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Cheap European Airlines: Making the Most of Your Journey

Cheap European Airlines: Making the Most of Your Journey

Europe, a continent steeped in history and brimming with captivating destinations, has an allure that’s hard to resist. From the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris to the stunning beaches of Croatia and the ancient ruins of Rome, Europe offers an incredible array of experiences for travelers.

If you’re dreaming of exploring Europe but worried about your budget, you’re in luck. Thanks to affordable European airlines, your dream trip is more attainable than ever. And, by subscribing to Matt’s Flights email alerts, you’ll be the first to know when there is a hot deal you wouldn’t want to miss. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to make the most of your European adventure without breaking the bank. We’ll focus on finding cheap European airlines and offer tips to ensure your wallet remains happy throughout your journey. So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Europe, all while keeping your budget in check!

History of Cheap European Airlines

The history of cheap European airlines is a fascinating narrative that has fundamentally transformed the way people travel within the continent. Emerging in the late 20th century, low-cost airlines in Europe revolutionized the aviation industry by introducing a new approach to air travel.

These carriers initially arose in response to the growing demand for more affordable flight options. The key to their success was a business model that focused on cost reduction and simplicity. They pioneered the concept of “no-frills” flying, which meant offering the essentials of air travel without the added luxuries, such as in-flight meals and entertainment. This approach allowed them to significantly lower ticket prices and attract a broader range of passengers.

Low-cost airlines primarily operated on a point-to-point route system, bypassing major hubs and reducing overhead costs associated with layovers and complex connections. This strategy further contributed to their ability to offer competitive fares.

Additionally, the advent of digital technology played a crucial role in the growth of budget airlines. The rise of online booking platforms and digital marketing made it easier for passengers to find and book affordable flights, democratizing access to air travel across Europe.

The history of European budget airlines is a testament to the industry’s adaptability and its commitment to making air travel more accessible and economical for travelers.

Major Budget Airlines in Europe

When it comes to exploring Europe on a budget, several major budget airlines have emerged as the go-to choices for travelers. These top low-cost airlines have not only reshaped the way we navigate the continent but have also made it possible to reach some of the most captivating destinations without breaking the bank. 


Ryanair, founded in 1984, stands as one of the pioneering budget airlines in Europe. It began as a small Irish carrier with a single route and a modest 15-seater aircraft, operating between Waterford in Ireland and London Gatwick. However, over the decades, Ryanair has undergone remarkable expansion and transformation to become one of the largest and most influential players in European air travel.

Ryanair has made its mark by connecting travelers to an extensive network of destinations across Europe and beyond. The airline serves a multitude of cities, ranging from major urban centers to charming regional hubs. Whether you’re looking to explore iconic capitals, idyllic coastal towns, or hidden gems off the beaten path, Ryanair’s extensive route map provides an array of options to suit every traveler’s preferences.

Key Features

Ryanair’s success as a budget-friendly airline can be attributed to several key features:

  • No-Frills Approach: Ryanair’s no-frills approach to flying keeps fares low by eliminating unnecessary services and amenities. Passengers can expect a straightforward flight experience, which allows the airline to pass on the savings in the form of affordable ticket prices.
  • Point-to-Point Routes: The airline primarily operates on a point-to-point route system, connecting travelers directly to their desired destinations. This minimizes layovers and transfer costs, making it more convenient and economical for passengers.
  • Online Booking and Check-In: Ryanair was one of the early adopters of online booking and check-in systems. This streamlined approach reduces administrative overhead and allows passengers to manage their reservations easily.
  • Flexible Fare Options: Ryanair offers a range of fare options, including Basic, Standard, and Plus fares, allowing passengers to choose the level of service that best suits their needs and budget.
  • History of Innovation: Ryanair’s history is marked by a willingness to embrace innovative strategies and technologies. This includes pioneering the use of secondary airports, which often come with lower fees, and adopting cost-efficient aircraft models.

Ryanair’s journey from a small regional airline to a major budget carrier reflects the transformative impact of low-cost airlines on European travel. Its commitment to providing affordable air travel options has made it a popular choice for travelers seeking to explore Europe without breaking the bank.

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Founded in 1995, easyJet has established itself as a prominent budget airline in Europe. With its eye-catching orange livery and commitment to affordability, the airline quickly gained recognition and popularity among travelers. Over the years, easyJet has evolved and expanded its operations, becoming a key player in the European aviation industry.

easyJet boasts an extensive network of destinations, offering travelers access to a wide range of European cities and regions. From major metropolises to picturesque coastal towns, easyJet’s route map is designed to cater to diverse travel preferences. Whether you’re planning a city break, a beach vacation, or an adventure in the mountains, easyJet flights connect you to a multitude of enticing locations.

Key Features

easyJet’s success as a budget airline can be attributed to several key features:

  • Low-Cost Model: Like its peers in the budget airline industry, easyJet adheres to a low-cost model. By streamlining services and focusing on operational efficiency, the airline can offer competitive fares to its passengers.
  • Point-to-Point Connectivity: easyJet operates on a point-to-point route system, enabling direct flights between destinations. This minimizes travel time and reduces costs associated with layovers and connecting flights.
  • User-Friendly Booking: The airline’s user-friendly website and mobile app make it easy for passengers to book flights, manage reservations, and access essential information about their journeys.
  • Flexible Fare Options: easyJet provides a range of fare options, including standard fares and flexible fares with added benefits. This allows travelers to customize their experience according to their preferences and budget.
  • Innovation and Expansion: easyJet has a history of innovation, constantly seeking ways to improve efficiency and customer experience. The airline has expanded its fleet and route network, increasing its presence in both primary and secondary airports.

easyJet’s commitment to offering affordable air travel has made it a preferred choice for travelers looking to explore Europe without breaking the bank. Its distinctive branding and customer-centric approach have solidified its position as a major player in the budget airline sector, contributing to the accessibility and convenience of European travel.

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Wizz Air

Founded in 2003, Wizz Air has emerged as a significant player in the budget airline industry, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, and has become known as the cheapest airline in that area. This Hungarian-based airline has experienced substantial growth and has become a go-to option for travelers seeking affordable air travel options within Europe and beyond.

Wizz Air’s extensive route network spans a broad range of European destinations. From major European hubs to charming cities and regions, the airline offers connectivity to a diverse array of places. Whether you’re interested in exploring historic sites, relaxing on the coast, or embarking on an urban adventure, Wizz Air’s route map provides numerous possibilities.

Key Features

Wizz Air’s success as a budget airline can be attributed to several key features:

  • Cost-Efficient Operations: Wizz Air’s commitment to keeping operational costs low allows the airline to offer competitive fares to its passengers. This includes using cost-effective airports and modern, fuel-efficient aircraft.
  • Extensive Regional Focus: The airline has a strong focus on Central and Eastern Europe, making it an excellent choice for travelers looking to explore this region. This focus has helped Wizz Air establish itself as a primary carrier in these areas.
  • User-Friendly Booking Platform: Wizz Air provides an easy-to-use booking platform, enabling travelers to quickly find and book flights. The airline’s digital services simplify the reservation process and enhance the overall travel experience.
  • Choice of Services: Passengers can choose from various fare categories, allowing them to select the level of service that best suits their needs and budget. This flexibility ensures that travelers have options to enhance their journey if desired.
  • Innovation and Growth: Wizz Air has shown a commitment to innovation and expansion, consistently adding new routes and destinations to its portfolio. This strategic growth has contributed to its reputation as a leading budget airline.

Wizz Air’s dedication to providing affordable air travel options has made it a reliable choice for travelers exploring Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. With a strong regional focus and a commitment to operational efficiency, the airline continues to play a significant role in making European travel accessible and budget-friendly for a wide range of passengers.

The Business Model of Budget Airlines

European budget airlines have mastered the art of delivering affordable air travel, allowing passengers to explore Europe without straining their wallets. Their business models are finely tuned to provide cost-effective solutions, but it’s essential for travelers to understand how these airlines keep prices low and what potential pitfalls to avoid.

From the cheap European airlines listed above, you can note the bullet points and realize that they all have the same things in common: avoiding additional entertainment and Michelin star meals on board, avoiding landing on multiple or major airports, high seat density, and charging extra for anything but you and your ticket. That leads us to the next section, and that is what to avoid when trying to save that little bit extra. 

Things to Avoid

  • Baggage Fees: Baggage fees can significantly increase the overall cost of your journey. Travelers should carefully read the baggage policies of budget airlines and consider packing light or opting for cabin baggage to avoid extra charges.
  • Last-Minute Booking: Booking flights at the last minute can lead to substantially higher fares. Cheap airlines thrive on filling their flights early, so booking well in advance usually results in lower prices.
  • Add-On Services: While it’s tempting to personalize your travel experience with add-on services like priority boarding or extra legroom seats, these come at an additional cost. Travelers should weigh the benefits of these services against their budget before purchasing.
  • Overweight Baggage: Exceeding weight limits for checked or cabin baggage can result in hefty fees. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the airline’s baggage policies and pack accordingly.

Understanding the business model of budget airlines and being aware of potential cost-increasing factors is key to making the most of your affordable European journey. By taking advantage of low base fares and avoiding unnecessary expenses, travelers can enjoy the budget-friendly travel experience these airlines offer while staying within their budget.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Flying with Budget Airlines 

European budget airlines have undoubtedly transformed the way we explore Europe, offering enticing advantages for travelers seeking affordable air travel options. However, it’s crucial to weigh these advantages against potential disadvantages to make informed decisions about your journey. 


  • Cost-Effective Travel: The primary allure of budget airlines is their ability to provide cost-effective travel. With low base fares, travelers can access a wide range of European destinations without straining their budgets, making them perfect for frequent, short-haul flights.
  • More Destinations: Budget airlines often serve a broader range of airports, including secondary and regional ones. This expanded network means you can explore destinations that might not be accessible with traditional airlines.
  • Flexible Fare Options: Most European low-cost airlines offer flexible fare options, allowing passengers to choose the level of service that suits their needs and budget. This flexibility ensures that travelers can customize their experience.


  • Add-On Fees: While base fares are low, budget airlines tend to charge for various add-on services such as checked baggage, seat selection, and in-flight meals. These additional costs can significantly increase the total price of your journey.
  • No-Frills Experience: Budget airlines often provide a no-frills flying experience, which means limited amenities and services compared to full-service carriers. Passengers should be prepared for a more basic level of comfort.
  • Less Flexibility: Budget airlines may have stricter policies regarding ticket changes, cancellations, and refunds. Travelers should carefully review these policies and consider purchasing travel insurance for added protection.
  • Secondary Airports: To keep costs low, budget airlines frequently use secondary airports, which may be farther from city centers. Passengers should factor in additional transportation time and expenses when choosing these airports.
  • Less Legroom: High seat density on budget airlines can result in limited legroom. Passengers who value comfort on longer flights may find this aspect challenging.

In summary, flying with budget airlines offers significant advantages in terms of affordability, destination options, and fare flexibility. However, travelers should be cautious of add-on fees, the no-frills experience, and less flexibility when making their travel arrangements. By understanding both the pros and cons, you can make informed choices to ensure a pleasant and budget-friendly journey.

Tips for Traveling with Budget Airlines

Traveling with low-cost airlines can be a cost-effective way to explore Europe, but it requires some savvy planning to make your journey as smooth and affordable as possible. Here are some valuable tips for you if you don’t know how to find cheap flights online.

Booking Strategies

Booking your tickets well in advance is a smart strategy when traveling with budget airlines. These carriers often offer lower fares for passengers who plan ahead. Keep an eye out for seat sales, promotions, and special offers that are usually announced months before the travel dates. 

Additionally, consider traveling during off-peak periods or on weekdays when fares are typically lower. Utilize fare comparison websites and flexible date search options to find the best deals, and be flexible with your travel dates if possible.

How to Avoid or Minimize Additional Fees

Budget airlines often have à la carte pricing, where passengers pay extra for services that might be included with traditional carriers. To minimize additional fees:

  • Travel light: All the companies mentioned above allow one carry-on bag for free. However, budget carriers charge for checked baggage, so pack efficiently and opt for cabin baggage when possible. Check the airline’s baggage policies and adhere to size and weight limits to avoid extra charges.
  • Online check-in: Take advantage of online check-in services, available 24 to 48 hours before your flight. This can help you avoid check-in fees at the airport.
  • Plan meals and drinks: Most budget airlines charge for in-flight meals and beverages. Consider bringing your snacks and an empty reusable water bottle to fill after passing through security.

Packing Tips to Comply with Baggage Policies

Packing efficiently is crucial when flying with budget airlines, as they often have strict baggage policies. To comply with these policies:

  • Check baggage allowance: Review the baggage allowance of the budget airline you’re flying with. Different airlines may have varying policies regarding cabin and checked baggage. Ensure your luggage complies with these limits to avoid fees.
  • Pack strategically: Maximize your baggage allowance by packing strategically. Rolling your clothes can save space, and using packing cubes or compression bags can help you maximize storage capacity.
  • Weigh your bags: Invest in a portable luggage scale to weigh your bags before heading to the airport. This ensures you won’t exceed weight limits and incur additional charges.
  • Consider priority boarding: Some budget airlines offer priority boarding for an additional fee. If you have a tight connection or want to secure overhead bin space for your cabin baggage, this option may be worth considering.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your budget-friendly journey through Europe with a budget airline. From booking smartly to minimizing additional fees and packing efficiently, these practices will help ensure a smooth and cost-effective travel experience.

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Comparing Budget Airlines with Traditional Carriers 

When planning your European adventure, one important decision you’ll face is whether to fly with a budget airline or a traditional carrier. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the differences can help you make an informed choice.

Comfort Levels

Comfort is a crucial factor to consider when comparing low-cost airlines with traditional carriers. Traditional carriers typically offer more spacious seating, greater legroom, and a wider range of amenities on board. You can expect in-flight meals, entertainment systems, and more personalized service.

On the other hand, budget airlines often provide a no-frills flying experience. Seating is more compact, and legroom may be limited. In-flight amenities like meals, entertainment, and blankets are typically available for an additional fee. If you prioritize comfort and are willing to pay a higher fare for a more luxurious journey, traditional carriers may be the better choice.


The most significant advantage of budget airlines is their affordability. These carriers excel at offering low base fares, making it possible to travel to multiple destinations in Europe without breaking the bank. By adopting cost-effective operational models and charging for additional services, budget airlines can provide an excellent option for budget-conscious travelers.

Traditional carriers, on the other hand, tend to have higher base fares but may include certain amenities and services in the ticket price. If you’re willing to pay more for added comfort, convenience, and a more comprehensive service package, a traditional carrier might be your preference.

Classes and Services

Traditional carriers usually offer a broader range of classes, from economy to business and first class. This diversity allows passengers to choose a class that aligns with their preferences and budget. Business and first-class passengers enjoy premium services, including spacious seats, gourmet dining, and exclusive lounges.

Budget airlines typically have a simplified service structure, often offering a single class with various add-on options. Passengers can choose to customize their experience by paying extra for services like priority boarding, extra legroom seats, or in-flight meals.

International Travel

When it comes to international travel, both budget and traditional carriers serve as viable options. Budget airlines have expanded their networks to include international routes, making it possible to access European destinations and even destinations beyond Europe at competitive prices. However, for long-haul international flights, traditional carriers may offer more extensive options and superior in-flight services, making them a preferable choice for travelers seeking comfort on lengthy journeys.

Pros and Cons

In summary, budget airlines offer affordability and accessibility, making them an excellent choice for travelers on a budget or those looking to explore many European destinations efficiently. However, passengers should be prepared for a no-frills experience and potential additional fees for services.

Traditional carriers provide greater comfort, a wider range of amenities, and more comprehensive service classes. They are ideal for travelers who prioritize comfort and are willing to pay a premium for a luxurious journey.

Ultimately, the choice between budget and traditional carriers depends on your priorities and travel preferences. By carefully considering factors like price, comfort, and services, you can select the option that best aligns with your travel goals and budget.

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The Future of Budget Airlines in Europe

The future of European budget airlines holds promise as well as challenges. These airlines have been instrumental in transforming air travel in Europe by making it accessible and affordable to a wider range of travelers. Looking ahead, several key trends are likely to shape the future of budget airlines in the continent.

Technological Advancements

Cheap airlines in Europe are increasingly leveraging technology to streamline operations and reduce costs. Advanced booking systems, data analytics, and improved maintenance processes are helping them achieve greater efficiency. Automation and digital solutions are likely to play an even more significant role in enhancing the operational effectiveness of these airlines.

Network Expansion

Expanding route networks is a key strategy for budget airlines. By connecting more cities across Europe and beyond, they can attract a broader customer base and maximize the utilization of their aircraft. The expansion of routes offers travelers more options and contributes to the growth of these airlines.

Customer Experience

While cost-efficiency remains a core focus, budget airlines are recognizing the importance of enhancing the overall customer experience. Balancing affordability with passenger satisfaction is crucial for long-term success. This includes improving onboard services, customer support, and loyalty programs.

One of the most significant challenges facing budget airlines is the imperative to reduce their carbon footprint while simultaneously keeping ticket prices competitive. This dual objective presents a complex dilemma but has spurred several noteworthy strategies.

Fuel Efficiency

To reduce emissions and operating costs, budget airlines are continually seeking ways to enhance fuel efficiency. This includes investing in modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, optimizing flight routes, and adopting lightweight materials for cabin interiors.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs)

Some budget airlines are beginning to incorporate sustainable aviation fuels into their operations. SAFs are produced from renewable sources and have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with air travel.

Carbon Offsetting

Many budget airlines now offer passengers the option to purchase carbon offsets for their flights. These offsets support environmental projects and initiatives that counteract the emissions generated by air travel. While this approach doesn’t reduce emissions directly, it is a step toward addressing the industry’s environmental impact.

Fleet Upgrades and Operational Efficiency

Replacing older, less fuel-efficient aircraft with newer models that meet stringent emissions standards is another strategy to reduce environmental impact while maintaining cost-efficiency.

Improving operational efficiency in areas like ground handling, maintenance, and crew scheduling can help budget airlines reduce costs and minimize environmental impact simultaneously.

In conclusion, the future of budget airlines in Europe will be shaped by a combination of technological advancements, network expansion, and an ongoing commitment to enhancing the passenger experience. Striking a balance between cost reduction and sustainability remains a challenge, but budget airlines are actively exploring solutions such as fuel efficiency, sustainable aviation fuels, and carbon offset programs. 

These efforts not only align with environmental goals but also contribute to maintaining competitive prices for travelers. As the industry evolves, it will be intriguing to see how budget airlines navigate the path towards a more sustainable and cost-effective future in European aviation.


Budget airlines have undeniably revolutionized European air travel by making it accessible and affordable to a broader audience. Their future is marked by a focus on technological innovations, network expansion, and improved passenger experiences. However, the challenge of balancing cost-efficiency with environmental sustainability looms large.

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions through fuel efficiency, sustainable aviation fuels, and carbon offset programs are promising steps. These initiatives not only address environmental concerns but also align with the goal of keeping flight prices competitive.

As travelers continue to seek cheap flights for exploring Europe, the evolution of budget airlines will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of air travel in the continent, promising more accessible and environmentally responsible journeys.

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