Tips for flying with budget airlines in Europe

Not all airlines are created equal.

Generally speaking there are two types of the airlines — full service airlines and budget airlines. The main differences between the two of them are the price and the services they offer to passengers. Low cost airlines offer relatively low fares in exchange for eliminating many services that traditional airlines offer.

Whereas traditional, or full service airline, will have a way better service and more extras than a low cost airline. Hence, the name — full service airline.

If you want to get from point A to point B as cheap as possible, low cost airlines often is the best option for you. That’s if you travel with a small bag only and do not care about any extras. If you do have a lot of luggage and you want to have a meal on the board, then it may not make sense to travel with low cost airline anymore.

But here we’ll talk about how to make your trips with budget airlines better.

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Our top tips for flying with budget airlines

You know that flying with a good full service airline can be quite a fun experience.

But what about flying with a budget airline? It’s not bad either.

Just come prepared.

Here are our favourite tips for flying with budget airlines.

1. Know what’s included (and what’s not) in the price

That’s one of the most important things.

And also one of the biggest differences between a budget and a traditional airline.

Flights with budget airlines are cheap as long as you don’t book any extras. Everything comes at a price, and often a rather high one. Checked luggage can cost twice as much as the actual ticket and meals can be ridiculously expensive, too.

Cabin bag? Some budget airlines only allow 1 small personal item.

Checked baggage? At an extra cost.

Airport check-in? For an extra cost.

Blankets and pillows? Airline amenity kit?** No.

Seat selection? At an extra cost.

Food? Water? At an extra cost.

Some budget airlines even charge their passengers for buying a ticket online. A good example is an American low cost airline “Spirit Airlines”. The airline charges its customers a “Passenger Usage Fee” which is between $9-17 USD if they book online. 

Luckily we don’t have anything like this in Europe yet.

** An amenity kit is a travel essential kit provided to passengers to enhance their experience during a tiring flight. It usually contains an eye mask, a pair of socks, a pair of ear plugs, lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste, and moisturiser.

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2. Check baggage allowance

And weight your bag beforehand!

Most low cost airlines allow their passengers to take one full-size carry on bag.

Some airlines allow to carry two bags — a carry on bag and a personal item, which can be a purse, a laptop bag or a small backpack.

But some airlines are really strict when it comes to hand luggage. Ryanair and Wizz Air allows their passengers to carry a small backpack. If you want to take a full-size carry on, you have to purchase a priority pass.

It’s important to remember that excess baggage fees are ridiculous.

If your cabin bag gets weighed at the gate you have to pay a hefty fine. To avoid it, weight your luggage at home. Use a regular bathroom scale, or a special digital luggage scale. Try not to overpack. Airline employees will close their eyes to extra 100 grams, but extra 2 kg is not OK.

If it’s possible, measure your bag as you pack.

If not, do it at the airport. Place your bags in a hand luggage sizer before your flight and see if it fits. If not distribute your stuff between the bags, or wear your bulkiest clothes.

Or, if you have plenty of pockets, put some things in your pockets.

Suitcases on trolleys - Luggage tips

3. Book a seat in advance, or choose randomly allocated seat 

If, let’s say, you want to avoid middle seat, book your seat beforehand.

You have to pay for your seat selection, when travelling with budget airlines.

If you don’t choose anything, you’ll be given a random seat at check in.

If you don’t care where you sit, great.

But otherwise you may end up in an undesirable seat.

4. Pre-order a meal

Do you have a long flight ahead of you?

Remember, that low cost carriers do not offer meals to their passengers, unless one has booked a hot meal in advance. If you forgot to order a meal at the time of booking, you can get some snacks and sandwiches on the plane.

1 drink + 1 sandwich usually costs around €10, when purchased on a plane.

5. Prepare some snacks or eat at the airport

If you want to save money, pack your own snacks.

If you haven’t booked a hot meal, and don’t want to buy anything on a plane, prepare your own snacks. There are plenty of plane-friendly snacks and foods you can pack in your carry on bag.

Banana sandwich - What to eat at airport

6. Check which airport you fly from or to

Mostly low cost airlines operate out of secondary airports.

Quite often these secondary airports are located further away from the city than primary airports. Sometimes it can be a good 2-hour drive away from the city. When booking a flight with a low cost airline, keep that in mind, and check how much does it cost to get to and from the airport.

Isn’t it going to make your trip too expensive?

In some situations it will make sense to fly with a full service airline instead.

7. Double check for automatic add-ons

Budget airlines make money from the add-ons.

To make their passengers purchase more, the low cost airlines may pre-select some add-ons hoping that passengers won’t notice and buy an unnecessary extra. Usually it’s insurance that is pre-selected like that. If you have one already, why would you want to pay extra?

Do you really need two travel insurance policies? I doubt it.

Pay attention to the final price throughout the process of making a booking.

8. Avoid booking a flight with a short layover

If you’re booking several flights, plan an extra hour or two to change planes.

Don’t assume that everything will happen exactly as planned.

Because if these are separately booked flights, and if you miss one of them, it will be your responsibility to get a new one. You will have to pay for it from your pocket.

And don’t forget about budget airline locations (secondary airports) and their constant delays.

It’s always better to sit at the airport for a few hours than checking the clock constantly and worrying if you gonna make it in time in case of delay. You don’t want that stress.

That's just how it is, when you want to have a connecting flight with low cost airlines.

Man and woman at the airport - What to do if your flight is cancelled

9. Be careful with connecting flights

Not all budget airlines offer connecting flights.

And if you book two or more flights separately, it’s not the same. You are not the same as protected, if something goes wrong, if, for example, you miss any of your flights. So, make sure you understand the rules, and know what to do in case of a disruption.

There are also budget airlines, which offer proper connecting flights.

These are, so called, airline protected connecting flights.

What it means for you?

If you have such a flight, you are protected against flight disruptions. You book these kind of flights as one, and at the end you have only one reservation number. It’s also the easiest way to understand, that what you have is an airline protected connecting flight. If you miss your next flight because any of your previous flights was late, the airline will put you on a next available flight free of charge.

Some airlines offer connecting flights only through a few hubs (e.g., Ryanair).

But some still don’t offer connecting flight at all (e.g. Wizz Air).

If you are going to book separate flights, we recommend you to purchase a travel insurance. Do it at the time of making a booking. This way you’ll be protected against all kind of possible changes.

Book connecting flights with kiwi.com

Another safe option to book separate flights is kiwi.com.

What makes it a great option is that kiwi offers connection protection service.

When you buy a connecting flight with Kiwi, it’s protected by Kiwi. And Kiwi is responsible for the mishaps, but not the budget airline you are flying with.

Kiwi Guarantee protects its customers from flight delays, flight cancellations and schedule changes. If you have booked a trip with Kiwi, and the trip has been affected, you must contact Kiwi within 24 hours, otherwise the Kiwi Guarantee may be cancelled.

Learn more about Kiwi Guarantee on kiwi.com.

Kiwi.com - Best deals on flights

10. Check in online

Because airport check-in may cost you extra.

One of the drawbacks of low cost airlines is that airport check-in often costs extra. As long as you know how to check in online, it’s OK, you can do it online. If you are not sure how to do it, ask someone yo help you with that. Airport check-in fees can be ridiculous.

Some budget airlines charge their passengers as much as €55 per passenger!

And check your flight status online to make sure that your flight isn't delayed. Because if it is, and check in has been postponed as well, you may as well stay at home or hotel for a while.

11. Don’t forget about boarding pass

Print your boarding pass before travelling or download a mobile boarding pass.

Just like airport check-in, printing your boarding pass at the low cost airline counter costs extra. Boarding pass issue fees are absurd, too. It can cost you €20 just to print a boarding pass.

During the last couple of years low cost airlines have improved their mobile apps and since then most of them have mobile boarding pass service. Just download the app, check-in and download the mobile boarding pass to your phone, or add it to your Apple Wallet (iOS) or PassWallet (Android).

So, you no longer need to print out your boarding passes on paper.

12. Wear the bulkiest items of clothing

There is a weight limit to the cabin bag.

Usually it’s between 8 and 10 kilos. That’s not much, especially if you are travelling with a carry on only. So, it’s very important to pack smart and save space, when you are travelling with low cost airlines.

Another way to make your bag lighter - wear the bulkiest items of clothing. Wear all your heavy and thick items like your coat, hoodie, jeans and hiking boots.

The more you wear, the less your bag weights.

Boots and cardigan - Packing essentials for winter

13. Come prepared

Will you want to eat on the plane? Don’t forget about food.

If you can’t sleep on the plane without an eye mask, ear plugs and a travel pillow, take these items with you. Low cost airlines don’t provide their passengers with blankets, pillows and amenity kits, even on long haul flights.

Yes, this stuff takes up place in your bag, but do what you have to do.

What about travel blanket? A large shawl or a large microfiber towel can double as a blanket.

14. Buy a travel insurance

Don’t go on a trip without a travel insurance.

Get it at the time of booking your flights, if you’re going to buy several separate flights. To insure yourself against possible changes.

Read the small print before buying an insurance.

15. Know your rights

Remember this - in Europe you are the same as protected.

It doesn’t matter if you are travelling with full service airlike like British Airways or with Wizz Air. You have the same rights. And under the same circumstances you will be the same as protected. Same like it doesn’t matter if you are a European or not, or if you have a travel insurance or not.

If it’s a long flight delay, you’ll often be entitled to EU flight delay compensation.

If it’s a last-minute cancellation - EU flight cancellation compensation.

If you're denied boarding (overbooking) - EU denied boarding compensation.

How much can you claim - Refundor IT v2

In most cases you can receive up to €600 from your airline.

And, yes, it doesn’t matter if your flight was with a budget airline, or with a traditional airline. Or if it's a charter airline.

In many situations it applies also to flights with non-EU airlines.

It doesn't matter if you're a European or not.

In case of connecting flights things are a bit different. Then it’s important to know how did you book your flight. If these were separate flights, and you missed one of the flights because of another flight - mostly it’s gonna be your responsibilty to find a new flight. But you might be entitled to compensation for the first flight.

Learn about connecting flights with low cost airlines and self transfer flights.

What else? In Europe you have the right to care, even when it isn't the airline's fault. Sometimes it means a free meal, other times - free hotel room for a night and transport to hotel.

1 2 3 steps - how to claim compensation - ENG

How to claim your compensation from a budget airline

You can try and contact the airline yourself.

Or you can let us to do it on your behalf.

Sounds difficult? It isn't.

It’s an easy and straight forward process:

  1. Go to this page on our website;
  2. Fill in the details about yourself and your flight;
  3. Upload your boarding pass and passport copy;
  4. Sign the claim online.

And… wait for the money in your bank account.

We ask for no upfront fees.

And you pay nothing if you don’t receive compensation.

If we are successful, however, we’ll take €25 + 25% of the amount of the compensation, and transfer you the rest.

Have a safe trip! And remember - travel prepared!