In the past decade there has been an insurgence of popularity with budget airlines...
But, with the growing popularity in these types of airlines and the cabin experience dwindling, more and more people have been leaning towards booking with wallet-friendly airlines. Since moving to Europe, I’ve booked with a variety of budget airlines to take me to and from on my adventures and today I thought I’d share an overview of my experiences with these airlines and what you as a traveler should expect.
Out of the three airlines I’m going to talk about, I think I have the most experience/knowledge with WOW Airlines because I’ve had a couple of long-haul flights with them now. When Nick and I moved from Canada to Germany, we had booked our one-way tickets with WOW Airlines. When looking to book our tickets, I had done a lot of research online trying to find the cheapest price for airfare and a surplus of luggage. WOW Airlines had the cheapest airfare by far, but their online reviews are anything but encouraging. A lot of the comments online are negative, and I think the majority of those negative comments come from uneducated or unaware travellers who didn’t take the time to read the fine print. When searching for airfare on the WOW website, the tickets they advertise first will always be their absolute cheapest option; WOW Basic. This ticket is literally only going to cover the cost of your body getting from Point A to Point B and one small item like a purse or a tiny backpack. You don’t get any complimentary in-flight entertainment, food or drinks. Because of this, I think that most people see the cheap ticket price, purchase it without understanding what their money is actually getting them and then show up to the gate with extra luggage or get on the plane and expect free snacks. That’s not going to happen. If you’re booking with WOW, you need to ALWAYS read the fine print and truly understand what you’re paying for before booking your ticket in order to avoid any unwanted surprises during your travels.
I’ve flown with WOW Airlines a handful of times going to and from Germany and travelling to Iceland, and I can say that the airline in itself is a bit of a crapshoot. The in-flight experience is what I expect with the price I pay and I’m not disappointed by it, but it’s also not the most comfortable flight. It is a small cabin, tiny seats and minimal leg room. I’m not particularly developed vertically, so I don’t find the small seats and lack of leg room to be too frustrating, but somebody the length of Nick would (and does -- sorry Nick!) find the seats uncomfortable. The only in-flight entertainment is offered through rentable iPads that are preloaded with a small selection of films. There isn’t any free food or drinks available on the flight either; this isn’t a huge deal to me anyways, but if you’re someone who is unaware or unprepared, this could be an issue. I always make sure to buy a lunch and a bring a big bottle of water after I’ve gone through security to take on the flight. The in-flight staff have always been friendly, professional and patient.
Checking luggage with WOW Airlines always makes me a little nervous because I’ve yet to have a round-trip flight where something doesn’t go wrong. When Nick and I had flown with them for our move in August, we arrived in Berlin to discover that one of his pieces of checked luggage had nearly been destroyed. The zipper to his suitcase had been broken, his suitcase was hanging open when we received it off the conveyor belt and his personal belongings were damaged. When the airline was contacted for compensation, they essentially just said that they couldn’t do anything to help him because there was no way to guarantee the onus of responsibility for damaging the luggage. When we flew from Germany to Iceland for a few days before heading back to Canada, my luggage didn’t make it off the conveyor belt where the rest of our flight’s luggage was designated to arrive at. When we realized that my luggage was missing, we spoke to the Customer Service representatives in the airport and they were quite possibly the most useless sacks of bones I had ever met. 90% of the questions I had asked to try and locate my luggage were answered with “I don’t know.”, “We don’t have a luggage tracking system.”, or some condescending bullshit that wasn’t helpful. After accepting the entirely disappointing news that my luggage was officially missing, Nick and I ended up finding my suitcase in a different part of the airport, just by happenstance! We literally just walked past a pile of luggage that for whatever reason was separate from the rest of the flight. It was a lucky break for me, but didn’t bode well regarding my opinion of their luggage handling abilities. You'd think that would be all the possible luggage misfortune that one couple could have with one airline, right? NOPE. Not at all. Unfortunately, when Nick and I flew back from Canada after the Christmas holidays, we arrived in Berlin to the news that our luggage, and nearly everyone else's luggage on the plane, had mysteriously vanished. The airline and the airport representatives genuinely had no idea where 40+ pieces of luggage had disappeared too. When we were dealing with the airport representatives, it was a disorganized, unhelpful mess; we had two different people telling us two entirely different things for locating our luggage. When I emailed WOW Airlines to ask them why the fuck it's so hard for them to keep track of all the luggage their passengers board with, they responded with a very obviously repeat response that they would give to any one of their customers in my situation.
All in all, would I recommend WOW Airlines? A soft, not entirely committed “yes”, because I can’t argue that their prices are competitive. But, book with caution. The flights themselves aren’t unenjoyable experiences, but you need to prepare a bit more by packing yourself some snacks and something to drink. I would also recommend to try and pack light so that you don’t have to check your luggage. If possible, try to give yourself that peace of mind by having all of your belongings in a backpack and/or a carry-on suitcase.
Transavia Airline has been around for about 50 years as a reputable low-cost airline in Europe and Northern Africa. They were the first airline I had booked with after we had settled down in Germany when we booked a very last-minute flight to Munich to partake in the Oktoberfest activities. As we were booking last-minute and we were flying into a popular tourist destination for an event that brings millions of people to Munich a year, I was having absolutely no luck finding any kind of affordable transportation. When I first started looking into arrangements for the trip, I was finding flights that were hundreds of dollars per person because of the circumstances. As I begun to become more and more desperate to find a mode of transportation that was within my price range, I finally came across Transavia. As always, I did a quick little Google search to see what other travellers had to say about their experience with the airline. As always, the majority of reviews were telling me to book with any other airline because of the awful experiences that they had with this airline. Unfortunately, I was getting desperate and just wanted to lock-down a flight that I wouldn’t have to sell my organs to pay for. So, I bit the bullet and booked two round-trip tickets with them.
The reviews online lead me to believe that both the on-ground and in-flight staff employed by Transavia were devil-spawn and cruel individuals. I checked-in online, so I had minimal interaction with the Transavia staff at the airport, and being as the flight itself was barely an hour, I didn’t really see them in-action up in the air. From my experience though, I don’t have any reason to believe why all of the staff employed by Transavia are rude, mean or shouldn’t be working in a customer-service based field.
The actual in-flight experience wasn’t all that bad. As to be expected with most budget-airlines, the airplane itself is a bit dated. The seats aren’t the most comfortable or spacious, but I knew that was what I was going to get when booking with Transavia, so I wasn’t surprised or disappointed by that. When we flew to Munich, we weren’t offered any complimentary in-flight entertainment. This could be because the flight to Munich was so short, but it probably is because it’s a budget airline and free stuff isn’t common. Also, as our flight was so short we weren’t worried about bringing our own food/drinks or having to purchase them in-flight. Transavia does offer both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, cold food on their short flights and hot meals on their longer flights for purchase; be aware that popular food items often sell-out. Booking with low-cost airlines in Europe, I nearly always only book the basic tickets that cover the cost of my person and one piece of carry-on luggage, so I didn’t have to worry about checking my luggage or paying an extra fee for that service.
Would I recommend Transavia? Based off my experience with one round-trip flight, yes. The cost of my flight and the correlating experience are what I expected to have. But, if you’re a little high-maintenance, check other reviews online and see if it’s the right airline for you before booking.
easyJet is a UK based, budget airline; it is their largest airline that flies to 32 destinations within Europe, Asia and Africa. I’ve had round-trip flights with easyJet flying into Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I think I have the most conflicting opinion on flying with this airline as I’ve never really had a great experience with them, but I keep rebooking with them because they have decent prices. I’ve flown with easyJet most frequently within Europe since moving here; their website is often one of the first ones I check when looking into transportation because I know that their prices are often on the cheaper side of things and often have more variety of flights/destinations, not because I think that their services are substantially better than the other airlines I’ve flown with. As always, I checked reviews online before booking with easyJet for the first time to see what other travellers were saying, unsurprisingly the majority of the reviews were throwing this airline directly under the bus. But, being as I want to save as much money on travel as possible, I decided to book with easyJet despite what the reviews said.
A few common denominators amongst all budget airlines are that they are unreliable, rude and uncomfortable. For the most part, I’ve unfortunately experienced this with an easyJet flight at one point or another. I’ve yet to have a flight leave on time, whether it’s departing or returning, any easyJet flight I’ve taken has always been delayed by at least 45 minutes for whatever reason. The on-ground staff will announce that it’s one thing and then the in-flight staff will contradict what we were originally told and say something completely different. A 45 minute delay realistically isn’t a huge deal. But, for those people who need to make a connecting flight or have somewhere to be immediately after they’ve landed, the airline being continually tardy is annoying and seemingly unprofessional as their story on the ground never matches what we’re told in the air, and vice versa. I don’t have a ton of opportunity to interact with the on-ground staff as I always check-in online and only carry hand-luggage. But, I have had multiple unpleasant experiences when getting ready to board and dealing with the person that scans the boarding passes. They’re never pleasant people? They’re literally just scanning tickets, so like put a fucking smile on. One time when we were departing from Berlin, I had a very small, cross-body purse and then my carry-on suitcase. The person scanning the boarding passes gave me shit for carrying a purse that was no bigger than the softcover version of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone; I was told that I had to put my purse in my suitcase before boarding the flight. Meanwhile, Nick’s coat had like 19 pockets and every single one of them was stuffed full of miscellaneous items. His coat pockets had more in them than my tiny little purse could have ever held. I understand why I was asked to put my purse away, but they could have handled the situation with a little less attitude and a little more manners. The least disappointing thing about booking with easyJet, are the flights themselves. Like every other budget airline, food, drinks and entertainment are all an extra fee. But, being as any flight I’ve had with them has been under two hours, I’ve never felt that this was an issue and is something that you can easily prepare for. I never expect much from a budget airline when it comes to the actual seats and space on the aircraft itself. The seats aren’t very spacious or supremely comfortable; you get what you pay for.
Would I recommend easyJet? I don’t know. It’s not like it’s the same thing that consistently goes wrong every flight I’ve had with them, there’s always something new that goes wrong. Being as there’s always something different that happens, it’s hard for me to gauge whether or not I’d want to recommend them to somebody, because I know there’s a pretty good chance that something is going to go wrong. I mean, I’ll still book with them again because they have a large selection of flights at fair prices, but I don’t expect anything great from them when I do.
After doing your research, I think the most important thing to do when booking with a budget-airline is to lower your expectations. Read the fine print. Understand what the value of your dollar is actually getting you before becoming a keyboard warrior.
While I’ve only reviewed three different budget-airlines out of the dozens available, I hope that my thoughts on them help you book your next flight!