Ryanair. Air India Express. Spirit Airlines. easyJet. These are some of the low-cost airlines I’ve flown on and I can tell you that the experience can make a Greyhound bus seem like luxury travel. Although you’re paying vastly less by booking a flight with a low-cost airline, you’re also sacrificing leg room, being able to choose your seat, and sometimes even free beverage service! That being said, when you’re looking to get from Point A to Point B, taking advantage of a low-cost airline can make sense. That being said, it will take some legwork and research. Here’s how to survive a low-cost airline.
Avoid sticker shock. Low-cost airlines are notorious for charging extra for even the most basic amenities. Your cheap ticket might end up being much more expensive in the long run. Before booking your ticket, read up on the airline’s extra charges (e.g., selecting your seat) and always buy add-on amenities at the time of purchase as the price tends to go up as your departure date approaches. Of utmost importance is understanding luggage allowances as some low-cost airlines only allow you you one free personal item! Again, check this policy at booking and plan your packing accordingly.
Proofread. Carefully review all of your booking details. Some low-cost airlines will say you’re flying into Paris, for example, but actually you’re flying into an airport an hour or two away from the city center, which requires additional transportation. Similarly, carefully review the purchase screen and your ticket once it arrives in your inbox. Contact the airline immediately if there’s any errors.
Pack light. Once you know your luggage allowances, make sure that you follow them to a T. There’s going to be no wiggle room for a carry-on that’s an inch too big or a pound overweight. I recommend purchasing a luggage scale so you can be sure that the weight of your bag complies with regulation.
Check-in online. Low-cost airlines love to collect fees anyway they can, including at check-in. To avoid paying an additional fee to check-in at the airport, make sure you check-in online and print your boarding pass at home. And on your way out the door, triple check that you have the hard-copy boarding pass.
Manage expectations. By booking a low-cost airline you’re acknowledging a no-frills travel experience. Plan accordingly by packing your own snacks and a water bottle. If it’s a red-eye, know that you need to bring a pillow and/or a blanket unlike traveling on a legacy carrier. It’s definitely not glamorous, but you can make it tolerable.