Finding a good deal always ignites a powerful dopamine rush for me. Especially when it’s a deal pertaining to travel.
I have spent hours at a time scouring Google Flights and Skyscanner for the best flight prices. As a recent college graduate, budgeting is a top priority for me because I can only stretch my funds so far (you can read more about my college budgeting tips here!).
While I’ve managed to travel relatively unscathed most of the time, I’ve also faced several hurdles with budget airlines, and ultimately learned some valuable lessons.
Budget Airline P E R K S:
The unmistakable perk of budget airlines is amazing flight deals.
How can one pass up on a flight for under $50? Money is usually the biggest factor when it comes to travel, so naturally people jump at the chance to snag an affordable flight. The earlier you search, the cheaper the flight.
The cheapest flight I’ve purchased recently was on RyanAir for $30 from Madrid to Marseille. There are no bells and whistles, but these airlines fulfill the ultimate goal of getting from point A to point B.
Budget Airline C O N S:
1) More flight delays and/or cancellations
Flight delays and cancellations are one of the most frustrating aspects of travel, and unfortunately these situations are more common with budget airlines.
While I can’t properly speculate the exact reasons why there are more delays, these circumstances seem to stem from logistical issues, mismanagement and busy schedules.
The worst flight delay I ever experienced with a budget airline was in 2015 for a winter trip with Niko to Sweden and Finland. We bought our round-trip Norwegian tickets well in advance for a pittance of $500. I was beyond excited to experience wintertime in Scandinavia! Our flight was leaving out of JFK, so we stayed at my aunt and uncle’s place in Manhattan the night before. On the morning of our trip, I received a text message, just a few hours before take-off, stating that our flight was delayed 30 hours. No explanation, no apology, no joke. That knocked out our entire trip to Sweden, where we were going to spend two days before heading to Finland! Due to our short time frame, Niko and I requested a refund and booked a new ticket (with a different airline) straight to Finland, for double the price. I swore off traveling overseas with Norwegian anytime in the near future (this was the second time we’d had issues with this airline).
2) Hidden fees in the fine print
If you think to yourself, there must be some hitch with this super inexpensive flight, you’re probably right. Some budget airlines have created sneaky ways to squeeze money out of you without your knowledge.
For example, several airlines charge you over $50 if you don’t check in online before your flight. You also can get charged if you don’t print your boarding pass prior to arrival. So basically you have to check in online but a mobile boarding pass is invalid…explain that logic to me.
Also, you can be charged over $100 if a single letter in your name is misspelled on your boarding pass, and there are stringent rules about the size of your carry-on bags (which, of course, you will have to pay a fee for if the bag is too large). But now that you know about these hidden fees, you can evade the costly traps!
Fortunately I have not been victimized by cruel fees yet thanks to Niko being an expert traveler who examines all flight information with a fine-tooth comb.
3) Flying at odd hours and to faraway airports
These two cons are worth heavily considering before purchasing your ticket. Forcing yourself to get up at 3 a.m. to make it to your early morning flight can pose major issues because it’s difficult to find airport transportation in the wee hours of the morning and you’ll likely be exhausted for the rest of the day.
Also, the flights sometimes drop you in airports 1-2 hours outside the city. Suddenly, your transportation costs skyrocket as you search for a bus, metro, or taxi to get you to your destination.
After sleeping in Madrid’s airport McDonald’s in order to make my $30 6 a.m. flight, I later decided the affordable price hadn’t been worth it. I would’ve preferred shelling out more money in order get a full night’s rest before the flight so that I could actually enjoy my first day in a new place, rather than being plagued by travel fatigue.
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Budget airlines don’t have money to throw around, so they end up cutting costs in a lot of ways. For instance, RyanAir doesn’t have seatback pockets to store your things! Other examples include fewer staff members, non-reclining seats and no free snacks. While these aren’t major setbacks, they are things to consider.
Budget airlines are also not big on customer loyalty, unlike larger airline companies. Their mission is to sell the cheapest flights and they can bank on the fact that even if some customers have bad experiences, there will always be steady demand for low-cost airfare.
Despite having a few negative experiences myself, I’ll always be a proponent for inexpensive flights. The thing to keep in mind with budget airlines is that while the upfront cost may be low, there are other costs to consider. Just be smart, look closely at the travel information and read the fine print!