If you need to fly anywhere in Europe, you’re actually spoiled for choice. With some of the best prices for international travel, you can explore Europe with ease with some of the best budget airlines anywhere in the world.
With that in mind, here at uGOamigo, we’ve flown a fair few miles in our time. So, we’re going to rate the flight experience of the best budget airlines in Europe.
The criteria is, we need to have flown with them in the past 3 years (which means we cover the year before Covid). We’ll be rating these European budget airlines between 1 (poor) to 10 (great). And we’ll rank them on:
- Online/booking experience
- Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)
- In-flight experience
- Destinations served
We’ll also summarise the entire experience of using the airline out of 10 – so there are a potential 60 points up for grabs here.
So, lets get stuck in and find out who are the best budget airlines in Europe…
Love them or hate them, there is no arguing that Ryanair are one of the biggest and most popular airlines in the world. But are they the best budget airline in Europe?
Well, let’s put it this way. You don’t fly Ryanair for the premium experience. But what they lack in frills, they more than make up for in absurdly low prices and destinations served.
One of the big gripes for Ryanair is that they charge you for literally everything. They offer one of the lowest allowances for in-flight luggage, and they will upsell you at literally every point in the journey – from booking to the moment you land.
In all honesty, I now refuse to fly Ryanair as I find that the difference in paying a bit more for a quality airline is usually negligible. That said, I flew from London Stansted to Bordeaux in Paris for £10, round trip. Yup – you can’t even get to the airport for that from Central London. And I probably spent more in the airport on snacks than I spent on the flight.
So what are the scores for Ryanair?
|Online/booking experience||Their website is easy to use, and booking flights is simple. They do also offer free boarding passes to your device so that’s all good. However, you do need to pay for almost everything bar your seat. 7/10|
|Price||Dirt cheap. 10/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||Boarding can be a debacle, especially as everyone pushes the hand luggage to extremes. Because Ryanair do that annoying thing of charging you to sit next to your flight buddy, there is also usually the hassle of negotiating to change seats – unless you’ve shelled out extra. However they are usually on time. 5/10|
|In-flight experience||Seats are crammed together, with some of the stingiest legroom. Food is also pretty crappy and they try and upsell throughout the flight. 4/10|
|Destinations served||Clear winner here – Ryanair serve over 200 destinations (224 at last count) 10/10|
|Overall experience||Cheap and cheerful. 5/10|
When it comes to choosing the best budget airlines in Europe, we have to include Easyjet. They are one of the originators of the budget airline movement, and connect cities across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The bright orange livery is unmistakable. And despite the budget airline tag, they don’t feel quite as cheap and tacky as Ryanair.
|Online/booking experience||Clear and simple, easy to find deals and add extras as you need. Not quite as upsell-y as Ryanair – but their site feels slightly more user friendly too. 8/10|
|Price||Cheap – but not always the cheapest. 8/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||Usually a relatively smooth experience. 8/10|
|In-flight experience||Staff are usually professional and courteous. On board food and drink of decent and there isn’t so much of a hard sell. Also their inflight mag is decent too. 8/10|
|Destinations served||Just shy of 200, but they serve most of the places you’d want to fly to in Europe. 9/10|
|Overall experience||Budget, but not cheap. 7/10|
Spanish based budget airline Vueling offer a relatively premium experience, at least from my own journeys with them. The plane interior tends to feel more like a flagship carrier, and the food and drinks options are of the sort of standard you’d expect for a Spanish company. i.e; decent.
Vueling don’t quite have the coverage of Easyjet or Ryanair, in terms of destinations served. But if you’re flying to or from Spain, in particular, you’ll find some great deals with the Spanish budget airline. That said, they do also serve popular destinations across Europe and North Africa, and even some in the Middle East and Africa, so you’ll often find them offering a competitive price for your flight.
|Online/booking experience||The site is easy to use and browse. Checkout is simple and clear 8/10|
|Price||Headline prices are not always the lowest. But still some great bargains to be had. 7/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||On the few times we flew with them, we found them pretty much flawless 9/10|
|In-flight experience||Relatively premium experience for a budget airline makes Vueling a pleasant flight. 9/10|
|Destinations served||Just over 100 destinations served. However they also serve many routes, so they can be a useful option. 8/10|
|Overall experience||Budget price, premium experience 8/10|
Hungarian based budget airline Wizz Air offer some solid details for travellers looking at Eastern Europe in particular. In fact, they even offer some solid details further afield, including into Israel and the Middle East, Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsular – although you’ll need to stopover in Hungary most likely.
Cheap prices are obviously very tempting. But how do Wizz Air size up in the battle for best budget airlines in Europe?
|Online/booking experience||The site is clear and easy to use, but doesn’t have the easy view of best prices. You have to tweak searches to find best prices. Also WizzAir do have Ryanair levels of hidden fees, which can be annoying. 6/10|
|Price||Good prices to some intriguing destinations 8/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||Mostly good experience here, personally. But I have heard some negative anecdotal reports, so will dock a point 7/10|
|In-flight experience||That musical chairs thing if you didn’t pay for a seat with your partner or family. Plus staff seem a bit less happy to be in their job – but mostly fine. 6/10|
|Destinations served||Serving around 134 destinations, but with lots of variety in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Also lots of routes to various hub cities makes Wizz Air a popular option. 8/10|
|Overall experience||They do feel like a budget airline, but still a decent experience 7/10|
Cheap and cheerful UK budget airline serving popular holiday destinations, mostly from the UK. Prices aren’t always super cheap, but they do offer a good selection of routes and package holiday deals. In fact, those holiday deals are probably the main reason you’ll fly Jet2.
Saying that, they are a reasonably pleasant budget airline to fly with. So how do they score in the battle of the best airlines in Europe?
|Online/booking experience||The site feels like a British tabloid newspaper, but is pretty easy to find a deal. Also, they don’t charge to sit next to friends/family. 7/10|
|Price||Some bargains here actually… 9/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||A good experience with friendly staff. No rush for seats either 9/10|
|In-flight experience||Unremarkable is good. Food is decent though – for a budget airline! 8/10|
|Destinations served||Around 70 destinations, with most routes originating in the UK. 7/10|
|Overall experience||Good bargain airline option 8/10|
German based budget airline Eurowings offer routes across Europe, serving many popular routes and destinations. Prices are often competitive, but rarely beat the big guns like Easyjet or Ryanair on the same route.
That said, if you’re flying to or from Germany, they are often the cheapest option.
|Online/booking experience||Their site and booking process isn’t the smoothest. Not always clear if you’ll need to change in random German airport for example. 6/10|
|Price||Cheap – but not always the cheapest. 7/10|
|Airport experience (check in/boarding etc)||The airline is usually fine, but some have reported poor service at German airports. 7/10|
|In-flight experience||On board service staff and food are good. 8/10|
|Destinations served||Over 200 destinations puts Eurowings in the top tier -plus lots of routes too 9/10|
|Overall experience||A good budget airline if you find a flight 8/10|
The best budget airline in Europe?
The results are in, and the best budget airline in Europe according to us is….
The rankings are:
- Wizz Air
So there you have it. Check out flights with Vueling for your next flight in Europe and let us know what you think.