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How budget airlines can be so cheap

You hear a lot about how flying is so expensive and how even the most well-known airlines are making losses. They try to come up with new ideas like creating their own budget airline, like Lufthansa’s Eurowings, or United‘s TED (which no longer exists), but they don’t seem to succeed in making profit. While many major airlines are struggling, it seems budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, or Wizzair are thriving. But how do budget airlines manage to survive then?

European budget airlines are the best examples of how it’s possible to make profit AND offer incredibly cheap flights. Win-win for everyone, right? Fares as low as 8 or 15 euro’s are very commonly found. The reason why those airlines can offer flights that cheap is they’re cutting down on costs.

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The aircraft and its personnel

For a start, they’ve placed bulk orders for new aircrafts, with cheaper seats that don’t recline and less expensive materials. Although less luxurious, passengers get to fly in the newer types of aircrafts compared to other airlines, which I consider an advantage for the passenger! New airplanes are a ‘yuuuge’ investment, but the fuel efficiency is a win in the long run. Flight attendants are young people that are starting out, and they’re most often doing side tasks like checking tickets at the gates. So that means less personnel and lower wages. Even more, budget airlines have only one type of aircraft, which cuts down the cost of training the pilots and staff.

The airports

Low-cost airlines often fly to smaller, less busy airports located a bit further from your destination than the main airport normal airlines fly to. That is cheaper than bargaining for a time slot in a busy airport, with a lot of competiting airlines. Good examples of smaller airports are Brussels ‘South’, which isn’t really south Brussels but in the city of Charleroi, and Warsaw’s Modlin airport. For the passenger, it often means they have to take a 30+ minute bus or train ride to the city centre, instead of a short 10 minute cab ride as you would have otherwise. But most often, the combined cost of the plane and bus ride is still lower than flying with a regular airline. Even if low-cost airlines do fly to main airports like Brussels, they have their separate – cheaper – gate area where passengers have to walk on the tarmac towards their aircraft.

The extras

Things that are complimentary with some other airlines, like a selection of beverages, are available for purchase in-flight with e.g. Ryanair or WizzAir. Checking in luggage can cost you more than your actual flight ticket, although Ryanair has announced it’ll become cheaper. Even more, on their website you can not only buy plane tickets, but you can also rent a car or book a hotel. Even though that booking happens using car rental websites like Hertz or hotel booking websites like booking, budget airlines receive a fee if redirected from their website.

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I hope this helped to explain a bit how budget airlines work. Perhaps there are aspects I haven’t thought about, then I’d love to hear it from you in the comments below!