These days, it’s crucial to make your travel budget stretch as far as possible. Finding a cheap flight can mean the difference between being able to take a vacation and staying home. To help you search for budget-friendly flights, we have set out to determine the best low-cost airlines Europe offers. Our research and findings included:
With a range of revenue average per seat kilometre, commonly referred to as RASK, selecting one of the cheap European airlines on our list can really make a difference in your bottom line.
At AirAdvisor, we compiled an in-depth study on the Overall Top Airlines in Europe, and an important component of that research was affordability, so here are the top 4 cheapest airlines in Europe:
According to our research, European airlines don’t come any cheaper than Wizz Air, and by a wide margin. With our lowest RASK of €0.0298, this budget carrier definitely has some affordable fares.
Other than constantly checking for discounted European flights, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get the best deal:
When you search for your next flight anywhere in Europe, start with Wizz Air and branch out from there.
The Spanish carrier Iberia is our second-place finisher in the list of the cheapest EU-based airlines. We have a significant jump in the RASK here at €0.0582. Think about how long your flight is, and you’ll quickly realize that a nearly 3 euro cents increase per kilometre can add up.
Even though an Iberia flight might set you back a little more, this airline may represent better value than Wizz Air if you prioritize price and other factors. For instance, Iberia ranked highly for reliability, airport lounges, and professional reviews in our study, securing the top spot overall. Wizz Air did not.
The third spot on the list is actually a tie with a RASK of €0.0689. Norwegian Air Shuttle is one of the smallest airlines we reviewed, so although they might be cheap, it might be harder to find a convenient route.
On Norwegian’s website, you can select the option to see all the cheapest fares broken down by month and cost from your departure point. This is especially useful when you don’t have a specific idea in mind. Additionally, flights to the Nordic countries tend to be the cheapest.
Another way to make Norwegian affordable if you travel frequently for business is to set up a corporate agreement to secure fixed discounts. Norwegian also offers 3 categories of fares, so you don’t need to pay for anything you don’t need, like cabin bags or advanced seat selection.
Vueling advertises itself as a low-cost carrier, and we have to agree. This is the second Spain-based airline in the top 4. The country’s popularity and healthy airline competition clearly mean they’re doing something right.
Finding the best deal for your desired route on the Vueling website is easy. Flight prices are displayed in a calendar format if you don’t select a specific date. Then, you can scroll through the months to get the cheapest option. One of the more popular routes goes from Barcelona El Prat Airport to Amsterdam, and using the price calendar tool allows you to see instantly that this flight is the least expensive from January to March so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
As we leave the top 4, we’ll see that the revenue average per seat kilometre doesn’t vary as much and contains some of the “heavy hitters” in the European airline market.
The quintessential no-frills, low-cost European airline, Ryanair, is generally a means to an end for travellers. Featuring some of the cheapest advertised fares around, why isn’t Ryanair number 1? Ryanair’s business model draws you in with a low initial price and then charges for everything. This includes basic drinks, food, seat selection, and bags. Plus, the goal is to upsell you onboard, like lottery tickets and duty-free items, all amounting to a higher passenger revenue per kilometre. Their number is €0.071.
That said, Ryanair can really keep your costs down if you’re not one for the extras. Pack light, bring snacks, and don’t let them talk you into anything.
We’re not trying to badmouth this airline. We just want to set realistic expectations. And one thing that Ryanair does well is reliability. They scored the best overall for this category in our study. So, you could do much worse than a basic cheap fare and arriving on time.
Steadily in the middle of the pack of wallet-friendly EU airlines is SAS. The RASK for this Stockholm-based carrier is €0.073. As Scandinavia’s flag carrier airline and knowing that Demark, Norway, and Sweden are some of the more expensive countries in Europe, you may be surprised to see SAS so high on the list.
Like Vueling, SAS has an easy-to-use low-fare calendar to ensure you get the cheapest price. You can even search from, say, London to all of Scandinavia and see a display of the fare cost to each destination. You can do the same with Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
We weren’t kidding when we said some big-name European airlines would start appearing. Air France is certainly well-known, and the fares aren’t as pricey as you might expect. Their RASK comes in at €0.075, which is not that far off Ryanair, which everyone associates with deep discounts.
The catch with Air France is that their website has no real mechanism to search for deals. You need to know your destination and dates, give or take, to display the prices and flight options. That makes it harder to find a deal, but not impossible.
Another strike against this airline is its reliability. Out of the 15 airlines we reviewed, Air France had the worst reliability record, meaning more delays and cancellations for customers. If you’ve experienced a flight disruption with Air France or any other European airline, you can count on us to help you claim compensation for both delayed flights and cancelled flights.
Finnair is a smaller flag carrier airline based out of Helsinki. Given Finnair’s size, it’s quite reasonable that they can’t compete on price with big wigs like Ryanair, Wizz, and Iberia. With Finnair, rather than doing a basic conventional search, head to their Special Offers page to see the deals from every city in your home country. These destinations will be predominantly in Finland and Scandinavia because that’s where the discounts are, but if this fits your trip, it’s definitely worth a check. You may find something cheaper than their average revenue per seat kilometre of €0.0753. Luckily, the destinations available aren’t too limited - Finnair offers over 80 of them.
Now, we move to Portugal with TAP and their RASK of €0.0758, landing the airline second from the bottom in our top 10. TAP Air Portugal isn’t billed as (or in practice) one of the cheap airlines in Europe, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a deal. TAP’s website has useful sections for discount-centric travellers, namely the Best Offers and Promotions ones. These are great for travel inspiration that will fit your budget and is always based on your departure country or city.
As the second-best overall airline in Europe, according to our extensive research, Aegean Airlines is a good choice for travellers who value comfort, family-friendly travel, and high review scores from other passengers. Although there are a lot of positives with this Greek airline, RASK, and therefore affordability, was not one of them. Theirs was €0.083.
Aegean does offer a well-laid-out fare calendar, so it’s not like you’ll never score a deal on one of their flights. The only caveat is that you can’t select all destinations to get an overview, so you’ll need to know where you want to go.
2022 Passenger Revenue (in millions)
2022 Available Seat Kilometres (in millions)
RASK in 2022
Norwegian Air Shuttle
TAP Air Portugal
This ranking of the cheapest European airlines should help guide your next flight search. Our research found that overall, Wizz Air, Iberia, Vueling, and Norwegian were the airlines with the lowest passenger revenue per seat kilometre in 2022, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look around. Airlines have periodic sales, last-minute deals, and special discounts for events like Black Friday, Christmas, and spring break. So, use this list as one of the tools in your arsenal to ensure you stick to your travel budget.
Grabbing a deal from any of these airlines is a satisfying thing, and hopefully, it will stop you from constantly wondering why flights are so expensive right now. No one wants to give up travel, so go and seek out a bargain!
Wizz Air is the overall cheapest EU-based airline, and Iberia is the second most affordable. The gap between the revenue average per seat kilometre (RASK) is significant at over €0.028, so you should expect to pay more (on average) for any European airline flight than one with Wizz Air.
Wizz Air and Ryanair are the most cost-effective of the carriers in our study that claim to be budget or low-cost European airlines. But other affordable airlines are available, too, like Iberia and Norwegian; they just don’t consider themselves budget airlines.
Lufthansa earns the title of Europe’s most expensive airline with an average revenue per seat kilometre of €0.0882. This is quite the contrast to the cheapest airline in our data, Wizz Air, which averaged €0.0298.
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