Which airline is best to use in Europe? Bearing in mind budget and value for your money.
If you dont mind not using airlines you could choose trains. Europe has a pretty good train system. Prices are mostly a fraciton what you pay for a plane ticket. Some airlines make you even pay for your carry on and a lot of other surcharges. Trais is mostly a better alternative and you also get to see more of the country/countries you are going to.
I also recommend to book the train as much as possible ahead of time, this will not only make sure you get your ticket, it will most of the time also lower your costs.
For travel within Europe, the budget carriers are usually the way to go. Ryanair, easyJet, and Vueling are good options. But it really depends where you want to go specifically.
I'm going to get a lot of flak for this, but... Ryanair has some great deals. I say I'm going to get flak for it because they have one of the worst customer service records on the planet, but they do have some great fares! Just remember to ALWAYS bring carryon. I always have because I hear they have insane baggage fees.
Turkish Airlines of course.
Well, Ryanair probably has the best reputation for low fares, but it also has the worst for just about everything else like customer service, delays, reliability, availability, etc. You kind of take your chances when you use them, but if it everything goes okay, they have some sweet deals.
Here are a few I suggest looking into. The answer is so long because it was actually a blog post I wrote a few months ago. I hope this helps.
British Airways & Lufthansa, you know those airlines that you tend not to think of as budget airlines because they fly internationally and are not typically categorized as “cheap”. Sometimes if you are lucky you can find GREAT air fares with these two airlines. Try both their sites and plug in your route to see if they fly it at a reasonable price. OR, check kayak.com. I recently booked a $90 one-way ticket from Berlin to London on British airways; it was the cheapest option for the day and time I was looking at! In my opinion, British Airways and Lufthansa have the most lax carry-on luggage restrictions. Their luggage restrictions are like those in the States (quite relaxed) which is REALLY nice when you are going on 2 hours of sleep and have zero energy to deal with security, the walk to the terminal, and snotty, nitpicky attendants.
The maximum weight for a carry on suitcase with British Airways is 50 LBS (I hope you are not hauling that much stuff on your European adventure) and you are allowed a smaller carry-on as well. SO nice. Lufthansa has a stricter weight restriction but you are allowed both a suitcase and smaller carry on as well. What I like most is that with these two, you never feel like someone is out to get you. You will learn that this can be the case with some of the other budget airlines.
Ryanair, they tend to offer the cheapest flights around Europe, sometimes even 30 or 40 euros cheaper than its competitors. It can be stupid cheap to fly with Ryanair. You are allowed one carry-on suitcase weighing up to 10 KG (equal to roughly 22 pounds) that can be no more than 55cm X 40cm X 20 cm in size. They are not as strict about the weight as they are the size of your suitcase. Make sure you are in the clear here with length and width. Seriously think about taking a ruler to your suitcase before initially jetting off anywhere (no joke). They tend to stop you if your bag looks like its bulging at the seams from trying to stuff your life in it. Good news though… Ryanair has a new policy which allows passengers to have an additional small carry-on bag like a side purse, large wallet, duffel bag, etc. Believe it or not, this is RARE on budget airlines in Europe and was an absolute no-no for Ryanair a few years back, so YAY.
Things to remember: Print your boarding pass before you get to the airport. This goes for ALL airlines but with Ryanair it’s roughly a $15 euro fee these days to print it at the airport. I know… this is quite ridiculous. Also, don’t forget to get your boarding pass stamped at the Ryanair desk before proceeding to the terminal if you are not an EU citizen. I am not sure how alive and well this rule is these days, but to be safe, I would ask the representative at the desk when arriving if they can stamp your ticket! They let you through security no problem but the agents at the gate have refused to let people board without the infamous stamp. I have seen it happen, don’t let that be you.
Conclusion: If you think you can deal with a no frills flight (all of these budget flights are no frills) and some tit for tat requirements… this airline should be your #2 choice.
Aer Lingus tends to not be as cheap as Ryanair and flies fewer flight routes but it can be a great low cost option if you are flying in or out of Ireland and or around that region of Europe. They aren’t nearly as strict as Ryanair, even though they post similar restrictions on carry-on items. They allow one suitcase and a small carry on as well which is totally doable.
I have flown Aer Lingus many times and have never been stopped by an airline attendant. You know that ONE airline attendant who has made it their sole purpose to ruin your day by picking your bag out of the crowd to be sent to the dark hole that is the bottom of the plane? That airline attendant doesn’t really exist at Aer Lingus. Thank god. Aer Lingus isn’t about that nonsense. Maybe being an Irish airline has something to do with it?
EasyJet- If you are flying with one bag and one bag only, EasyJet is definitely a good option. The price is almost always right and they have the most flight options. Most Kayak.com searches for flights between European cities will populate many convenient EasyJet direct flights- the best routes in my opinion. However, I must stress that they take the one bag per person rule VERY seriously. So, if you don’t think you can pull off the one cabin bag requirement at 56 x 45 x 25 cm (weight is less of an issue), then I advise another airline and or checking your luggage online (which defeats the point of backpacking- backpackers!) There have been times when I’ve had a small side purse which was basically a part of my outfit and the gate attendant insisted I place it inside my suitcase. They will not let you on the plane and they will charge you $32 euro to check- it on the spot for your “non-compliance.” They do not care if that small bag can easily fit under the seat in front of you.
It’s the stupidest rule out there but if they can count to two when it comes to your carry-on baggage, I advise another airline to avoid the load of poo you will receive from the agents. If you have one and only one single bag, you will have NO issues with EasyJet which is why it’s ranked in my top 5.
Vueling- This airline is similar to EasyJet but it is a Spanish-based airline so it does not fly all over Europe like EasyJet. Typically, you can score a cheap flight with Vueling if you are flying in and around Spain and or in and out of neighboring countries (they offer ridiculously cheap flights from Spain to Morocco!). They are known for losing luggage which makes no sense to me seeing how most of the time they fly direct flights no more than 2 hours away. Thankfully, this has not happened to me or any of my friends who have flown the airline. Lucky for you though, you are most likely not checking a bag so this tid-bit is irrelevant. Like EasyJet, Vueling allows one carry-on but tends to cram your luggage in the luggage bin before you board if they catch a glimpse of a suitcase that they think is too big (larger than 55 x 40 x 20 cm and heavier than 22 pounds). Annoying but whatever, they do it at random whereas with EasyJet it’s more like with everyone. Vueling is a cheap airline and if you are half the minimalist you say you are- this airline is definitely worthwhile. Take Vueling to Barcelona, you must go to Barcelonaaaa.
Last Tip: I do recommend printing all your boarding passes for all European budget airlines before arriving at the airport.
A lot of that depends on you point of departure and your destination. I've always had good experiences with Ryanair.
However, if they won't serve your needs, there are plenty of others. You can find them at,
Also, as a general rule of thumb I'll only take direct flights. That way there is less chance of luggage being lost. Also, if a flight I'm looking into is more than three hours long, I consider taking an overnight train. That way you can sleep during your journey, and awake in a new destination. It also save on a hotel for that night.
I generally fly Ryanair or Aer Lingus because Dublin is a hub for both and they both have quite extensive itinerary options. Ryanair has improved a lot in the past year in terms of customer service and reliability. Punctuality has always been good. Just watch out for the proximity of the airport to your destination, in some cases e.g. Stockholm airport (Skavsta) for Ryanair is 106km from Stockholm so you will have a long bus ride after you land! Fares are excellent - I recently got a return flight to Copenhagen from Dublin for €56