The joy of bagging an amazingly priced flight to the continent is one that Londoners, well at least expat Londoners love to gloat about. I flew to Berlin in 2010 for £30 return with Ryan Air – I tell that one all the time. Over the years I’ve been able to get some good deals but none have yet to beat that.
Years ago at a house party I got to chatting with a random about my impending move to London. He said I was so lucky that I’d get to travel around and budget airlines were going to be the key to doing that. Fast forward and I’d say it really depends. Sometimes a budget flight will be worth it but don’t bet on it. A few things to keep in mind before you book.
Do You Have Standards? No? Then Proceed
I kid! Well, a little. If you just want to get to your destination as cheaply as possible with no regard to comfort and you don’t mind getting up at a ridiculous hour to trek to the outskirts of a city for the pleasure of that flight then go right ahead. I’ve found EasyJet to be one of the best if not the best. The seats are comfortable, flights are typically on time and they fly from larger, read closer airports. The same can’t be said for others *cough* RyanAir. Although to be fair RyanAir have more recently dialed back on some of their tactics which were enraging customers as they finally realized that people like to be treated decently.
Always Read the Fine Print, No Really
In 2012 when I went to Prague I made a school girl error when filling out my details. It was either my birthday or passport number – I can’t remember which now but it stressed me out to no end then. I didn’t realize this of course until a few days before the trip. I was booked with Wizz Air and their website said that if I needed to make any changes to my boarding pass it would cost £70. I’m pretty sure that was close to or possibly more than what I paid for the flight. I searched through travel forums and came up with answers ranging from ‘change it or you’re screwed’ to ‘no one will notice’. In the end I didn’t change it and I crossed my fingers. No one noticed in the end – airport security what? All of this was clearly my fault of course but the frustrating thing was the lack of clarity on the airline’s website regarding if this error would be accepted. Some airlines are just easier to communicate with if/when things go wrong.
Factor in Exactly Where the Airport is Located
One of the main reasons your flight is discounted is because you are flying from a smaller airport. But once you factor in the cost to get to say Luton or Stansted over Gatwick or Heathrow it might not be worth it. Add the return cost of transport to your airport on BOTH sides of the trip and paying a bit more for your flight could be the better option to travel to and land more centrally.
Besides cost there is also time, my precious sleep time. I’m in my 30’s now and I’d rather not wake up at 4 am to get ready for a flight ever again if I don’t have to. I’ll be exhausted and even though I’ll get to my destination early I will probably want a nap. Again, some low cost airlines are much better than others with having reasonable flights times. It might be great to maximize your time in a new destination but is it worth it to fly so early? If you said yes you are probably still in your 20s.
Don’t Forget Those Added Fees
All airlines low-cost or not have added costs these days but some are much better at being upfront about trying to fleece you. EasyJet is one of those who are upfront. Their website is very user friendly and even though they continuously ask you to pay for more for allocated seats, extra luggage etc it’s not that bad. They also won’t charge you for using a visa debit card. RyanAir in comparison used to have a terrible website. It was a feat to end up paying the same price for the flight you started with. They have not long ago streamlined their site and even though I swore off flying them again after Berlin I did fly with them to Ireland last year.
Are There Any Perks Involved?
Even though low-cost means no frills and nothing added some budget airlines still have small incentives or niceties that make flying them more enjoyable. You can collect Avios points with Flybe, some airlines still provide a complimentary drink and some still allow you to take one checked back for free. Some are also not so stringent with weighting your carry on, these little things add up to overall good or bad customer care and service.
For many travellers the bottom line is cost and that was once true for me but over the years comfort has factored into my choices much more. Luckily there are many options these days so you don’t have to compromise between low cost and good service.