The budget carrier concept started in the UK around fifteen years ago and it has changed the way people holiday in Europe. With weekend breaks to Dublin and Barcelona costing from just a £1 many flew on impulse.
Budget carriers such as Ryanair became popular and they grew rapidly soon becoming the largest airlines in Europe, carrying double the passengers that British Airways did.
With such fierce competition, the traditional carriers fought back by cutting back on luxuries such as assigned seats, meals and free drinks in return for cheaper fares.
In July last year it looked for a while that the days of finding cheap flights were over as airlines looked to raise their fares by up to 10% due to rising fuel costs. This of course led to fears that many carriers would go out of business, whilst also causing concern to holidaymakers who had become comfortable using budget airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair.
The media speculated that low cost airlines would increase fares through additional charges such as priority boarding and checking baggage, or by cancelling unprofitable routes. For a while airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair who were offering the cheapest flights appeared to be cutting capacity.
Reports of stranded passengers following the collapse of a number of airlines soon began to hit the news. Among others, Denmark based Sterling Airlines and the long haul budget, Zoom were forced into bankruptcy.
However the big budgets have survived as they have proven to be more affordable than other operators, whilst larger carriers such as British Airways have begun to introduce their own low cost brands. Naturally the question, “which airline offers the cheapest flights?” is to some degree dependent on the route, although EasyJet, BMI Baby, Flybe, and Ryanair are just some of the more important names to keep in mind.
It is fair to say that the Internet and cheap flights have changed to way we travel. In the past we were inclined to shop around for the cheapest package from a tour operator, but with so many flight and hotel comparison websites it is now a better option to plan your own holiday tailored to individual specifications.
Although the UK airline brands dominate they don’t have it all their own way when it comes to offering the cheapest flights, as Air Berlin and Germanwings fly from Stanstead to the main cities in Germany, Norwegian and Iceland Express fly from Stanstead to Norway and Iceland and Sky Europe and Wizzair compete for Gdansk, Warsaw and Budapest.
If you are planning a ski holiday, the one low cost airline who operate out of Heathrow and worth considering is Swiss, who offer London to Geneva for less than eighty pounds and Manchester to Basel for just under seventy pounds. These prices include free carriage of snowboards and ski equipment.
To find the cheapest flights, use the Internet and be prepared to be flexible with times and dates. Consider midweek flying and book early. It’s always a good idea to check the cost of travelling to and from the airport, as flying from one close to home can save money.
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