Europe has a handful of budget airlines that can allow travelers to visit a variety of different countries on the continent for cheap prices. However, these airlines can also come with some downsides. Here are my experiences flying with some European budget airlines:
I have flown Ryan Air quite a few times. Ryan Air is notorious for charging for every little thing. For example, they charge to check a bag as well as to carry on a bag, and charge for any seat selection. They do not offer any complimentary food or drink. They tend to use minor airports or minor terminals in major airports. For example, in the Barcelona area they fly out of terminal 2 in Barcelona (with EasyJet) or out of a small airport in Reus, a smaller city outside of Barcelona. Because they use many minor airports or minor terminals, I usually have go outside and take an airport bus to the plane on the runway and take stairs to the board the plane (as opposed to using a jet bridge to board the plane without going outside). While waiting for the bus the priority groups and non-priority boarding groups tend to get mixed up. For the most part my flights with Ryan Air have been on time. Because I usually want to carry a bag with me and sit next to the other people in my group, my ticket price with Ryan Air tends to be €10 or more higher than the listed price. However, this can still be much cheaper than a flight with another airline. If you know what you are getting into and are prepared, Ryan Air can be a good option.
EasyJet is another airline that will charge for virtually everything. However, unlike Ryan Air they do not charge to bring a regular size carry on, but they do charge if you also bring a smaller personal item. They are also the only airline that I have witnessed using the sizing box for bags to make sure they are within the size limits (many times people are ok taking bags that are slightly larger on other airlines). Like Ryan Air they charge for things like selecting seats and they do not offer complimentary food or drink. Most of the flights I have taken with EasyJet have been on time.
Vueling and Eurowings-
Vueling and Eurowings are budget airlines based in Catalonia and Germany, respectively, but they do not feel as stingy as Ryan Air or EasyJet. They allow a carry on bag as well as a personal item, but they do not offer complimentary food or drink. They do charge for selecting seats, but there is a chance you will be placed together with someone if the tickets are on the same reservation. Most of the flights I have taken with these airlines have been relatively on time.
Unlike the airlines mentioned previously, TAP serves complimentary food and drink on their flights. They also allow a carry on bag and a personal item. However, many on the flights I have taken with them have been delayed. I have even had a flight cancelled with them, and when they placed us flights the following day the people in my traveling group were split up into different flights. Fortunately there are laws in Europe that require airlines to provide compensation, although getting compensation was like pulling teeth. That being said, I finally did get my compensation, and the actually flight experience with TAP has been good.
When using any of these airlines I would suggest taking precautions like checking the airline website for the most up to date information related to different charges. Also, be careful to add any charges you will incur before deciding what the real price will be. And I would suggest taking precautions such as using electronic tickets whenever possible. Using an electronic ticket will also significantly decrease the chance a carry on bag will get weighed if it is close to (or over) the weight limit. All that being said, there are some great deals to be had on European budget airlines.
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