The Lowdown on Low-Cost Airlines

European Low-cost airlines provide a very popular way to get around Europe for dirt cheap, and are safe and reliable, similar to Southwest Air in the US.   But as your mother always told you, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!”

How to Find Low Cost Flights in Europe

The Nice airport has the largest hub of low cost airlines in France, and by booking early you can fine discount flights within Europe for 50€.  Big travel search engines like Expedia and Opedo don’t include low-cost airlines!  Best to use Google Flights which includes them all, so you get the best fares from the majors as well as the low cost airlines, plus tips on whether a day earlier or later would make a difference.

Or check out the search engine dedicated to low-budget carriers: WhichBudget.   And don’t be scared off by the the low-cost carriers hilariously flaky names like Baboo, Ryan Air, TranSavia the fantastically misnamed EasyJet!  


What You Give Up with a Low Cost Fare

  • Cattle-car boarding with no assigned seat
  • Uncomfortable seats that don’t even recline
  • You not only pay for your luggage…
  • …but it has to be maddeningly lightweight
  • You are not allowed to carry on a briefcase and a purse, which is super annoying
  • You can’t get even a sip of water without paying
  • And you even have to pay to pay (10€ credit card fee)!

…But the toilets are still free, yippee!

But Here’s a Surprising Plus 

Now, after all those negatives, here is a GIANT plus:  With EasyJet you can change your flight up until the last minute for a relatively modest fee (around 30€), which is very handy if you want the flexibility to stay a few extra days or if you have a change in plans.  With normal airlines, for example, if you want to stay an extra day, you have to toss your ticket and buy another one at the abusively high last-minute price (Paris-Nice 360€). 

The Two Biggest Low-Cost Airline Traps to Avoid 

Check-in Luggage:  You are allowed to check one bag (that you pay for) with a limit of  20 kilos/44 lbs, and if you choose to pay extra for a second bag… don’t be fooled, it doesn’t give you any extra weight, it just means that you can put the same 20 kilos of stuff into two bags instead of one.   If you show up with an extra bag or extra weight you pay through the nose… and could easily end up doubling the cost of your cheap ticket!   To avoid such scenes I use this awesome tiny travel luggage scale which I got in the US, but you can also find them in the UK.

Rufus Roo Big Pocket Travel JacketCarry on:  Normal airlines allow you a carry-on and a personal item, so your briefcase and a purse, for instance.  Not Low Cost:  You are allowed only one carry-on, so you have to be able to cram your purse into your briefcase, or pay 50€ on the spot.  ‘Doesn’t matter if the purse and briefcase are smaller than a normal rolling suitcase: the rule is the rule.

Here are two ridiculous solutions to this ridiculous rule Tuck a large plastic garbage bag in your purse and if stopped at the gate, just whip it out and put your items in it  – voila, one carry-on! Another fun workaround is the BIG-Pocket Travel Jacket which you can load up with laptops, books, boots, whatever, and if you are wearing it, none of it counts toward you luggage or weight limit!

See Related Pages:  

Back up to Flights to Nice page

Photo credits: Babar en Avion poster is available through AllPosters.com;  EasyJet by Nathan Harig licensed under Creative Commons, Rufus Roo Big Pocket Travel Jacket from Amazon.co.uk

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