Updated: May 21, 2015
Flying Cheap in EuropeFor most visitors to Europe from the US, their first thought when it comes to travelling around Europe is either via rental car or via train (Eurail pass). But the fact is, Europe is smaller than the continental US, making low-cost air travel often the biggest bargain when it comes from moving around the famous cities and capitals of Europe. In the last few years, a number of low cost air carriers have emerged, giving you a lot of options when it comes to finding the cheapest flights around Europe. Many times, you can fly a few hundred miles much less expensively than if you tried to rent a car. Many of these airlines quote prices like 5 Euros (more with taxes, but still very cheap) on flights - unheard of in the US. In this guide, we provide a list of the low cost European airlines, with some tips on how to get the cheapest flights, when to fly, and where to fly.
Low-cost Airlines in EuropeTwo of the most popular lowfare airlines in Europe and the UK are RyanAir and EasyJet. RyanAir is an Irish company, as you might guess from their name. They carry more than 42 million passengers each year across 450 routes, spanning 25 countries in Europe. They plan on doubling their passenger load to over 80 million by 2012. RyanAir started in 1985 with flights from Ireland to London, Gatwick. They slowly expanded with more routes around Ireland and the UK, then moved into Brussels, Munich, Paris, and Frankfurt. From their homepage (ryanair.com) you can get a quick sampling of some of their sample sale airfares, like .01 pounds (excluding 17.80 in taxes) for a flight from Liverpool to Pisa, Italy. That's about $30 - not a bad deal on a one way ticket. Same price quoted for flights to Venice and Milan -- had to be booked during a 72 hour window with travel allowed during a 6 month window going forward, for flights on Tuesday and Thursdays. And they were even offering midweek travel in March, April, May, and June for as little as 5 pounds, including taxes! One thing to note is that many of these lowcost airlines fly in and out of smaller, secondary airports. Like a flight to Barcelona really takes you to Girona, almost 70 miles away from Barcelona. So always make sure you know exactly what airport you are flying into, not just what nearby city is highlighted as the destination, since bus transportation can add greatly to your estimated arrival time (ie, arriving some place at 8PM and trying to get to your hotel is one thing, but getting there at 11PM can be more difficult).
EasyJet is a British airline, with almost 300 routes covering 20+ countries. On their website (easyjet.com) you can book both cheap hotel and airline tickets. When flying EasyJet, you have to follow certain rules, like the check-in counter closes 40 minutes prior to the departure of each flight - show up later than that, lose your seat and no refund. Boarding passes are issued in the order that people check in, much like on Southwest Airlines. You'll also find that weekend airfares are usually substantially more than midweek flights - off 2X or more. Here is a listing of the other main low cost airlines in Europe with direct links to their websites:
- Air Berlin
- Hapag-Lloyd Express
- Sky Europe
- Wizz Air
- Norwegian Air Shuuttle