When I pressed “Confirm Booking” on my one-way flight to Paris a few years back, I have to say I was quite nervous. Why? Because I booked a seat with the defunct low-cost budget airliner XL Airways.

If you come across a low-cost airline review, chances are it points out some pretty negative aspects, from poor entertainment systems, to surprise charges, to very long flight delays and everything in between. Yet, when you are looking at the two cheapest flights from New York to Paris, and one is $360 and one is $700, somehow you have to hope for the best, right?

Luckily, I made it to Paris safely and was satisfied with my XL Airways purchase – but only because I did my research!

Popular Cheap Airlines in Europe

Here are some of the best cheap airlines for flights within Europe:

  • Vueling – A Spanish low-cost airline with an extensive network of flights within Spain and between Spain and other European destinations. Good for cheap flights within Spain or to Barcelona.
  • Ryanair – An Irish low-cost airline that operates short-haul flights between European cities. Known for having very cheap base fares but charges additional fees for things like checked bags and seat assignments.
  • EasyJet – A British low-cost carrier with flights between major cities in Europe. Also has very low base fares but additional fees apply.
  • Volotea – A Spanish low-cost carrier with flights between midsize cities in Spain, Italy, France, Greece and other European countries. Worth checking for cheaper flights.
  • Wizz Air – A Hungarian low-cost airline that serves many destinations in Central and Eastern Europe. Tends to have very low fares even on shorter notice.
  • Eurowings – A German low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa with short-haul flights within Europe. Can have good sales on flights booked in advance.

Here are a few things to keep in mind, should you decide to fly one of the many cheap airlines in Europe like I did:

Arrive Early

I booked the 11:55pm flight from JFK Airport to Charles De Gaulle. It is recommended to arrive 3 hours early, so I made sure to arrive by 9pm.

Sure enough, there was already quite a long line of travelers waiting to check in, around 40 or so I’d say. The line moved pretty quickly, and having this extra time can be beneficial if you need to rearrange your bags due to the weight restrictions (next point!) or if you find yourself in an unforeseen predicament with your itinerary the way I did.

Keep in Mind the Baggage Allowance

Most cheap airlines in Europe allow just one personal item and sometimes a carry-on item per person, at a low weight. A small personal item means a briefcase, laptop, camera, or overcoat. For most travelers, this will not be enough. Most times, checked baggage costs extra money and must be within the weight limits.

I brought one suitcase to check in and carried on a tote bag with me. My tote bag had my laptop and DSLR camera so it was very close to 11 pounds. It was not weighed by the ticket agents, but don’t assume yours won’t be as many low-cost airlines do weigh the carry-on baggage. I guess that if you have a tote carry-on they won’t weigh it, but if you have a suitcase carry-on, they probably will.

Be Flexible With Seating

Unless you pay a fee, you cannot choose your seats ahead of time. My flight was on a Thursday, and I wanted a window seat. I actually forgot to ask the ticket agent for one when I checked in, but when I went to the agents at the boarding area of the gate, they happily moved my seat so I had a window! I would say the flight was 90% full, so if you’re flying on a weekend, you may not get as lucky as I did. In those cases, try to arrive as early as possible so you can request a seat you like at the check-in desk.

Wear a Sweater

Low-cost airliner Norwegian Air charges 6€ for a blanket during the flight (and of course keeps the cabin as cold as possible) but some cheap airlines offer free blankets to all passengers placed on their seats before they board. It depends, so wear a sweater just in case! Airline cabins are usually chilly, so pack a sweater or jacket you can put on if you get cold easily like I do. There may or may not be a pillow for an overnight flight, so you can always use the spare sweater as a pillow if needed.

Bring a USB Charger and Your Own In-Flight Entertainment

Don’t expect a career or entertainment during a flight on a cheap European airline. If you’re lucky, a tablet is attached to the seat in front of you that may have a USB slot to charge your phone throughout the flight! I rarely see any actual outlets, so laptop users may have to rely on their batteries.

It’s true that in-flight entertainment is quite limited. I would say of the ~10 films they had available, half were French films (with English subtitles) and half were American films. The Devil Wears Prada and Tomorrowland were two options, both of which I have already seen.

I ended up watching a very good psychological crime thriller, 96 Heures, about a French cop who gets kidnapped by the associates of a criminal he helped put in jail. The French comedy Supercondriaque was another option. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory were the only two television shows I would have watched due to boredom, and they had one episode each.

Eat Dinner Before Boarding

There is often no dinner on cheap flights, so eat before checking in or at the airport. Water was offered after we took off and throughout the flight. I was happy drinking only water throughout the flight, especially after flying Norwegian Air last fall, which offers no free beverages at all. In the morning, around 2 hours before landing, breakfast was served, consisting of French toast and syrup, a small cup of pineapple, strawberry yogurt, and bread with butter and orange marmalade. Anything besides water, coffee, or tea must be paid for, which is fine by me.

Be Nice to the Staff

I am reluctant to judge an airline based on my experience with their staff, but if this is something that is important to you, I can say that the staff on XL Airways is mixed. The agent who changed my seat to a window at the gate was super nice. He not only changed the seat but selected one that had an empty seat next to it.

But, on the plane, a flight attendant rudely handed me my breakfast, spilling the coffee all over the tray, and quickly moved to the next person. As always, if you are looking for pleasant staff, you should be pleasant yourself!

Are Cheap Airlines Worth it?

Due to the pricing, I think cheap European airlines are a great option for someone looking for a reliable, affordable way to travel around Europe. Go in with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed!

Culture Travel is a member of several affiliate programs. We may earn a small commission through the links on this website. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Liked this post? Subscribe for more cultural travel ideas:

Read These Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *