Home Travel 21 budget airline fares compared: get the most bang for your buck on your next holiday

21 budget airline fares compared: get the most bang for your buck on your next holiday

by LaurettaCWright

With long-haul carriers wising up and starting to compete against the low-cost, budget airlines by introducing ‘Basic Economy’ fares, Brits are starting to reap the rewards of low-cost travel worldwide – and not just in Europe.

However, even though long-haul fares are comparatively lower than they were a few years ago, watch out for the added extras that budget airlines are imposing!

These include charging for meals/drinks, limiting hand luggage (yes, really) and not allowing seat selection.

To ensure savvy travellers enjoy a stress-free journey, Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) has put together a guide comparing what budget fares across 21 major airlines.

The Extra Factor

The research compares the lowest priced ticket fare available with major airlines including American Airlines, British Airways and easyJet, highlighting costs and services such as baggage allowance, check-in fees at the airport, costs for allocated seating and in-flight experiences.

In terms of baggage allowance, 19 of the airlines allow cabin luggage on-board and ten of the airlines researched, including British Airways, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair, also allow passengers to store one small personal item under the seat in front.

For those planning to travel with substantial luggage, nine of the airlines researched, including Emirates, Qantas and transatlantic flights with Aer Lingus, allow passengers to check-in luggage in the hold as part of the budget fare.

However, two airlines – Wizz Air and American Airlines – were found to not currently allow passengers to store cabin luggage in the overhead lockers as part of their Basic and Basic Economy fares.

And of course, when the baggage allowance does not suffice, all the airlines allow passengers to purchase additional luggage space for a fee.

The fees vary from £8 with Wizz Air to £171 with Qantas, depending on the flight route and the bag weight.

TOP TIP: If you think you need extra baggage allowance make sure you purchase this online prior to departure. Many airlines will charge even more money for add-ons purchased offline – i.e. on the phone or at the check-in desk!

For example, Monarch charges an additional £5 surcharge for any extra baggage purchased via the call centre. SWISS Air also requests an additional surcharge of £12 (€14) when extra luggage is purchased during check-in at the airport.

Seating arrangements

For travellers looking to pay a little extra to sit by a window or on the exit row, the majority of airlines provide passengers with the option to select their own seat for a fee.

Four airlines allow passengers to choose their preferred seat for free, including KLM and Qatar Airways.

However, passengers travelling in Basic Economy with Delta Air Lines should note that seat selection is not available at any time and seats are allocated by staff after check-in.

TOP TIP: To avoid unexpected charges once at the airport, passengers travelling with three of the budget airlines researched – Jet2, Ryanair and Wizz Air – should ensure they check-in online prior to arriving at the airport. All three of these budget airlines charge passengers to check-in at the terminal. Fees for doing so vary from £8 with Wizz Air to £45 with Ryanair.

For those eager to board the plane first, seven of the airlines researched provide priority boarding services at a price, varying from £4 with Wizz Air to £19.99 with easyJet.

Also, if you purchase allocated Priority Seat with Ryanair, you are automatically granted priority when boarding at the gate and similarly, those who purchase Priority Boarding with Wizz Air are also allowed to take an additional small personal item on board.

Grub's up!

All the airlines researched offer food and drink in-flight with 11, including KLM, Virgin Atlantic and transatlantic flights with Aer Lingus, offering selected food and drink free of charge.

Free meals with British Airways are only provided on long-haul flights and, likewise, drinks are only offered complimentary if travelling with Icelandair.

For those in need of a caffeine boost, Basic Economy passengers travelling with Delta are provided with complimentary Starbucks drinks in-flight.

Admin add-ons

In terms of additional fees, many budget airlines charge travellers a further booking cost – regardless of the fare purchased.

For example, Finnair requests £4.50 per person for online bookings and Icelandair charges £15 per person for bookings made via the call centre or at the ticket desk.

Passengers who travel with Virgin Atlantic and prefer to use a physical paper ticket are required to pay an additional £25(!), while passengers travelling with Jet2 and Ryanair should keep their boarding pass close at all times, since the airlines charge £17.50 and £15, respectively, for reprints.

It pays to do your research before you travel so you don’t get stung with unforeseen (and often hidden) costs on seemingly budget airline fares. These airlines can be a sneaky bunch, so it pays to gen up on which airlines charge for what before you look to book.

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21 budget airline fares compared


Fashion and Style Police 10th February 2017 - 9:45 pm

Loving your tips here. I always make sure I pay for my extra baggage online before flying.

LaurettaCWright 12th February 2017 - 12:00 am

Excellent – that’s good to know!

Zena's Suitcase 10th February 2017 - 1:24 pm

Booking flights and getting what you want right is so hard. I hadn’t realised the extra charges when you bought add ons off line

Kara 10th February 2017 - 8:12 am

Travelling can be such a minefield although I do prefer the online check in

clairejustine 9th February 2017 - 7:02 pm

It is always great to shop around isn’t it. I have not flown for over 12 years, really need to start travelling again 🙂

Anna 9th February 2017 - 9:31 am

I have been travelling for so long, and I have to agree with everything you said, research is pretty important if you don’t want to get ripped off. x

LaurettaCWright 12th January 2018 - 4:29 pm

Thanks Anna – yes, research does pay off.

Paighton Millington - The Lazy Mamma 9th February 2017 - 1:28 am

I’m awful at shopping around first. This is a great post with great tips! Thank-you ☺️

LaurettaCWright 9th February 2017 - 10:01 am

Thanks Paignton! 🙂

Ana De- Jesus 8th February 2017 - 10:00 pm

It is so true! If you are not careful you need to pay charges upfront so it always pays to do your research first!

Newcastle Family Life 8th February 2017 - 9:04 pm

These are great tips, I am really bad at never shopping around and often paying over the odds. I want to start travelling more so this was really useful x

LaurettaCWright 8th February 2017 - 9:35 pm

That’s super – thanks!

Jen 8th February 2017 - 7:15 pm

Such a minefield to me. I’m quite scared of even arranging anything that doesn’t involve me being able to drive the entire distance. Recently been watching a morning programe about holiday worries, and how to solve them; but it didn’t help me! So, it is indeed helpful to have some at hand advice like this. Thank you.

LaurettaCWright 8th February 2017 - 9:36 pm

Really glad to have been of use Jen, that’s great 🙂

Talya 8th February 2017 - 1:45 pm

Wow this is so useful! I am so bad and lazy at shopping around so really appreciate this post thank you.

LaurettaCWright 8th February 2017 - 1:48 pm

Pleasure Talya!

LaurettaCWright 10th February 2017 - 7:51 am

Thanks Talya!

Mellissa Williams 8th February 2017 - 12:33 pm

This is useful to know. We fly a lot and to see how budget airlines compare like this great. Which is your favourite budget airline?

LaurettaCWright 8th February 2017 - 12:34 pm

Thanks Melissa – I’ve always had a good experience with Monarch ? how about you?

Deborah Nicholas 8th February 2017 - 12:12 pm

Love this list – just goes to show it pays to shop around!

Tommy Joseph 8th February 2017 - 12:07 pm

Some really good tips here. I’d also add – don’t forget to sign up to rewards programmes if they are available. I’ve had some great deals by doing so.

LaurettaCWright 8th February 2017 - 9:36 pm

Great idea Tommy – thanks!


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