My Experience with Budget Airlines in Europe

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The more often I travel, the more often I come to the conclusion that I just don't complain enough.

I've been faced with plenty of situations that would warrant complaining from other people, mind you — lost reservations, missed flights, getting ripped off, unenthusiastic tour guides, annoying roommates… I've faced them all. But, at the end of the day, I look back on the vast majority of my travel experiences and only have positive memories.

Why is this? Well, you see, I'm just not much of a complainer. I'm laid-back enough to acknowledge that people make mistakes; that things are (more often than not) out of my control; that shit happens. Sure I might grumble a bit every now and again, but very rarely do I get so upset about something that I stew about it, or let it negatively impact my overall travel experience. To me, it's just not worth it.

This is probably why I don't understand why people complain so much about budget airlines in Europe.

Photo by Andy_Mitchell_UK, on Flickr

In Europe, where major world capitals lie mere hours apart by train or plane, a handful of “low-cost carriers” (LCCs) compete to offer the cheapest flights possible. This seems like it should be great news for people concerned with — right? Well it is. But at the same time it isn't.

You see, when the budget airline market is so competitive and said airlines have to keep coming up with more and more creative ways to cut costs, this usually translates to customers feeling the brunt of it.

Cramped planes. Poor customer service. Hidden fees out the ears. These are some of the common complaints people have about the budget airlines in Europe. And they are valid complaints, I suppose — the planes ARE sometimes cramped, the customer service DOES sometimes leave something to be desired, and the hidden fees ARE annoying.

But my question to these complainers is — what else did you expect?

Photo by abragad, on Flickr

The whole premise of a budget airline is to offer you the very base level of service for the lowest price possible. If you're only paying $30 for a flight, should you really be expecting gourmet food, a personal butler and loads of leg room? No. Probably not.

And, to be honest, my experience with these low-cost carriers hasn't been bad at all.

Manchester > Budapest on Jet2

Within 2 hours of arriving in Europe last summer, I was already on my first budget flight. A 3-hour hop from Manchester, England to Budapest, Hungary. I booked with Jet2, and airline that I admit I had never even heard of before it popped up in a flight search on Skyscanner.

Photo by Andy_Mitchell_UK, on Flickr

True to LCC form, Jet2 does tack on a lot of extra fees to its fares (for example, checking a bag will cost you £12.49, checking in at the airport instead of online adds an additional £10 to your ticket price, and choosing your seat costs between £3.99 and £8.49). But these were fees I was expecting, so I only grumbled a tiny bit before forking over my credit card number.

And the flight itself? Surprisingly fine. The check-in process at the airport was pretty typical, boarding wasn't stressful, and the plane itself was no more uncomfortable than the United one I'd just flown on from the East Coast to Manchester.

Photo by Keith Williamson, on Flickr

+1 for budget airlines in Europe.

Ljubljana > London on easyJet

My second experience with Europe's LCCs happened a little over halfway through my Euro trip. I had booked a one-way flight from Ljubljana, Slovenia to London Stansted on easyJet, and was interested to see how this budget airline would compare to Jet2.

Photo by Oberau-Online, on Flickr

Similar to Jet2, easyJet charges extra for checked luggage (£15.39 per bag), and even charges a bit more if you pay with a credit card instead of a debit card. When I flew with them, they still did the whole no-assigned-seating thing, but now you can choose a seat for £4.99. (You can also save money by , so perhaps some of those fees can kind of even out?)

Check-in again was simple, and the boarding, though sort of a free-for-all because of the lack of assigned seats, wasn't terrible, either. It just involved standing in line for a while, but everyone got a seat on the plane, so who cares?

by CLDoyle, on Flickr

Another +1 for budget airlines in Europe.

The Verdict?

True, I haven't flown RyanAir, which is usually the LCC that in Europe. But I think 2/2 positive encounters with budget airlines is a pretty good track record thus far.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't notice much of a difference between flying Jet2 and EasyJet than flying some of the U.S. airlines I tend to frequent when I'm at home. As long as you go into a LCC experience knowing what to expect (and realizing that the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies here), I don't really see a reason for so many complaints (and neither does ).

I mean, people cram into chicken buses in Central America, pay for standing-room-only seats at Broadway shows, and sit on top of one another on Indian trains all to save money and don't complain about it. Why should flying on cheap airlines be any different?

And, I guess if you DO feel like complaining, take a second to remember that, without these airlines, travel would be much more difficult and expensive all across the world.


What kind of experiences have YOU had with budget airlines?



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"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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