Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  04.24.09 | 11:52 AM ET

Photo by irishflyguy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Fodor’s posted a helpful reminder for thrifty travelers this week: Be wary of European budget airlines. Of course, those low-cost carriers have generally been a huge help in reducing the expense of European travel, but, as writer Doug Stallings points out, they aren’t always as cheap as they seem.

His first two points are, for me, the most important: low-cost flights tend to leave from secondary airports, and at odd times of day.

When I lived in the U.K. I came perilously close to booking a 20 flight from Newcastle (the nearest city to my university) to Stockholm—before realizing that I would have to reach the airport before any trains started running for the morning, and would land again, a few days later, an hour or more after they’d stopped for the night. The potential damage? A 50 cab ride each way, or an additional $200. Suddenly, the midday fare on a more mainstream airline didn’t seem quite so pricey.

I still book tickets on low-cost carriers from time to time, but I go in knowing the circumstances of my trip and doing my research on the flight’s timing and departure. Do I need to make an important connection? Is it difficult and/or expensive to get to the secondary airport? Will I have a lot of baggage with me? Generally, if the answer to these questions is “Yes,” then I may end up getting better value from a more established carrier. (Via @TravelEditor)

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

2 Comments for Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain

Pam Mandel 04.24.09 | 12:26 PM ET

I booked a 10EU Ryan Air flight to Stanstead once. I then ended up paying a PACKET to get from Stanstead by train on British rail, so the budget airport? Not always a great deal if you have to shell out for additional transit.

Then, my return train was delayed. Bless you, British Rail. And even though my flight had not boarded, Ryan Air would NOT let me check in because I was too late. My flight? Delayed—they could have let me board, it would have been NO problem. But nope, I’d passed the 20 minute cut off. 50 EU to rebook on the next flight, four hours later. I walked into the terminal, there was my flight.

Oh, it’s aggravating. I did, however fly them from Salzburg to Brussels once and they didn’t hassle me one tiny bit about my extra luggage. I was stunned, I was sure I’d have to pay 10EU for my backpack.

It’s all about being willing to pay for the risk of things going wrong, no?

Knut Albert Solem 04.28.09 | 6:47 AM ET

My experience with the established airlines is that they will make a real effort to help you get to your destiantion, including booking you via partner airlines.
My family were booked on Ryanair from Oslo to Manchester earlier this month. When they cancelled the flight, they had no free seats to the UK for several days. We had to make a long and costly detour:

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