Budget Airlines in Europe: How to Fly Almost for Free

Low-cost flights to Europe on low-cost airlines

Very often when planning a trip to Europe you want to visit several countries at once and at the same time to optimize expenses. Often flights on budget airlines within Europe will cost you much cheaper than traveling by train or car. In this article I’ll tell you what a low-cost airline is, their main differences from other airlines, and how to buy the cheapest tickets for your flight on a low-cost airline.

Low cost airlines (low cost) are airlines that offer tickets at low prices and, as a consequence, a lower level of service than regular airlines. The peculiarity of most low-cost airlines is additional payment for extra services such as meals on board, baggage allowance, check-in at the company’s desk at the airport, and booking a certain seat on the aircraft. That is the ticket you pay for, in fact, only includes the flight from point A to point B without any frills.

flights in europe

So why do low-cost airlines have such a low price?

Here are the main features of low-cost airlines that make flying with them quite profitable:

  • Most of the time, low-cost companies fly the economical Boeing 737 and Airbus A319 , A320 , which helps reduce the cost of the flight;
  • The flights usually take off at an inconvenient time (early morning or late afternoon), often from small regional airports, located near large cities;
  • Impossibility to change or refund the ticket purchased at the most advantageous fare;
  • The possibility of having several flights within one day and minimizing expensive downtime at the airports;
  • Payment for meals on board (most often there is no hot meal; you get a sandwich or a sandwich with a drink);
  • Payment for each piece of luggage (depending on the company). When traveling on a low-cost carrier with luggage, I advise you to pay for your luggage online when purchasing your ticket, there is no way to cheat and not pay – the employees of low-cost carriers are very vigilant in this regard;
  • A certain size of allowable carry-on luggage, which is controlled before boarding. If you exceed the established size you will have to pay up to 200 euros or throw the ill-fated hand luggage at the airport;
  • Check-in online or at special terminals at the airport, as the passenger has to pay extra for checking in at the check-in counter (depending on the company);
  • During check-in there is no seat assignment, so that passengers can be seated on the plane as quickly as possible, and thus the plane takes off more quickly (depends on the company);
  • Pay when you book a certain seat on the flight plan (depending on the company).

low-cost in europe

The most popular low-cost airlines in Europe

SmartWings

SmartWings is a brand of the Czech airline Travel Service Airlines. The official website: http://www.smartwings.com/en/. The head office of the company is located at Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague. Václav Havel Airport, Prague. Number of aircraft: 39. In addition to regular flights, SmartWings operates charter flights to Spain, Greece, Bulgaria. The airline flies to more than 76 destinations in Europe, North Africa, Turkey, Israel, and UAE. Average one way ticket: Prague-Paris from 83 Euro, Prague-Rome from 75 Euro.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage – 20 kg – for business class, 15 kg – for economy class, the sum of three dimensions must not exceed 250 cm.
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 56x45x25cm.
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The price of ticket does not include:

  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.
  • Meals on board if the flight is longer than two hours (sandwich + drink).
  • Drinks on all flights.

air travel service

Meals on board SmartWings – sandwich, muffin, Bulgarian beer Zagorka.

airline food

Wizz Air

Wizz Air is a Hungarian low cost airline. Official website: http://wizzair.com/ (there is a Russian version). Wizz Air headquarters are located at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt Airport. The main airports are Budapest, Katowice, Warsaw, Gdansk. Number of aircrafts: 50. Subsidiary company – Wizz Air Ukraine. Flies to 93 destinations in 35 countries in Europe and Israel. Average cost of one way ticket: Prague – Milan from 22 euros, Prague – Venice from 29 euros, Kiev – Barcelona from 158 euros.

The ticket price includes:

  • Small hand luggage – 1 place 42x32x25cm in size.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Baggage. Baggage fee depends on the flight time and season. Baggage allowance: 1 piece of baggage weighing no more than 32 kg. On average the price of 1 piece of baggage varies from 15 to 30 Euro if paying online, 60 Euro if paying at the airport.
  • 1 piece of hand baggage: 1 piece of 56x45x25cm – from 10 to 40 Euros.
  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Check-in fee at the airport desk.
  • Optional onboard meals (usually a sandwich + a drink).
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.

wizz air

EasyJet

EasyJet is a British low cost airline based at Luton Airport in London. Official website: http://www.easyjet.com/ (Russian version available). Number of aircraft: 199. Flies to 134 destinations in Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Israel. Carries out direct flights on routes London-Moscow, Manchester-Moscow. The average cost of a one-way ticket: Prague – Rome from 45 euros, Prague – London from 63 euros.

The ticket price includes:

  • Small hand luggage – 1 piece of 50x40x20cm.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Baggage. Baggage allowance: 1 piece weighing from 20-32kg. If your luggage weight exceeds 20 kg, you must pay extra for excess weight.
  • Optional onboard meals (usually a sandwich + a drink).
  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.

Meals on board EasyJet – sandwich, chocolate bar, tea for free.

airline food

Ryanair

Ryanair is an Irish low-cost carrier based at several dozen airports in Europe with the main airports Dublin and London Stansted. Official website: http://www.ryanair.com/. Number of aircraft: 297. Flies to 179 destinations in Europe and Morocco. In 2013. Ryanair became the largest airline in Europe. The average cost for a one way ticket: Prague – Dublin from 41 euros, Prague – London from 33 euros.

The ticket price includes:

  • Small hand luggage – 1 piece measuring 55x40x20cm weighing up to 10 kg + 1 small bag measuring 35x20x20cm.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Luggage. Baggage allowance: 1 piece weighing from 15 to 20 kg The baggage fee depends on the flight time and season. If your baggage weight exceeds 20 kg, you will be charged extra for excess weight.
  • Optional onboard meals (usually a sandwich + a drink).
  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Ticket booking fee at the airport/call center.
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.
Germanwings

Germanwings is a German low-cost airline based at Cologne Bonn Airport and is a subsidiary of Lufthansa. Official website: https://www.germanwings.com/ (there is a Russian version). Number of aircraft: 70. Flies to 86 destinations in Europe, North Africa, Turkey and Israel. Performs a large number of direct flights from Moscow / St. Petersburg to European capitals. The average cost of a one-way ticket: Moscow – Berlin from 60 euro, Moscow – Stuttgart from 99 euro.

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The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage 23 kg.
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 55x40x20cm, max weight – 8 kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Meals on board.
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.
Norwegian Air Shuttle

Norwegian Air Shuttle is a Norwegian low-cost airline that is the third largest low-cost airline in Europe after Ryanair and EasyJet. The company is based at Oslo Airport. Official website: https://www.norwegian.com/. Number of aircraft: 88. Flies to 121 destinations in Europe. Flies regularly from St. Petersburg to European capitals. Average cost of one-way ticket: Prague – Copenhagen from 61 Euro, Prague – Oslo from 58 Euro.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage 20 kg.
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 55x40x20cm, max weight – 8 kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Meals on board, including hot meals (the number of hot meals is limited).
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.
  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.

low-cost in europe

Vueling

Vueling is a Spanish low-cost carrier based at El Prat airport in Barcelona. Official website: http://www.vueling.com/ (there is a Russian version). Number of aircraft: 82. Flights to 106 destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. Currently, Vueling is the second largest airline in Spain. Flies regularly from Moscow / St. Petersburg to European capitals. Average cost for a one-way ticket: Prague – Barcelona from 75 euros, Barcelona – St. Petersburg from 110 euros.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage weighing up to 23 kg (depending on the fare of your purchased ticket).
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece with dimensions 55x40x20cm, max 10kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Meals on board.
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.

airplane vueling

Atlasjet

Atlasjet is a Turkish low-cost airline based at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. Official website: http://www.atlasjet.com/. Number of planes: 18. Flies to 17 destinations in Turkey, including flights to Nizhnekamsk. Average cost of one way ticket: Nizhnekamsk – Antalya from 144 Euro.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage weighing up to 23 kg (depending on the fare of your purchased ticket).
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece with dimensions 56x45x25cm, max weight – 8 kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Reserve a seat with extra legroom.
  • Meals on board.
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.

airplane atlasjet

Pegasus Airlines

Pegasus Airlines is a Turkish low-cost airline, which has recently become very popular among the residents of its native Omsk due to its favorable prices for connecting flights from Omsk to Europe via Istanbul. Pegasus Airlines’ main base is the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul. Official website: http://www.flypgs.com/ (Russian version available). Pegasus Airlines operates flights to 97 destinations in Turkey and from Turkey to Europe. From Russian cities, it flies to Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Krasnodar, Sochi, Mineralnye Vody, Moscow and Perm. Average one way ticket: Prague – Istanbul from 77 Euros, Moscow – Antalya from 123 Euros.

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The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage weighing up to 20 kg (depending on destination).
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 55x40x20cm, max weight – 8 kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Booking of a particular seat on the plane.
  • Meals on board, including hot meals (I advise to book online immediately, a good choice of dishes).
  • Carriage of excess and oversized baggage.
Air One

Air One is Alitalia’s Italian lowcoster, based in several Italian cities. Official website: https://flyairone.com/. Number of Aircraft: 9. Flies to 34 destinations in Europe. The company performs regular flights to St. Petersburg, Moscow, Rostov. Average cost of one way ticket: Prague – Venice from 41 Euro, Pisa – Saint-Petersburg from 89 Euro.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage weighing up to 20 kg.
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 55x35x25cm, max weight – 8kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Meals on board (sandwich + drink)
  • Extra and oversized baggage
Air Berlin

Air Berlin is a German low-cost carrier and the second largest airline in Germany after Lufthansa. It has major hubs at two German airports, Berlin Tegel and Dusseldorf. Official website: http://www.airberlin.com/ (Russian version available). Number of aircraft: 124. Flights to 174 destinations in Europe, US, Asia, Australia. Flies regularly to Moscow and other major cities from Europe. Average cost of one way ticket: Berlin – Saint-Petersburg from 180 Euro.

The ticket price includes:

  • 1 piece of luggage weighing up to 23 kg.
  • Cabin baggage – 1 piece size 55x40x20cm, max weight – 8 kg.

The price of ticket does not include:

  • Meals on board, including hot meals
  • Extra and oversized baggage

Update from 2018: Air Berlin ceased operations at the end of 2017.

air berlin

Personal experience

From this list I had the opportunity to fly with SmartWings , I can rate this company excellent: comfortable seating, drinks are constantly distributed and offered in the cabin (and on Czech flights even Czech canned beer!). Of the inconvenient ones, I can mention the early morning departures – both of my flights with this airline departed at 5am – as well as a significant price increase on their flights this year.

As for Wizz Air and Ryanair, they very clearly track carry-on baggage size. By the way, I’ve seen Wizz Air passengers walk down the ramp and walk to the airport.

I have only good impressions from flying with E asyJet, Air Berlin, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Germanwings, I can’t remember particular nuances. I have no complaints about them.

I really like Pegasus Airlines: flights arrive on time, plenty of hot meals on board, comfortable seats. Only frustrating is the recent price increases on flights.

As you’ve probably seen for yourself, travel doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can save a lot on airfare. I advise you to carefully read ALL conditions, including the conditions for exchanging/refunding a ticket, before you buy low-cost tickets, so you won’t be surprised later. On the websites of almost all lowcosters there is an option to see the best fares in the coming weeks/months, and this is good for those who are not tied to specific dates. Have a great trip!

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Low-cost airlines in Europe

We are talking about European low-cost airlines: the list of the most important low-cost airlines in Europe, their prices and features. Learn how to travel a lot and fly almost for free!

There are a large number of low-cost airlines in Europe. Let’s figure out which ones are the most interesting for independent travelers who want to save significantly on transportation costs.

Low-cost airlines (or low-cost) are carriers that offer their customers tickets at the lowest possible price, provided that the passenger is willing to give up some of the usual amenities on board (meals, free luggage, etc.).

Some people mistakenly think that low-cost carriers are scammers who secretly want to extort money from passengers. Others think that flying on board such carriers means condemning yourself to a lot of inconveniences and risk ruining your vacation. All of this is prejudice. If you use the low-cost airlines correctly, know their rules, then you can not even feel any significant differences from traditional airlines. By the way, we’ve already written about the pros and cons of low-cost airlines here.

The fact that there are special airlines, which tickets cost 20-30 euros, is already known to many people. But it’s important to understand that there are different low-cost airlines, and not all of them have such low prices. But the real cool low-cost airlines sometimes you can even get tickets for just 1 euro!

So let’s break down what low-cost airlines are in Europe.

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Hybrids are partial low-cost carriers.

These include such European carriers as AirBaltic, AirBerlin, Vueling, Germanwings and some others. The cost of their tickets rarely falls below 50 euros and on average stays at 70-100 euros for a one-way flight. However, sometimes these airlines have promotions and sales (which we carefully monitor and then publish news about them on our website), during which you can buy cheap tickets. The low price is compensated for by the fact that these airlines are better represented in Russia, their flights can be connected, and they often fly to major, not minor, airports.

how to fly for free on lowcosters?

(by dr_tr / flickr.com)

To save some more money on tickets for these airlines, it makes sense to buy tickets not on official websites, but to find them using the metasearch engine Skyscanner – it monitors prices among dozens of airline agencies and booking offices and finds the best option.

The most budget airlines: real low-cost airlines

And here we have to name three main names: Ryanair, Wizzair, EasyJet – these are the low-cost airlines in Europe, where you can almost always get tickets for the best price. Of course you’ll need to keep track of promotions and deals (we’ll be sure to write about them) and buy tickets in advance: the best time is 1.5-2 months before your flight.

In the old days these airlines had some really great deals (especially Ryanair) – there were cases when you could fly on their flights for free or just for 1-2 euros. Of course, these actions were arranged for promotional purposes, to declare to the whole of Europe about its existence. Now that these major European discounters are widely known among those who travel on a budget, such generosity is no longer found, but nevertheless sometimes they have very good deals with deep discounts.

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WizzAir

(by Magic Madzik / flickr.com)

If you’re planning to fly with the low-cost airlines, you should understand that the cheapest tickets are not for Russian cities, but for the neighboring European cities: Riga, Vilnius, Kaunas, and some cities in Finland. About this travel scheme we wrote in detail in the article “How to travel cheaply to Europe” – we recommend you to read it. There you can also find flight maps for Ryanair, Wizzair, and AirBaltic. The low-cost airlines offer an extensive route network so you can easily travel anywhere in Europe. For example in the article “How to get to Amsterdam: the fullest instruction” we detailed how to use low-cost airlines in Europe to travel to the Netherlands.

The lowest ticket prices for these low-cost airlines are found only on the companies’ official websites. If you want to buy tickets from these companies at the lowest price, you need to be very flexible in terms of travel dates – very often a ticket for the next date can cost significantly less than the day you need. However, this rule applies to absolutely all cases: both for budget airlines and traditional ones.

For example, here are Ryanair prices for a flight from Milan (Bergamo) to the Dutch city of Eindhoven:

Milan-Eindhoven

And here’s an example of a chic price for a Moscow-Budapest flight (only 30 euros!):

Moscow-Budapest

You may notice that in the example above for WIZZ Discount Club members the price will be only 19,99€! Becoming a member is very easy – all you have to do is pay 30€. As a result you will always have a guaranteed discount on WIZZ Discount Club flights, which can also be used for purchasing tickets for up to 9 other people traveling with you. Once you’ve spent the required 30€, you’ll easily recoup it thanks to the good discount.

To be fair, there are a couple of other European low-cost airlines that allow you to fly almost for free and are definitely worth the attention of an independent traveler:

Pegasus is a Turkish low-cost airline that flies to a lot of Russian cities (Moscow, Chelyabinsk, Perm, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Krasnodar, Sochi, Mineral Waters), as well as a number of very interesting Asian destinations (Bishkek, Tehran, Dubai and various cities in Turkey). Usually ticket prices are not as low as one would like, but very interesting offers often appear.

Norwegian – another budget airline in Europe, which, incidentally, is recognized as the best European low-cost airline. Flies to St. Petersburg. Often you can find good prices to Scandinavian and Central European destinations.

WizzAir

(by PurplePoulpe / flickr.com)

I think you’ve seen that budget airlines in Europe are the best way to save money and fly almost for free. Without them, it would be hard to imagine the possibility of frequent travel in Europe for little money. Let’s hope that, in time, budget airlines will expand their operations to Russia as well.

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