow, Turkey (several destinations), Sinai Egypt, Tel Aviv, Morocco and Canary Islands. Almost everywhere to a lot of places.
4. airberlin.com – Germany-wide to Europe but serves all of Western Europe, some of Eastern Europe, Balkans, Phuket, Cancun, Dominican Republic, 5 American cities, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, Tel Aviv.
5. eurowings.com – Formerly Germanwings, serves many German cities, most of Western Europe, UK, Dublin
6. vueling.com – A Spanish airline with its main hub in Barcelona, flies to 100 destinations in Europe, Asia (Armenia, Israel and Lebanon) and Africa. And clickair.com- Spain-wide to Europe and
7. skyeurope.com – A search engine that searches low-cost flights.
8. whichbudget.com – Another search engine – shows which low-cost European carriers fly your route.
9. europebyair.com Their Flight Pass allows you to fly 24 different low-cost carriers between 150 cities for $99 per one-way flight, and there is no charge for itinerary changes.
10. wowair.dk – Iceland based, WOW offers four-times-a-week service from Baltimore and Boston to Reykjavik for as little as $400 round-trip with continuing service to 18 other European cities. They use narrow-body Airbus A320s (with 200 vs the more typical 220 seats). A smaller jet means you need fewer passengers to fill them so there is less capacity risk. It is Europe’s most on-time airline with 94% of departures running on time. Their new extended range Airbus A321neo allows them to reach almost anywhere in the US. With layovers, Iceland has become an attractive tourist destination. Recession-induced currency deflation has made the country a bargain and tourism is growing at 20% per year. An active volcano makes it the most exclusive and unique theme park in the world.
The business they are going after most is business class – the typical fare between Paris and New York is $5,000 to $9,000, vs. $1000 in coach. For this route business class is 15% of the volume, but 50% of the revenue.
11. norwegian.com – Norwegian Air Shuttle – Flies wide-bodied 787 Dreamliners to London from New York City, Los Angeles, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale; plus Oakland to Oslo and Copenhagen.
12. Fly Be – UK-wide to Europe
13. Transavia – Stansted to Amsterdam & Holland Europe-wide
14. Iceland Express – Stansted to Iceland
15. Volare – Stansted to Italy
16. Aer Arann – England & Scotland to Ireland
17. FlyGlobespan.com Edinburgh & Glasgow to EU
18. TUI Fly Mainly UK and Germany with package holiday resorts globally.
19. BMI Baby – UK-wide to Europe
20. Jet2 – Leeds & Bradford to Europe
21. BlueAir, Brussels Airlines, Pegasus, Condor
22. lacompagnie.cm – Not a budget airline but included for its budget business class. Runs 74-seat, all business-class 757s between Paris and New York for $2,000 rather than $5-11,000. Passengers get fast-tracked through security, have access to a business-class lounge, being French means good food and wine, and have lie-flat beds with massage features.
AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
1. Virgin Australia – Australian staple
2. Skywest – Western (inc. Darwin & Bali) Australia
3. Regional Express – South East local Australian routes
4. Jetstar – Across Australia and to New Zealand
1. Kulula & Mango – South Africa
2. Fly540 – Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania
3. Precision Air – Tanzania domestic
4. FastJet – Tanzania, but plans to expand
1. Air Arabia – UAE based, wide network & Jazeera Airways
2. Also see: www.attitudetravel.com/lowcostairlines/mideast/
3. flypgs.com – Pegasus Airline. Based in Istanbul, Turkey.
4. flydubai.com – Charges for check-in luggage and uses secondary airports.
5. jazeeraairways.com – The price listed on the search engine is always very low as it does not include airport taxes. Often cheaper on the search engine than on the airline website.
SOUTH EAST ASIA
1. airasia.com – Mostly southeast Asia, Japan. Great & cheap flight network.
2. jetstar.com – International hub is in Singapore with flights to Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan, India and China. Domestic routes in Vietnam, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Excellent.
3. cebupacificair.com – Philippines and SE Asia
4. tigerairways.com – Based in Singapore, serves Jakarta.
5. flyscoot.com – Singapore Airlines budget airline.
6. Nok Air – Thai based, predominately domestic
7. Orient Thai Airlines – Now integrated with One-Two-Go the domestic low-cost carrier
8. Vietnam Airlines – Local and international connections (mainly from HCMC) inc. Oz
9. Lion Air – Indonesian based, domestic and connects with SEA capitals. Not very dependable.
10. Laos Airlines – domestic, Cambodia and Vietnam. Not the most efficient.
1. Sri Lanka Airlines – cheap flights to India, Thailand, Malaysia and beyond.
2. Jet Airways – India based, predominately domestic, not the cheapest. Affiliate of Air Asia.
3. Air India – National carrier, now merged with India Airlines the state owned domestic airline. Again not the best value
4. Jetlite – (formally Air Sahara, now part of Jet Airways)
5. IndiGo – Go network, inc. Delhi to Goa
For Indian domestic flights schedules and which airline flies which route the following link is recommended: www.mapsofindia.com/flight-schedule/
2. spirit.com – US, Caribbean, Bahamas and Latin America
3. allegiantair.com – Hubs in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and some Florida airports
4. jetblue.com – Hub at JFK in New York. Main destinations are Boston, Orlando, Long Beach, CA, most of the Caribbean and Peru in South America.
5. Frontier Airlines or Ted,
6. AirTran Airways
MEXICO/CENTRAL AMERICA (internal):
1. Inter Jet
2. Vivaerobus – Mexico internal and to/from USA
1. TAM, Gol, BRA, Ocean Air, Web Jet, Azul
2. Pantanal Linhas Airline (Pantanal only)
MIDDLE EAST GIANTS – Between the Middle East and the Rest of the World
Although not ULCC, these are the super-connector airlines that offer the lowest fares with full service between the Middle East and almost the rest of the world. The Gulf is handily placed between Europe, Asia, Africa and America, all in range of modern long-haul jets, and thus able to consolidate traffic to and from many destinations. Long-haul to long-haul makes for efficiency and thus cheaper fares. Passengers catch planes at the huge airports on their way to somewhere else. These four carriers flew 50m customers in 2008 and 115m in 2014 on 700 planes (soon to be 900). All rate in the top ten airlines in the world.
1. emirates.com – Based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it is owned by the government of Dubai. It is the largest airline in the Middle East, operating over 3,300 flights per week from its hub at Dubai to more than 144 cities in 78 countries across six continents. Emirates is the world’s biggest international carrier. Serves 32 cities in Europe. Serves Orlando, Boston and Seattle.
2. qatarairways.com – Serves 32 cities in Europe. State-owned flag carrier of Qatar. Headquartered in Doha, the airline operates a hub-and-spoke network, linking over 140 international destinations across Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Far East, South Asia, Middle East, North America, South America and Oceania using a fleet of more than 100 aircraft. Serves 32 cities in Europe.
3. etihad.com – Based in Abu Dhabi. National airline of United Arab Emirates. The airline operates more than 1,000 flights per week to over 120 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with a fleet of 117 Airbus and Boeing aircraft as of May 2015.
4. turkishairlines.com. The national flag carrier airline of Turkey, headquartered in Istanbul. As of February 2015, it operates scheduled services to 261 destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, making it the fourth-largest carrier in the world by number of destinations. Istanbul is a short-haul flight from 55 European cities. Non-stop flights to San Francisco, and soon Atlanta and Mexico City.