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Low Cost Airlines: Our Top Picks for Budget-Friendly Flights in 2024

When it comes to planning a holiday abroad, it’s all too easy to find the cost of your flight eating away at your budget.

To get the best value, and the most holiday, with your money, there’s a need to seek out cheap flights and save as much on your tickets as possible. While there are numerous companies offerings cheap flights in the UK, it’s also worth taking a look at operators that are based a little further afield.

By considering these airlines, as well as UK-based ones, cheap flights can be guaranteed, no matter what destination you’re heading to.

As we go through this article, we’ll be looking at:

  • Ryanair
  • EasyJet
  • Jet2
  • Wizz Air
  • Norwegian
  • Vueling
  • airBaltic
  • TUI
  • Eurowings
  • Icelandair
  • WestJet
  • Air Europa

We’re going to take a look at each of these airlines and check out just how cheap they really are. One of the watch-outs with budget airlines, when trying to cost your journey, are the extra charges that tend to creep in (Ryanair flights are well-known for this). We’ll be looking at just what these extras are so that you’re clearer on the full price that you’ll need to pay.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover Affordable Travel: Learn about the top airlines for budget-friendly flights, including Ryanair, EasyJet, and Jet2, and find out how to fly cheaply across Europe and beyond.
  • Understand Extra Costs: We cover the additional fees that come with low-cost airlines, such as luggage charges and seat selection costs, to help you calculate the total price of your journey.
  • Maximise Your Savings: Get tips on how to use fare comparison tools, join discount clubs, and watch for last-minute deals to ensure you’re getting the best price on your flights.

low cost airlines

Ryanair

Destinations: Across Europe

Cheap flights: From £1 for a one-way and £22 for a return

Ryanair flights have long been known as a provider of cheap airline tickets. This Dublin-based company is famous for cheap flights and comes with a CEO who is equally well-known. Ryanair cheap flights are based on offering customers the opportunity to fly on a no-frills basis. There are plenty of options to pay for upgrades if passengers wish to do so.

Ryanair flights are easy to take advantage of as they fly from the vast majority of airports in the UK, offering routes to a wide range of European destinations. Flying throughout Europe, you can book flights to the likes of Spain, France, and a host of cities that are spread across various European countries. Ryanair operates from most UK airports, connecting travelers to numerous European destinations, including popular summer holiday spots and lesser-known cities across the continent.

If you’re looking to book cheap flights as a family or a group, bear in mind that you may have to pay extra to be seated together. Seat allocation is random so, unless you reserve seats, you could find yourselves seated in entirely different parts of the plane.

Here’s a look at some of the additional fees that you need to be aware of:

Luggage policy

  • All passengers are able to take a 10kg bag on board. This must be small enough to sit at your feet during the flight
  • You can upgrade the luggage allowance with priority boarding which costs anywhere between £20 and £40 extra for a return
  • A 20kg bag will cost you between £30 and £50 if you include this while booking your ticket. If you add this later, the cost goes up to £80

Meals

  • A sandwich, soft drink and a snack will cost you £10

Choosing a seat

  • Booking seats so you can keep your group together costs £8 per seat for a return
  • Extra legroom will set you back £30

low cost airlines

EasyJet

Destinations: All over Europe

Cheap flights: Pay as little as £33 return

When looking for cheap flights, EasyJet is probably one of the first names that spring to mind. EasyJet cheap flights have now been on offer for over 25 years, and the company has grown to become one of the biggest providers of low-cost flights.

Just as with Ryanair flights, you can take advantage of EasyJet cheap flights with ease. That’s because they also fly from airports across the UK. You’ll find EasyJet flights also take off from any of the regional airports across the country.  While the company focuses on European flights, there is also a partnership with other airlines developing that see the chances to fly to destinations such as Singapore and New York.

Something that we really like about EasyJet is that the company makes it as easy as possible to find cheap flights. There is the option to use the cheap fare tool which helps you to find the cheapest fares that are available. Additionally, EasyJet offers a variety of flight ticket options, making it straightforward to find affordable flight tickets that cater to different needs, whether you’re looking for the lowest price with or without baggage.

Here’s a look at the fees that you may need to factor in:

Luggage policy

  • Personal items are included as part of the ticket price
  • A cabin bag will cost you between £25 and £50 for a return. This can go up to £80 for certain holiday destinations
  • Checked bag prices are between £40 and £80 and you can choose from 15kg, 23kg or 26kg

Meals

  • A sandwich, soft drink and snack will cost you £7.95

Choosing a seat

  • Pre-selecting a seat for a return flight will cost between £8 and £15
  • Extra legroom comes with a charge between £30 and £50 and includes a cabin bag

low cost airlines

Jet2

Destinations: 65+ across Europe

Cheap flights: Tickets from £39

Cheap flights and Jet2 go hand-in-hand. This Leeds-based company has grown in popularity and is known for offering great deals for holidaymakers who are seeking both snow and sun. This is a company that’s also worth exploring for some great all-inclusive options, but we’re here to focus on the cheap flights.

If you’re looking to take advantage of Jet2 flights, you can head to airports across the UK. They fly from airports such as Leeds, Birmingham and the East Midlands. There’s the opportunity to book flights across the whole of Europe but there is a focus on the southern part of the continent.

Just as when looking for EasyJet cheap flights, Jet2 flights make it easy to find the best deals that are available. This is thanks to the low-fare finder tool that’s featured on the website. If you’re looking for even more, there’s also an auction run on the site called ‘Bid for a Holiday’. Here, the lowest unique bid walks away with a week’s holiday.

As with other providers of cheap flights, there are other charges to be aware of:

Luggage policy

  • A cabin bag of up to 10kg is included in the cost of a ticket
  • If you want a checked bag upgrade, this will cost around £60 for a return

Meals

  • Sandwich, soft drink and snack comes with a £7.60 price tag

Choosing a seat

  • Reserving a regular seat for a return will cost between £30 and £40
  • If you’d like extra legroom, this costs between £40 and £60 extra

budget airlines

Wizz Air

Destinations: Across Europe + Egypt, Israel, Sri Lanka and more

Cheap flights: Tickets available from £24 return

While looking for cheap flights, Wizz Air is a name that you shouldn’t overlook. This Hungarian-based airline has enjoyed dramatic growth over the last 10 years and is positioning itself as a real competitor to the likes of Ryan flights and EasyJet cheap flights.

While Wizz Air may not yet be the household name that Ryanair is, in the UK, you really should take the time to explore the deals that this airline has on offer. You’ll find that it offers some of the cheapest flights around. These get even cheaper if you decide to join the Wizz Discount Club.  That being said, keep an eye on the extras here, as they can soon add up. Additionally, utilizing online travel agencies can be a savvy way to find discounts on Wizz Air flights, so it’s worth checking OTAs for potential savings.

In terms of where you can fly with Wizz Air, you’ll find that it’s one of the cheapest providers of flights to Eastern European countries. There has also been a move to offer flights further afield to locations such as Abu Dhabi and the Maldives.

To keep these cheap flights cheap, you need to be aware of these extra charges:

Luggage policy

  • You can carry a personal item on board as part of the price
  • A cabin bag, up to 10kg, requires a priority upgrade costing £40 to £75 for a return
  • A checked bag upgrade, up to 23kg, is available and costs between £45 to £70 for a return

Meals

  • A sandwich, soft drink and snack will set you back £9.50

Choosing a seat

  • Reserving a regular seat costs £16
  • Upgrading for extra legroom comes with a price of £30

budget airlines

Norwegian

Destinations: The Nordics and European islands

Cheap flights: Tickets from just £14

With its headquarters, unsurprisingly, in Norway, Norwegian has seen huge growth over recent years. This means that it has quickly become the 4th largest provider of cheap flights, just behind Wizz Air, Ryanair flights and EasyJet. At one time, the airline had branched out to cover the likes of North and South America, offering both domestic and international flights, but the impact of COVID-19 saw a shift back to focusing closer to home.

In the UK, you can bag cheap flights by taking off from Edinburgh, London Gatwick and Manchester. You can also find flights departing over the water in Dublin. The majority of flights now head to Scandinavian destinations, but there are also options to fly to the Canary Islands.

Something that we really like about Norwegian is the fact that the impact of extra fees on its cheap flights is minimal. Yes, the upgrade fees still exist, but we think that they’re pretty reasonable. If you want flights that cost you even less, keep an eye on sites such as Skyscanner, where you’ll find the occasional discount code.

Let’s take a look at the fees that you need to know about with Norwegian:

Luggage policy

  • A 10kg cabin bag will cost €20 for a return flight
  • If you opt for a checked bag upgrade, this will cost between €20 and €30 return
  • There is also a LowFare+ option. This includes a cabin bag and checked back for €40 per return

Meals

  • A sandwich, soft drink and a snack sets you back €12.30

Choosing a seat

  • The option to select a seat comes with charges from €28

budget airlines

Vueling

Destinations: Spain and Southern Europe

Cheap flights: From £84 return

This Spanish airline started offering cheap flights in Barcelona. It has seen steady growth over the years, and this accelerated in 2012 when it was taken over by the parent company of British Airways, IAG. This takeover was big news for Vueling and it expanded its offerings to cover Spain, Portugal Italy and France.

If you’re looking for cheap flights to Spain, Vueling has to be one of the best options that exist. You can fly from London Gatwick with non-stop routes that take you to some of the smaller northern cities that other airlines neglect. UK passengers can also head to Paris from airports in Newcastle and Glasgow.

As we’ve already considered, it’s the little extras that can see cheap flights quickly become expensive. The good news with Vueling is that the extra fees are more than reasonable, and are certainly competitive when compare to other budget airlines.

Let’s take a look at some of those fees now:

Luggage policy

  • A 10kg cabin bag costs between £14 and £32 return
  • A checked 20kg bag comes with a £50 to £70 fee, return

Meals

  • A sandwich, soft drink and snack comes in at £11

Choosing a seat

  • Pre-selecting a seat costs between £16 to £20
  • Looking for extra legroom? This costs £40 to £60

budget airlines

airBaltic

Destinations: Baltic countries in northeast Europe

Cheap flights: Tickets from €30

With a headquarters in Riga, airBaltic is known as another airliner that offers cheap flights. With the flag of Latvia emblazoned on its aircraft, this is a company that has grown in popularity, in part, thanks to its focus on a limited area.

As the name suggests, cheap flights from airBaltic have routes that focus on the Baltic countries. It has point-to-point services from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn that head to various destinations around Europe. There has also been a recent increase in what airBaltic has to offer, with flights now available from Germany and heading to destinations such as Dubai. Additionally, airBaltic has expanded its offerings to include long-haul destinations, connecting Europe with Asia, the USA, and Africa, marking a significant step in serving broader international travel needs.

A cabin bag is included in the price here, and if you want to add a checked back you’ll find that the fees are more than reasonable. It’s also worth keeping an eye on this airline as there are often sales and this can lead to even cheaper flights.

Let’s have look at some of the fees that you may need to consider with airBaltic:

Luggage policy

  • A 10kg cabin bag is included in the price
  • A checked bag upgrade comes with fees between €40 and €65 for a return

Meals

  • A full meal is extremely reasonably priced at €15

Choosing a seat

  • Fees range from €8 to €28 for a return flight

Cheap flights to long haul destinations

Finding the best flight deals is crucial when planning trips to distant destinations, especially if you’re looking for options with minimal connections and quality airlines that ensure a comfortable long-haul travel experience. So far, our focus has been on airlines that offer cheap flights across Europe. While some of these may go further afield, Europe is where the main focus lies. So, what if you want cheap flights to destinations that are that bit further? While EasyJet cheap flights and Ryanair flights will be a no-go, the good news is that there are other airlines that can help. These are what we’re going to look at next.

budget airlines

TUI

Destinations: Over 70 countries around the world

Cheap flights: Tickets from £131 return to the Caribbean

With its headquarters in Germany, TUI is the biggest travel company in the world. Under the TUI umbrella, there are 6 separate airlines, all of which have a degree of autonomy. Rather than cheap flights, you probably associate TUI with package holidays That’s because it’s known for offering top holidays in hotels across the likes of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

If you want to make the most of TUI and secure the best prices, you need to be keeping an eye on the last-minute fares. There are airlines out there that go and increase the price of their tickets in the 2 weeks run-up to the flight date. Tui, on the other hand, wants to fill its planes and so will offer tickets at significantly reduced prices.

You will find that TUI flies from the UK and across Europe. While there are many extras to be paid with some of the budget airlines, TUI has many of these included. Although there is a charge for a checked bag, overall the price of a flight here is highly competitive.

Let’s take a look at what TUI includes, and what it charges extra for:

Luggage policy

  • A cabin bag up to 5kg is included in the price
  • A checked bag will cost you between £45 and £70 for a return flight

Meals

  • A full meal is included in the price of your ticket

Choosing a seat

  • Standard seats come with a £76 charge
  • Extra legroom will cost you £140 for a return

budget airlines

Eurowings

Destinations: Over 50 countries including Cuba and Thailand

Cheap flights: Tickets available from £19.99

With an HQ in Dusseldorf, Eurowings is another airline worth checking out for cheap flights. Owned by the Lufthansa Group, Eurowings takes a more budget approach when compared to the other airlines that fall under the same company.

When it comes to destinations, you’ll find that Eurowings has numerous non-stop routes that take you to major German cities. There are also plenty of flights to choose from that will take you to the Caribbean and destinations in Southeast Asia.

While there are some extremely attractively priced tickets to far-flung locations, the watch-out here is those pesky extras. While we have seen these elsewhere, they quickly add up with Eurowings. If you want to get the best value flight from this airline, it’s worth taking the time to explore its low-fare calendar.

Let’s take a look at some of those fees that we’ve referred to:

Luggage policy

  • A cabin bag up to 8kg costs £35 for a return
  • On long-haul flights, a cabin bag is included
  • A checked bag up to 23kg will set you back between £45 and £70 for a return
  • There is a £60 – £80 return bundle available that includes seat selection, checked bag and meal

Meals

  • Included on long-haul journeys
  • Short-haul journeys have a £10 charge for a sandwich, soft drink and snack

Choosing a seat

  • This will cost between £10 and £30 for a return

low cost airlines

Icelandair

Destinations: 50+ locations including the USA

Cheap flights: Tickets from £74

Icelandair may not be the first name that springs to mind when you consider cheap flights. With its HQ in Reykjavik, Icelandair is perfectly placed to serve the country’s own tourism industry, as well as being able to offer bargain prices for flights to the US and Canada.

You’ll find that you can fly from the UK by heading to major airports as well as some of the smaller ones. This means that it’s never difficult to find somewhere that you can depart from while taking advantage of the prices that are on offer.

Something that makes this airline really stand out is the Icelandic layover and the inclusion of in-flight entertainment on trans-Atlantic flights. This is where you can extend the time that you stop in the country by several days, giving you the opportunity to explore another country, as well as your main holiday destination, while enjoying entertainment options during your flight.

While there are still extras to be paid for, these are some of the most competitive around:

Luggage policy

  • A cabin bag up to 10kg is included with the price of your ticket
  • A trans-Atlantic flight attracts a £90 charge for a checked bag

Meals

  • £11 will see you receiving a sandwich, soft drink and a snack

Choosing a seat

  • No charge

low cost airlines

WestJet

Destinations: 20+ countries including those in North America and across Europe

Cheap flights: Tickets from £30

This Canadian operator has become hugely popular in the UK. This is thanks to its non-stop flight that departs from London and arrives in Canada. There are also great routes to Canada that depart from Glasgow and Dublin.

On your hunt for cheap flights, WestJet is a company that you should monitor. That’s because you can save even more on the cost of your flights when it has one of its many sales running. As well as great sales, you’ll also be impressed by the planes of choice: Boeing 747s make WestJet stand out alongside its competitors.

The fees charged by WestJet are among some of the lowest around. It should be your budget airline of choice when considering destinations such as Canada, and beyond. While return tickets offer great value for money, you can sometimes save even more by purchasing 2 singles.

Here’s a look at the WestJet fees that you need to know about:

Luggage policy

  • A cabin bag is included in the price of your ticket
  • You can upgrade to a checked bag on trans-Atlantic flights for £70

Meals

  • If you’re flying from the UK or Europe, a full meal is included

Choosing a seat

  • Selecting a seat costs around £40
  • Opting for extra legroom will cost £80 for a return

low cost airlines

Air Europa

Destinations: 30+ countries including Uruguay and Cuba

Cheap flights: Tickets from £73

Air Europa is now the 3rd largest airline in Spain. With an HQ in Mallorca, it uses Madrid as its main hub. As well as being noteworthy for serving locations in Spain, there are also cheap flights to more distant destinations in South and Central America. There are also limited cities within the US that can be reached.

Air Europa stands out when it comes to looking for flights to Honduras, Uruguay and Paraguay. You’ll struggle to find flights elsewhere that can compete on both price and convenience. While there are more competitors with these destinations, it’s also worth checking out what cheap flights are available to Brazil, Cuba, Argentina and Colombia.

When you look at the basic flight charges here, Air Europa is hugely competitive. When it comes to bag charges, these are fairly reasonable too. Where this airline lets itself down a little is that some passengers are convinced that it purposely splits groups up as a way to encourage you to pay for seat selection.

Here’s a look at the fees and upgrades that Air Europa has:

Luggage policy

  • A 10kg cabin bag is included
  • You’ll pay £80 for a checked bag on a return flight

Meals

  • A full meal is included in the price of your ticket

Choosing a seat

  • For short-haul flights, you’ll pay £20. This doubles for a long-haul flight
  • Extra legroom is charged at £40 for short-haul and £80 for long-haul

low cost airlines

Final Thoughts

It’s worth bearing in mind that the fees we’ve mentioned can change so you’ll need to check with the airline’s websites to see what the current charges are. There are plenty of options out there to get some really great flight deals. The likes of Jet2 flights, Ryanair flights and EasyJet cheap flights are among some of the best options. Wizz Air is extremely competitive too.

To keep the costs down as much as possible, be sure that you’re fully aware of what’s included with the price of your ticket, and what’s not. Also consider which, if any, upgrades are essential. By leaving these off, you’ll enjoy flights that are even cheaper.

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