Top Ten Tips for Flying with a Low-Cost Airline

We all like to save cash where we can when travelling – and the less you spend on your flights, the more money in your pocket to enjoy your destination. However, a low-cost flight can suddenly end up rather expensive if you’re not properly prepared.

Hunt for Hidden Costs: Budget airlines often advertise their lowest fares giving a price “from”… By the time you add on taxes, landing charges, fuel supplements and taxes, that soon rises. Make sure you know the real cost of that ticket, including any other sneaky charges. Will you pay extra for checking luggage into the hold? For using the airport desk rather than checking-in online, or for printing a boarding pass? For extra luggage such as child car seats or buggies? And if seating is unassigned, do you really need ‘speedy’ boarding or extra legroom, especially if it’s a relatively short flight? Add even some of these costs on and you may find it cheaper to go with a traditional carrier.

Top Ten Tips for Flying with a Low-Cost Airline

Price out your Package: You may be able to put together a competitively-priced package including car hire and hotels via an airline’s website thanks to so-called “affinity deals”- but do shop around to see if you can piece together these elements of your trip separately for less. Look at deals for airport parking and, if you need to stay overnight to catch an early flight, airport hotels, such as combined deals to park and stay at Gatwick.

Work out Where and When: Many no-frills airlines fly to obscure airports some distance from a city centre, often former military or cargo bases. Work out your onward travel plan and costs – especially if you’re travelling at an awkward time (late at night, perhaps, or on a public holiday). Look at options such as local buses or trains, as well as whether there are dedicated airport coaches doing hotel drop-offs. And if you can travel midweek, do – a recent survey by Which? Travel found that Tuesday is, on average, the cheapest day to depart. Look at fares for different times of day.

Get the Details Right: Budget air fares are invariably inflexible and non-refundable, and rebookings are expensive if you get your dates wrong. Oh, and changing names (or spelling of names) on tickets can cost more than the flight itself.


Pick your Payment Method: Look for additional charges for paying by particular credit or debit cards and choose the cheapest way to pay. However, paying by credit card (over £100) gives you greater consumer protection (i.e. the possibility of a refund) if you’ve booked direct with an airline that then goes bust.

Clear your Cache: Refresh your web browser and clear your search history and cache of “cookies” (or use another computer) before finally making online payments, to make sure you get the best price advertised to entice ‘fresh’ customers. Make sure you have also un-ticked any boxes for extras which may be automatically included unless you opt out.

Know your (Baggage) Limits: Research weight and size limits for carry-on luggage – they will be rigorously enforced and hefty extra charges made if you exceed them. Do you want to be that person at the boarding gate putting on layer after layer of clothing to lighten their bag? Wearing a coat with large pockets is handy, though.


Pack a Picnic: Few low-cost carriers will offer you even a free drink of water, so take your own food and drink unless you want to pay a small fortune for a meagre snack. However, bear in mind restrictions on carrying liquids, and that you may not be able to take certain foods through Customs.

Be on Time: If you have a preferred seat, be at the departure gate sharpish to bag it. It’s a good idea to be early anyway; budget airlines are often stricter on the closing of check-in desks and gates, as they tend to operate on tighter turnaround times and with fewer ground staff.


  1. Shonda @AbundantJourney says:

    Great tips. The teaser rate always sounds great until you realize you pay $5 to print your pass, $50 bucks for each bag and your baggage is considered over weight at 40 lbs instead of the customary 50 lbs. lol. Consumers beware. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Amazing post – thanks for all the spot-on information. Budget airlines can offer some mind blowing deals if all the stars align – and other times you can find yourself broke after getting to and from the remote airfields, buying an airport lunch, paying extra for lost boarding cards and checked luggage. Always consider the final price before you decide if a flight represents good value.

  3. “Clear Your Cache”…I’ve never heard that one before…pretty interesting tip! You are definitely right though…”Budget Airlines” often turn out to be more expensive…especially if you’re packing heavy. Always a good idea to check the airlines carry-on policy before booking. Great post…keep up the good work!

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