Budget Airlines are an interesting kettle fish, are they not? Fifteen years ago I guess they started up, and today they are everywhere. They are great for the shortish haul flights more than anything. They can get you from A to B really cheaply – if you book on the right day, for the right day, and don’t mind delays and paying for baggage etc.
The region of the world best serviced by budget airlines is probably Asia now, with Europe coming in a close second. South America and particularly Africa don’t give you much of a look in if you’re looking for bargain basement flights. I can’t say I’ve actually flown on seven different budget airlines, but here’s my preferences for your perusal.
I wanted to include at least one airline from the USA in this post. I don’t know a heck of a lot about Southwest Airlines but the are the biggest lowcost carrier in the States and services 94 destinations. I also don’t know much if anything about the budget airline market in the USA, but I did read that sometimes SouthWest Airlines’ fares are as low as $9. And that’s pretty gosh-darned low!
EasyJet has been around now since 1995, making it one of the first budget airlines in the world. Without EasyJet we might not seen the emergence of other budget airlines. The idea to cut things back to the bare bones to make flying more avoidable was coupled with flying from the non-regular airports (often a long way from the centre of the towns they serviced) meant they could offer cheaper fares than people dreamed possible. One pence fares for example.
Sure they have a history of delays, and if you watch the right TV programs you’ll be able to see just how frustrated passengers get with them, but they are still one of the world’s leaders in budget fares. The are based in the UK and fly all over Europe. They are so cheap, I once bought a fare with them but then decided I didn’t want to take the flight and didn’t mind because it was only around $50. They are in competition with Ryan Air, and have seen other competitors in Europe fall by the wayside.
Renown for delays, Spring Airlines is a Chinese Airlines which mostly concentrates on domestic flights but also has expanded further into Asia and even has an arm in Japan now. I took a flight in 2011 Shanghai to Xi’an. We sat on the tarmac for two hours waiting to be cleared for take off. The passengers got angry and the stewards got on their knees and asked for their forgiveness. No, seriously.
After take off the flight was fine. Again, very basic. Fare was about $60 from memory. Possibly cheaper than the overnight train. Again, expect delays, but then in China all airlines experience delays.
I booked a flight from Tashkent to London for around 200 Euros, a little less in fact. That’s a pretty insane price. They fly in and out of Riga, Latvia principally. I didn’t even realise they had become a budget airline at some point between 2007 and 2011. It was a small plane, but no issues. They will service a lot of locations in the old eastern block particularly the more northern countries and Russia, and are about the only budget airline that flies to Central Asia at all.
Here it is. Australia’s own now servicing most of Asia and in some countries – Japan, Vietnam for example, flying domestically. Not my favourite airline. I swore after my last experience (read HERE) never to fly them again but honestly, I probably would because their prices are hard to match. They have taken over a lot of Qantas routes (Qantas owns them) and are generally, in my experience, been very frustrating and disappointing to fly.
Having said that they now offer fares from Melbourne direct to Tokyo, and the more routes like this they offer combined with great prices (on sale for a bit over $200 recently) they become harder to ignore.
Singapore based Tiger Airways connects Singapore with a long list of Asian destinations. In Australia they also fly domestically and often have the absolute lowest fares to be found. They often don’t fly from the main terminal at airports, and delays are not uncommon. They were also banned for a few years for safety concerns, but have been back for a few years now with a vengeance!
I flew them Alice Springs to Melbourne once, and they were fine if basic and we had to walk halfway around Melbourne Airport to get our bags. I’ll be giving them another go in July when I head to Cairnes.
I don’t know whether they are number one, but their prices often make them irresistible. I have flown them over a dozen times and never had a delay of more than ten minutes. Based in Kuala Lumpur, they fly all over Asia, down to Australia, to Japan, and as far west as Saudi Arabia. Their staff are very energetic and attentive to the passengers’ needs, and Kuala Lumpur is a well positioned hub in Asia when coming from Australia.
They even had flights to Europe at one point, pretty much the only budget airline to fly to and from Europe to a point so far east. That route was withdrawn though as it wasn’t profitable.
I do need to add a caveat to Air Asia being on the list, they are the only airline I know of on the list to have a fatal crash in the last few years. It was by their Indonesian arm. Other than that though, their safety record is good and even the world’s top airlines have an accident or two in their history.
So there you go, seven budget airlines for you. Could you make your own round the world fare with them? Well, not quite. There’s also Icelandic Air which often have some amazing fares that might link Europe to North America. But to get from North America to Asia or Australasia, well now that’s not so easy. I’d say maybe fly an American budget carrier to Hawaii. Jetstar fly to Hawaii. You could do it.
But all in all, a ‘round-the-world’ fare would probably work out cheaper once you’ve paid for all the flights. Unless you really get the lowest of the low fares. What budget airlines have you flown and what was the experience like? Do comment, and of course, May the Journey Never End!