What You Need to Know Before You Book
For your budget airline experience to go as smoothly as possible, you need to manage your expectations going in. If you know what’s in store, you’re less likely to be surprised and disappointed.
They charge you for everything: Everything—including carry-ons, checked bags, seat selection, extra leg room, food or snacks (which isn’t anywhere close to decent), and even water. That’s right, no complimentary drinks. Some budget airlines, like RyanAir, even require you to print your own ticket to cut down on costs. It’s a wonder they don’t charge you for air. When it’s all said and done you could end up paying close to the same amount of a typical airline flight if you’re not careful.
Give your trip some wiggle room: Airlines like WOW Air claim to be pretty punctual, but if a delay or flight cancellation occurs, it will probably be a big one. And budget airline customer service is almost certainly going to leave something to be desired. One WOW Air flight cancellation forced some passengers to lose out on a day and a half of their trips, with no offers of food or a hotel. Budget airlines are probably not your best bet if you need to get somewhere as soon as possible or have a tight window of vacation time.
Expect to be disconnected: Most budget flights do not have in-flight Wi-Fi, or even any form of in-flight entertainment. They may have some power plugs, depending on the plane, but be prepared to be out of touch for the entire flight. Not ideal if you need to work.
No pets allowed: To cut down on costs, most budget airlines don’t even bother with providing pet-friendly services. If you want to travel with your pet, look elsewhere (therapy pets and guide dogs may be an exception if you can provide the proper paperwork).
So yeah, there’s a reason that round trip ticket to Europe is so freakin’ cheap—you’re getting what you pay for. These are bare-bones flights, people. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying out! You just need to come prepared.
Tips for Surviving the Flight
Okay, so you’re going to give that budget airline a go? Great, follow these guidelines and things should go swimmingly for the most part:
Watch for short layover times when you book: Sometimes budget airlines fly out of smaller airports or far out terminals that require a shuttle ride in between connecting flights. Giving yourself plenty of time is the name of the game with these types of flights.
Have a backup plan in place: Expect delays, cancellations, and other time sensitive things to go wrong, and have a plan. Look up places you can stay, things to do, and maybe even pack an extra snack. Sleeping overnight in an airport on an empty stomach is no fun.
Do everything online before you get to the airport: Book your flight, check in for your flight, modify your seating arrangement, and print your tickets online at home before you leave for the airport! Otherwise you may encounter extra fees or long lines backed up at the few available check-in desks.