Budget airlines have made flying long international and short domestic flights affordable for everyone. As a broke budget backpacker, I absolutely love them. I’ve taken more Ryan, Norwegian, Spirit and Air Asia flights than I can count and have saved heaps.
But the reason they’re able to offer such low fares is by cutting airport operating costs and charging extra for every little thing.
If you’re considering flying on a Budget Airline, below are a few money saving tips, and things you should definitely know before you go.
Buy Tickets In Advance
In general, tickets on budget airlines are cheaper when bought well in advance. This is especially true on Air Asia as they often offer special fares around 2-6 months in advance.
Buy Tickets In Different Countries
Air Asia prices usually vary by 10-20$ depending on what country you buy them in. To set a different country, simply choose a different currency. You will have to pay in a different currency but any credit card will automatically exchange your money for you. If you take the time to compare fares, you will save.
Make Sure You’re Going To The Right Airport
One of the ways budget airlines can keep prices so low is by flying into airports with lower operating costs. Unfortunately, these airports tend to be located much farther away from the actual city.
Ryan Air’s Frankfurt airport is nearly a 2 hour drive from Frankfurt it’s self. And Air Asia’s main hub is based out of KL Airport 2, which is located 2 hours away from down town KL depending on traffic.
Check In In Advance
This is true for all airlines, especially if you’re flying internationally. But for some reason I always run into issues with budget airlines. Either the line is insanely long, your bag is too heavy or there’s a new policy where you need to show proof of onward travel just to check in.
With most airlines you can technically check into domestic flights 15 minutes and international flights 45 minutes before departure. However, in order to accommodate unforeseen complications it’s a good idea to tack on at least two hours.
Ask For Your Seat
To increase profits, budget airlines want you to pay between 10-40$ to choose a seat. Fortunately most check-in agents will help you sit together with your friend or find the seat of your choosing if you simply ask politely.
If you’re flying internationally, especially to San Salvador where immigration can take hours, it’s best to get a seat as far front as you can. Getting a good seat is another reason to check in in advance.
Use Your Jacket To Reduce Weight
Another way budget airlines make money is by charging for check in luggage. Check in luggage costs vary between 20$ and 100$ depending on when you buy it. If you’re positive your bag is too big then it’s cheapest to buy online. Waiting until you check in or even at the gate will cost you significantly more.
Most Budget Airlines do allow a single carry-on bag but the size and weight, and enforcement of this policy varies significantly. Norwegian Air tends to be the least strict while Spirit and Air Asia are sticklers. So be sure to check their requirements before you go.
My 50 liter Samurai pack is always just a little bit over the weight and size limit for most Budget Airlines. When I was flying from Krabi to Bangkok I was 3 kilos over the limit. So I got out of line, unpacked my jacket, put it on, and stuffed the pockets with as much as I could. The check in lady laughed at me but let me through without paying the check in bag fee.
Pack A Lunch
Norwegian sells some pretty delicious hot meals on their long haul flights to Europe and Asia. They cost 44$ and can only be bought online. If you didn’t purchase one you’re stuck with buying a 5$ bag of chips from their snack menu.
There’s nothing worse than smelling your neighbors sweet airplane chicken as you pretend to stare at your movie, quietly suffering, resenting him/her for their foresight and yourself for not having more money. Definitely pack a lunch.
Also, since water costs 4$ onboard, it’s not a bad idea to fill up a bottle or two from the water fountain or even fast food soda fountain in the terminal. Bring an empty one from home so you don’t have to buy one there.
Budget airlines are incredible because their prices are almost always unbeatable. I’ve flown from New York to Oslo for 160$, New York to San Salvador for 129$, and Bangkok to Osaka for 90$.
However, if you’re not familiar with their extra fees you may end up spending more than you hoped. Be sure to read their carry on baggage allowances and all their fine print.
Finally, note that almost all tickets on budget airlines are non-refundable after 24 hours from purchase. If you want to change your ticket, you’ll have to buy a new one. Another reason why it’s not a bad idea to get some travel insurance before your trip.
If you have any tips for flying with Budget Airines, I would love to hear them.
Let Me Know What You Think!
Another tip for the traveler on a budget, get a prepaid credit card. It doesn’t even have to have a balance. Most airlines don’t run the numbers until the end of the day when they get back to their main hubs. So you can do inflight TV and food for free.
The Runaway Guide says
Hey, that’s not a bad idea. Or, you know, you could just charge a return flight to your card and cancel the flight it within 24 hours. Most budget airlines give you 24 hours to cancel a flight.
Air Asia has the best food on a budget airline that I’ve eaten … the noodles are great, but my fav is Buffalo Chicken pizza … incredible!
The Runaway Guide says
Amen to that. I miss their in flight coconuts though!