A Comprehensive Review of Europe’s Major Budget Airlines

Are you dreaming of exploring Europe without breaking the bank? I know I always look for ways to stretch my travel budget while still having an amazing adventure. That’s where budget airlines come in. They’ve revolutionized how we travel across Europe, offering incredible deals that make hopping from one country to another both affordable and convenient.

Europe’s Top 10 Modern Budget Hotels

In this comprehensive review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about Europe’s major budget airlines. We’ll delve into the history, key features, and overall experiences of flying with these airlines. By the end of this post, you’ll have a solid understanding of which budget airline might be the best fit for your next European escapade.

Budget airlines have truly transformed travel in Europe. They’ve made it possible for many of us to explore more destinations without spending a fortune. With their rise, travel has become more accessible and frequent, allowing us to enjoy cheap flights across Europe. So, let’s dive into the world of Europe’s budget airlines and discover how they can make your travel dreams come true.

Overview of Budget Airlines in Europe

First, what exactly are budget airlines? Budget airlines, also known as low-cost carriers, offer significantly cheaper flights compared to traditional airlines. They achieve this by cutting down on frills and offering a more basic service. You might not get a meal included or a free checked bag, but you’ll save a lot on the ticket price.

The concept of budget airlines took off in Europe in the 1990s, with Ryanair and easyJet leading the charge. Over the years, these airlines have grown massively, connecting even the smallest airports across the continent. The popularity of budget airlines continues to soar, thanks to their unbeatable fares and the rise of online booking.

Budget airlines share a few key characteristics: they often have lower base fares with additional fees for extras like seat selection, baggage, and onboard refreshments. Their routes focus on popular and secondary airports to save costs, and they operate on a point-to-point network rather than traditional hubs.

RYANAIR Budget Airline

Major Budget Airlines in Europe

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the major players in the budget airline scene in Europe.


Ryanair is probably the first name that comes to mind when thinking about budget airlines in Europe. Founded in 1984, it has grown to become one of the largest airlines in Europe. Ryanair serves over 200 destinations across 40 countries. You can fly from major hubs like London and Madrid to smaller cities and tourist spots.

When it comes to pricing, Ryanair is known for its incredibly low base fares. However, they do charge for many extras, including seat selection, checked baggage, and even printing your boarding pass at the airport. The customer experience with Ryanair can be hit or miss, with some praising their punctuality and others noting the no-frills nature of the service.


Next up is easyJet, another giant in the low-cost airlines Europe market. Established in 1995, easyJet has built a strong reputation for reliable service and extensive route networks. They fly to over 150 destinations in more than 30 countries, making it easy to find cheap flights Europe-wide.

easyJet’s pricing is straightforward, with additional fees for extras like checked baggage and onboard refreshments. They offer a good balance between cost and service quality. Many travelers appreciate easyJet’s punctuality and friendly staff, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious flyers.

easyJet Budget Airline

Wizz Air

Wizz Air, based in Hungary, is a rising star among Europe’s budget airlines. Founded in 2003, it primarily serves Central and Eastern Europe, but has expanded its network to include many Western European destinations as well. Wizz Air focuses on providing low-cost travel options to less frequently served locations.

Their pricing model is similar to other budget airlines, with low base fares and additional fees for extras. Customer reviews highlight Wizz Air’s affordable prices and expanding network, though some travelers find the extra charges can add up.

Norwegian Air Shuttle

Norwegian Air Shuttle has made a name for itself by offering both short-haul and long-haul budget flights. Established in 1993, Norwegian has expanded to cover a wide range of destinations, including transatlantic routes. This airline stands out by offering budget-friendly options for long-distance travel, a rarity among low-cost carriers.

Norwegian’s pricing is competitive, especially for long-haul flights. They do charge for extras, but the overall cost remains attractive. Passengers often praise Norwegian for its modern fleet and comfortable service, making it a favorite for longer trips.

Wizz Air Europe Airline

Vueling Airlines

Vueling Airlines, based in Spain, is another key player in Europe’s budget airline market. Founded in 2004, Vueling serves over 100 destinations, mainly focusing on European cities and popular holiday spots. It’s known for its extensive network in Spain and connections to other major European cities.

Vueling’s fares are generally low, with additional fees for services like checked baggage and seat selection. Travelers appreciate Vueling’s convenient schedules and extensive route options, though some note that service quality can vary.

Tips for Flying with Budget Airlines

Traveling with budget airlines in Europe can be a fantastic way to save money, but it does come with its quirks. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience.

Booking Tips

When booking cheap flights in Europe, timing is everything. Book your tickets well in advance to snag the best deals. Keep an eye on airline sales and subscribe to newsletters for notifications. Using flight comparison websites can help you find the lowest fares. Don’t forget to clear your browser cookies to avoid dynamic pricing that can inflate costs as you search.

Baggage Tips

Budget airlines are known for their strict baggage policies. To avoid excess baggage fees, pack light and use a carry-on that meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions. Invest in a digital luggage scale to ensure your bag is within limits. If you need to check a bag, pre-book online, as fees are higher at the airport.

Seat Selection

Seat selection can be a tricky part of flying with budget airlines. If you don’t mind where you sit, opt for random seating to save money. However, if you prefer a window or aisle seat, or want to sit with a travel companion, it’s worth paying the extra fee during booking. Some airlines allow free seat selection during online check-in, so keep an eye out for that option.

Norwegian Air

Food and Beverages

Many budget airlines offer limited food and beverage options onboard, and they aren’t usually free. I recommend bringing your own snacks and a refillable water bottle. However, be aware of security restrictions on liquids. You can fill your bottle after passing through security.

Additional Fees

One of the biggest pitfalls with budget airlines is the additional fees. These can include charges for printing boarding passes at the airport, priority boarding, and even for using a credit card to book your flight. To avoid these, always read the fine print, check in online, and print or download your boarding pass beforehand. Choose payment methods that don’t incur extra charges.

Pros and Cons of Budget Airlines

Like any travel option, budget airlines in Europe have their pros and cons.


Affordability: The most obvious advantage is cost. Budget airlines offer significantly lower fares compared to traditional carriers, allowing you to save money for other parts of your trip.

Extensive Route Networks: Many budget airlines have extensive networks, flying to both major cities and smaller, less touristy destinations. This opens up more travel possibilities.

Flexibility and Frequency: With numerous flights daily, budget airlines offer great flexibility. If you miss a flight or plans change, it’s often easy to find an alternative.


Additional Fees: The low base fare can be misleading, as budget airlines often charge for extras like baggage, seat selection, and in-flight refreshments. These can add up quickly.

Basic Services: Budget airlines cut costs by providing minimal services. Don’t expect complimentary meals or entertainment, and be prepared for a no-frills experience.

Limited Legroom and Comfort: To maximize passenger numbers, budget airlines often have tighter seating arrangements. If comfort is a priority, this can be a downside.

vueling Airlines

Case Studies and Personal Experiences

Hearing from fellow travelers can offer valuable insights. Here are some real-life experiences from those who have flown with Europe’s budget airlines.

Traveler Testimonials

One traveler shared how Ryanair’s punctuality and low fares allowed them to explore multiple cities during their European vacation. Despite the extra fees, the overall cost was much lower than traditional airlines.

Another traveler praised easyJet for its friendly staff and efficient boarding process. They found the added fee for seat selection worth it for the peace of mind.

Case Studies

On a trip from Toronto to Paris, I used Norwegian Air Shuttle for the transatlantic leg, and Wizz Air for internal European flights. Norwegian’s budget-friendly long-haul service was impressive, with modern planes and reasonable comfort. Wizz Air’s focus on Central and Eastern Europe allowed me to visit less crowded destinations like Budapest and Krakow at an affordable price.

In Conclusion

Budget airlines have revolutionized travel in Europe, making it accessible and affordable. While they come with additional fees and basic services, their extensive route networks and low fares offer incredible value.

If you’re willing to plan ahead, pack light, and manage your expectations, budget airlines can be a fantastic way to explore Europe. They provide flexibility, allowing you to visit more places without overspending.

Feel free to share your own experiences with budget airlines in the comments. If you found this review helpful, subscribe to my blog for more travel tips and reviews. For additional resources, check out my other posts on Europe’s Top 10 Modern Budget Hotels to make your trips smoother and more enjoyable. Safe travels!

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