These are the airlines that tend to evoke mixed feelings, swiftly transporting travelers across Europe for affordable rates with remarkable frequency – in principle, anyway. Yet, the practical experience of “low cost” airlines, as many of us have unfortunately experienced, can entail unexpected charges, perplexing luggage policies, and abundant delays.
Related article: UK airports scraps 100ml liquid rules ahead of summer deadline
Nevertheless, not every budget airline is identical. In an effort to determine the superior carrier, we’ve analyzed Wizz Air, Jet2, easyJet, and Ryanair across all crucial aspects. We’ll take you through their merits and demerits, and a definitive victor – and loser – emerges. In the end, we’ll leave you to decide.
Best Low Cost Airlines By Best Routes And Connections
Ryanair holds the title of Europe’s largest low cost airline based on passenger figures, having transported over 17 million travelers in October alone. As of summer 2023, it boasts a fleet of 565 aircraft, significantly surpassing others surveyed, and operates in over 240 airports spanning 40 countries.
Additionally, Ryanair stands out for its extensive connectivity, serving 21 airports across the UK, including less frequented locations like Newquay and Teesside, earning it the highest rating for UK coverage. Furthermore, it offers flights to unique low-cost destinations like Jordan, Montenegro, and Casablanca.
Presently operating from 18 airports in the UK, easyJet provides services to 155 airports spanning 36 countries, positioning itself as the second-largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger volume, narrowly trailing Ryanair. Boasting a substantial fleet of 336 aircraft, easyJet holds a significant presence in the aviation industry.
In March 2024, easyJet is slated to inaugurate a fresh base in Birmingham, accommodating three aircraft and introducing 16 additional routes to its repertoire, augmenting its current total of 1,024. Despite its commendable connectivity, easyJet falls behind Ryanair in this regard.
Following closely in third position is Wizz Air, which offers direct flights to 73 destinations from the UK, supplementing its network with over 100 more via connecting flights, extending its reach to cities in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The Wizz Air fleet consists of 179 aircraft, and it maintains operational hubs at London Luton and Gatwick. Extending its services to six additional UK airports—Glasgow, Birmingham, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Leeds, and Liverpool—Wizz Air achieves a respectable level of regional coverage.
Securing the fourth position for routes and connectivity is Jet2. With flights to more than 65 European destinations originating from 11 UK airports, Jet2 is poised for expansion with the impending launch of a new base at Liverpool in March. Other key hubs include Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and Stansted.
It manages a fleet of 119 planes, positioning itself as the third largest scheduled airline in the UK. Prominent locations served include Norway, Morocco, Cyprus, and Iceland.
The victor: Ryanair
The runner-up: While Wizz Air boasts a greater variety of destinations compared to Jet2, the latter edges ahead with its selection of UK airports. The competition results in a draw.
Low Cost Airlines By Best Prices For Easter In 2024
Suppose you’re planning a trip from London to Malaga during the Easter period, specifically from March 30th to April 12th, and you intend to travel with only hand luggage. Could you tell me which airline offers the most economical fares for this route?
Ryanair presents a starting price of £262.86 per adult departing from Stansted. Meanwhile, easyJet offers fares from £207.98 departing from Gatwick. Wizz Air also operates from Gatwick, with fares starting at £219.98. Lastly, Jet2’s fares, originating from Stansted, begin at £382.90. These prices, inclusive of booking fees, were retrieved directly from the airlines on December 1, 2023.
The victor is easyJet, offering a reasonable adult fare of £207.98.
Meanwhile, Jet2 falls short as the less successful contender.
Ultra Low Cost Airlines: Best For Seat Comfort
In terms of seat width, our four airlines are fairly similar. Both Wizz Air’s Airbus A320 and easyJet’s Airbus A321neo offer seats that are 18 inches wide. However, if you choose Jet2’s Boeing 737-300 or Ryanair’s Boeing 737-800, you’ll experience a slight decrease in width, as their seats measure 17 inches wide.
However, when it comes to seat pitch, there’s a notable distinction. Seat pitch refers to the distance between any point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front, serving as a significant indicator not only of legroom but also of perceived spaciousness within the cabin. According to Seat Guru, and confirmed by the airlines themselves, Wizz Air offers a seat pitch of 28 inches, easyJet 29 inches, Ryanair 30 inches, and Jet2 31 inches.
In this regard, the winner is Jet2, while the loser is Wizz Air.
Best Low Cost Airline By Punctuality
If you took a flight during the summer months, it’s likely that you experienced delays or cancellations. Various factors like airport strikes, wildfires, and air traffic issues made it challenging for airlines to operate smoothly.
Telegraph Travel received data from OAG, a group of aviation analysts, which covered over half a million flights from June 1 to September 3, involving airlines departing from 48 UK airports.
Ryanair managed 91,897 flights, with only 31.8 percent of them arriving or departing on schedule. EasyJet had 44.7 percent punctuality out of 111,551 flights, while Jet2 saw 57.7 percent of its 38,986 services running as planned.
According to OAG’s data, Wizz Air achieved on-time departures or arrivals in only 7.8 percent of its flights. However, the airline disputed this figure, claiming that “almost half” of departures and “almost 40 percent” of arrivals were on time. Wizz Air attributed most delays to external factors beyond its control, such as recent air traffic control issues, suggesting that the statistics did not accurately reflect its overall performance.
In terms of performance, Jet2 emerged as the winner, while both Ryanair and Wizz Air tied for the least punctual airlines.
Best Low Cost Airlines By Hand Baggage Allowance
We conducted a comparison of the size and weight restrictions for complimentary hand luggage with standard ticket bookings.
Jet2: Dimensions of 56 x 45 x 25cm (totaling 63,000cm3); with a maximum weight allowance of 10kg.
EasyJet: Dimensions of 45 x 36 x 20cm (totaling 32,400cm3), which must fit within our designated baggage gauge and beneath the seat in front of you. Maximum weight permitted is 15kg.
Wizz Air: Dimensions of 40 x 30 x 20cm (totaling 24,000cm3), to be positioned at the passenger’s feet underneath the seat in front. Maximum weight allowed is 10kg.
Ryanair: Dimensions of 40 x 20 x 25cm (totaling 20,000cm3); no specified weight restriction is mentioned.
In terms of the most favorable weight allowance, easyJet emerges as the winner with its 15kg limit, while Jet2 excels in size, offering a volume allowance more than three times larger than Ryanair’s.
In contrast, Ryanair is deemed the least accommodating option.
Low Cost Airlines Best For Checked-in Luggage
When you opt to bring a suitcase, there is a range of charges applied. To facilitate comparison, the following information pertains to luggage weighing 20kg or more, reserved concurrently with your flight.
For Ryanair, the cost of a 20kg bag ranges from £18.99 to £59.99, contingent upon your route and travel dates – the lowest weight allowance among the four airlines discussed. Exceeding the baggage limit incurs a fee ranging from £9 to £11 per kilo, the most economical option in this assessment.
Jet2’s luggage supplement accommodates bags up to 22kg, with varying costs; if you do not have a booking, an approximate fee is not provided online. According to mybaggage.com, the average charge is £21 per journey. Additional weight incurs a charge of £12 per kilo.
Wizz levies fees ranging from £8.25 to £87.11 for a 20kg bag during peak season, with an excess charge of £12 per kilo. On easyJet, 23kg of checked luggage costs starting from £9.49 per item; any surplus weight attracts a fee of £12 per kilo.
The victor: The fluctuating prices complicate direct comparison, but easyJet boasts the most generous baggage allowance, permitting 23kg.
The draw: Ryanair and Wizz Air both provide a 20kg allowance. However, Wizz Air’s upper limit is the most expensive. Jet2’s fee structure lacks transparency unless you are a confirmed customer.
Best Low Cost Airlines In Terms Of Fines And Fees
To modify a name on a reservation with Ryanair, it incurs a fee of £115 per flight. Altering your flights entails a charge of £45, in addition to any extra fare. Opting for airport check-in instead of using the app will result in a fee of £30, or £55 if departing from Spain. Reissuing a boarding pass carries a cost of £20.
For Jet2, changing a name on a booking costs £35, while flight modifications are £35, plus any supplementary fare. There are no fees for airport check-in or reprinting a boarding pass.
With easyJet, renaming a booking incurs a fee of £55; altering flights costs £25 if done more than 60 days before departure, or £49 if within 60 days, plus any additional fare. Airport check-in and boarding pass reprinting are free of charge.
For Wizz, adjusting a name on a booking costs £55, and flight changes range from £36.50 to £46, plus any additional fare. Pre-booking airport check-in online is £11.50 per flight; otherwise, it costs £35.50 at the airport.
It’s worth noting that in many cases, the fees mentioned above are higher if processed through a customer service agent rather than online.
The preferable option in terms of fees: Jet2
The less favorable choice: Ryanair
Best Low Cost Carriers By Priority Boarding
Jet2 stands alone among airlines in its decision not to provide expedited boarding as an available extra. Should you desire to secure early boarding privileges (or at the very least secure a place in the early boarding queue), Ryanair offers priority access starting at £6 and going up to £36, which includes an allowance for two cabin bags.
Wizz Air’s offering, priced at up to €58.80 (£50.62) when reserved in advance, encompasses priority boarding and check-in along with a carry-on wheeled bag. As for “Speedy Boarding” with easyJet, one must possess an easyJet Plus card (priced at £215 annually), select a Standard Plus or Flexi fare, or add a large cabin bag to the booking, starting from £5.99.
When comparing easyJet and Ryanair, the differences are minimal.
The disadvantaged contender in this realm is Jet2, as it does not extend this option to its passengers.
Best Rated Low Cost Airlines On Trustpilot
According to Trustpilot, Jet2 stands out as the top-rated airline, achieving an impressive overall rating of 4.5 (“Excellent”) out of a possible five. The majority of reviewers, 72 percent, have awarded it a five-star rating, while 14 percent gave it four stars, and 7 percent only one star.
One satisfied Jet2 customer remarked on the pleasant and attentive cabin crew and the friendly and informative captain. Despite a one-hour delay in takeoff, the flight managed to make up 25 minutes, earning an “Excellent” rating.
However, the story takes a different turn for other airlines. Ryanair and easyJet both have dismal overall ratings of 1.4 stars, while Wizz Air fares even worse with just 1.3 stars out of five. A staggering 89 percent of Wizz customers rated it with a single star.
Expressing dissatisfaction, one reviewer bluntly described their experience as “robbery” and questioned why people still choose to purchase tickets from such an airline, suggesting it should not be permitted to operate in society.
In conclusion, Jet2 emerges as the clear winner, while Wizz Air lags behind as the loser in customer satisfaction.
Best Rated Low Cost Airlines By Awards Received
In the latest edition of the British Travel Awards, Jet2 clinched the title of “best short-haul airline” for the second year in a row, as voted by nearly 30,000 participants. The accolade comes as readers lauded Jet2 for its transparent communication with travelers and hassle-free refund policies.
On the flip side, easyJet secured the 10th spot, while Ryanair and Wizz Air landed at 22nd and 23rd positions, respectively, with Wizz Air finishing at the bottom of the list. Telegraph readers particularly criticized Wizz Air for its sluggish refund process, sudden flight cancellations, and subpar customer service.
The Champion: Jet2
The Underperformer: Wizz Air
Which Is The Best Low Cost Airline?
Kudos to Jet2, consistently earning high marks for customer satisfaction, baggage allowance, and comfort, all while maintaining the lowest fees and penalties among its competitors. However, our analysis reveals that this quality comes at a cost; in our fare comparison, Jet2 proved to be the most expensive, with prices £174.92 higher than the competition.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Wizz Air finds itself at the bottom of the heap. With three distinct “loser” designations and three shared ones, coupled with a lack of any victories, Wizz Air faces criticism for significant delays, dismal reviews, purportedly subpar service, and stingy baggage allowances.
In response to these findings, a spokesperson for Wizz Air highlighted substantial investments exceeding £90 million aimed at enhancing operations and customer service. They assert that customer data reflects higher brand consideration for Wizz Air compared to its primary UK rival. Additionally, they claim superiority in aspects such as customer service, refunds, booking convenience, and provision of information.
The spokesperson acknowledges external factors like weather and air traffic control but emphasizes a remarkable 99.16% flight completion rate during the summer, a notable improvement from previous years and consistent with industry benchmarks. They also tout a swift processing rate, with over 90% of refunds and claims handled within five days.
Regarding costs, Wizz Air underscores transparency in ticket pricing and optional extras on their website and app. As an ultra-low-cost carrier, they defend their model of unbundled products, enabling customers to tailor their purchases to their needs, thereby offering the most economical and enticing travel opportunities.
The airline stresses that optional add-ons are not obligatory for travel and underscores the importance of providing customers with choices and flexibility to select the services that suit them best.