The skies of Europe are swarming with planes. With new routes opening up on a regular basis and airlines expanding, competition is fierce, driving down air fares. The established low-cost airlines have dominated this market for years, prompting a reaction from other airlines to claw back their share of passengers. As a result of this, the airlines traditionally perceived to be the cheapest, may not actually be offering the lowest like-for-like fare. Additionally your choice as a customer might depend on other factors such as baggage, the option to choose seats and quality of customer service, not just the price tag.
Below is a brief overview of some of the low-cost carriers I’ve flown with.
The infamous low cost carrier, Ryanair’s fleet of Boeing 737’s covers an extensive network of destinations throughout Europe (albeit with many airports located 1-2 hours away from the destinations themselves). No other airline can compete with the amount of choice on offer. The website can be overwhelming and you do need to know what you are doing in order to not get ripped off by their ancillary “offers”. Usually flights are cheapest booked 2-3 months in advance and you have to be watching their site like a hawk to grab the best offers.
In my own experience I’ve had few problems with their notoriously poor service, and if you want to fly from A to B cheaply, who actually cares? My first time with them I flew to Germany for a grand total of £10 return; and while prices have increased in recent years, it’s hard to argue with that. Play by their rules and you should have no problems.
Why fly Ryanair? The extensive route network is unrivalled for travel within the EU and it is possible to get really cheap flights if you are flexible and on the ball.
In one word: Ryanair
Although Ryanair’s main competitor, Easyjet can seem like a world apart. Their service is reliable and helpful, friendly staff can really make your flight a pleasant one. The website is easy to navigate and their communication is clear and transparent. The routes they offer are efficient, taking you to the places that matter while still maintaining a wide and ever-increasing variety of relevant destinations.
After flying Easyjet on a regular basis (usually Glasgow-Berlin and Edinburgh-Munich), it has become my go-to airline. I’m really happy with the quality of service and value they have offered over the years. The best is yet to come with my upcoming trip to Russia – with my return flights costing a mere £104.
Why fly Easyjet? Hassle-free, competitively priced flights to the destinations you want to go.
In one word: Professional
Jet2 serves northern England and Scotland to a well-balanced mix of sun and city break destinations in Europe. They also offer Christmas shopping flights to New York towards the end of the year which sell very quickly. A step up from Ryanair, Jet2’s service is straightforward and they offer a full range of extras, including a wide range of package holidays. The website is a little overwhelming at times, and it can be a little difficult to find good deals last minute or if your flexibility is limited.
My own experience with Jet2 was positive. My flights to Prague in 2010 were reasonably priced, and they even made sure not to leave without me after I found myself administering first aid to a toddler who had split their head open in the departure lounge. Since then their network has been growing steadily, with continued investment in new aircraft and I thoroughly expect them to really start throwing their weight around in the next few years.
Why fly Jet2? They bring added options for travellers in the north of the UK, which loses out with competition from London. Cheap flights are available if you keep a beady eye out or are fortunate with your dates.
In one word: Growing
With Jet2 serving the northern half of the UK, Monarch likewise serves the south. They have a wide range of scheduled flights to a number of city and sun destinations throughout Europe and also a significant number of long haul destinations. The website is easy to use (although currently seems to lack a route map) and their latest offers and promotions. Monarch’s service is excellent, with the staff’s polite, friendly and efficient attitude bringing more than a touch of class to affordable air travel. Quite simply they are a cut above the competition (while still being competitively priced).
After flying Monarch twice this year already (to Munich and Gibraltar), I’ve been very happy with the quality of service I’ve received. The food I’ve had on both occasions was pleasant (I particularly liked their Afternoon Tea snack box). Returning from Gibraltar I was also pleased to have my seat upgraded to have extra legroom at no extra cost (the perks of being a solo traveller). I certainly felt like a value customer and would fly Monarch again without hesitation.
Why fly Monarch? Their excellent service, quality and value are unmatched.
In one word: Excellence
Thomson offers flights from the UK to destinations throughout Europe, the Caribbean and worldwide. (The wider TUI group also includes a number of other airlines, such as TUIfly, which offers more options for flights from various bases in Europe.) They offer flights to destinations throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean and other exotic locales, plus full holiday packages. Currently they are having a big push to upgrade their fleet, being the European launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, although delivery of the jets has been delayed due to widely publicised technical problems.
With a surprise week off before Christmas, I managed to grab flights to Morocco for £150 return, which was the cheapest fare to a destination I hadn’t been to in recent years. The service I received was very efficient and a step up from what I had gotten used to as a student. I also found they had improved the comfort of their flights since I last flew them as a teen. In short, it was a pleasant flight and I would definitely give them another go.
Why fly Thomsonfly? Going on holiday? If you want an airline that really knows what it is doing, then seriously consider Thomsonfly.
In one word: Holidays
I hope this has been helpful in making decisions about your travel plans in and around Europe. This list if by no means exhaustive – there are the likes of Wizzair, Flybe, Germanwings etc. – I just simply haven’t flown them… yet!