Here’s Why That Budget Flight Isn’t Always Worth The Cheap Ticket Price
The only pro on the budget flight pros and cons list is the price tag, but the cons column has a few more entries.
When browsing flight deals, tickets from Spirit Airlines, Ryanair, Wow Air, Norwegian and Icelandair tempt travelers with unbeatable low fares. Recent chaos with Ryanair canceling thousands of flights only increased the number of customers wondering whether the low prices are really worth the risk.
Sometimes that budget ticket isn’t worth the hassle that comes along with the low cost. Here’s what travelers should know when considering a super cheap flight.
You won’t find many budget airlines willing to feed you during your flight. Whether you’re in the air for one hour or half a day, know that you won’t even be thrown a little pack of pretzels or a cup of weak coffee. On Wow and Spirit, you might not even receive a free cup water – they want you to buy an entire bottle.
But, if you’re willing to pack your own in-flight snacks or suck it up and buy airport food, you’ll have smooth sailing on budget carriers.
While it’s sadly normal now to expect to pay around $25 to check a bag on mainstream commercial flights, budget airlines are nickel-and-diming champions when it comes to creating baggage policies.
Many “low-cost” tickets only give you enough space for a backpack onboard. And we’re talking middle school-size backpacks, not hefty backpacker bags. To purchase a carry-on for a flight on Spirit or Wow, it’ll cost around $35 – and that’s only if you buy carry-on space when you book your ticket online. The price goes up when you add a bag at check-in or at the gate. If you try to game the system, you could end up paying upwards of $100 to get your bags onboard.
For all the nitty-gritty details, check out our master list of the trickiest baggage fees. But hey, if you can fit all of your vacation supplies in a bag small enough to fit under an airplane seat, you’ll love not paying for the overhead costs of the overhead bins.
You need to know what the airline is required to do if your flight is canceled. Most tickets include a promise to rebook you on the earliest possible next flight to your destination, but some budget carriers only need to give you a refund. It’s all in the fine print when you buy your ticket.
If you’re only guaranteed a refund, this means you could get stranded halfway to your destination. Let’s say you have a two-part flight from Chicago to Dubrovnik through Frankfurt. If the airline cancels the flight from Frankfurt to Dubrovnik, you’ll be stuck on the ground in Frankfurt and only reimbursed for your original ticket price, which probably won’t cover half of the day-of ticket cost to reach Dubrovnik.
Keep in mind that even if the airline’s policy is to re-book your ticket, many budget companies don’t have multiple flights per day. So, if you’re not headed to a big hub airport, you could wait hours — or days — for the next available flight. And on a low-cost carrier, you definitely won’t get any help with the price of a hotel for the night.
The Bottom Line
To make a budget flight worthwhile, you should bring your own food, pack light and have flexible travel plans. Is that your style? Then book it! Save all your money for exploring your destination, you versatile adventurer.
If you’re taking a trip where you need three different pairs of heels, make sure to do the math. The price of adding a bag could equal a mainstream airline ticket with the added perks of snacks and in-flight entertainment.
For the can’t-miss-it kind of travel, skip the budget ticket. If you’re going to a wedding or another once-in-a-lifetime event, you’ll be happier with less risky but more expensive airfare. Sure, it’s possible that nothing will go wrong, but it’s not worth losing important memories to save a hundred bucks.