No one wants to overpay for flights.
But with some airlines, you don’t have to hoard miles or wait for a flash sale to score cheap tickets.
Low-cost carriers can save wallet-conscious travelers hundreds of dollars on airfare – if only you know where to find them.
Cheap airlines are more prevalent than ever, even offering steeply discounted rates on international flights. And there are new carriers cropping up every day, offering competitive prices on popular routes and stripped-down tickets for no-frills travelers who don’t need much to stay comfortable on a flight.
Budget airlines utilize a number of strategies to cut costs
and keep ticket prices low (sometimes, flights may be 50% cheaper than full-service competitors). Some, like Norwegian Air and WOW, operate newer, more fuel efficient aircraft. Others, including JetBlue and RyanAir, get discounts for placing bulk orders for aircraft. When airlines save on jet fuel or airplanes, they’re able to pass on those savings to travelers.
Strategies for selling inexpensive tickets are sometimes more obvious. Spirit Airlines, for example, has slashed already meager baggage allowances
, and charges for seat selection and in-flight refreshments, including water.
Bargain airfare can be found in virtually every country – these are the airlines every traveler needs to know about for cheap airline tickets.
BrunoSchalch / Flickr
In addition to being one of the country’s most affordable airlines, Long Island-based JetBlue is also the fifth largest airline in the United States. From hubs in New York City, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and San Juan, travelers can reach more than 90 destinations across the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Travelers may not be able to take JetBlue flights across the pond (yet), but the airline is beloved for serving complimentary snacks – like those iconic blue chips – while still offering wallet-friendly prices. The airline is also well known for regular flash sales, with fares as low as $39 one-way
Best known for its valuable loyalty program
(you can even get a year-long Companion Pass for your favorite travel buddy), Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas. More than 90 destinations are reachable with this budget-friendly airline, including Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Los Cabos) and the Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas, among others).
In addition to regular flash sales, Southwest has been known to apologize for flight delays with $49 trips and offer complimentary light snacks. For better or for worse, the airline doesn’t assign seats – so families may want to opt for Business Select fares to ensure they’re one of the first to board.
Jerry Landers / Flickr
With the motto “low fares done right,” it’s no surprise this Rocky Mountain carrier has a reputation for cheap flights. They’ve even gone so far as to offer $1 flights
to select cities. Frontier flies to more than 55 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic – and they’ve even established a new route to Cuba.
Travelers should know that the price for a cheap Frontier flight might come in the form of tiny bathrooms and thin seats. They are, however, making the middle seat less terrible
, offering travelers an extra inch of width as a consolation for being wedged in the middle.
Canada’s budget carrier has been around since 1996, though they still haven’t aced customer service
. But the airline’s service has been expanding, and travelers can even take cheap transatlantic flights. And unlike most low-cost carriers, your ticket actually includes a checked bag. While useful for regional service around Canada, the airline also has plenty of flights to nearly 90 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe.
One of the first low-cost airlines to enter the Mexican market, VivaAerobus just upgraded its entire fleet with brand new Airbus A320s. While this airline is largely useful for travelers navigating around Mexico, there are a handful of flights to the United States available (think: El Paso, Texas).
Flying Volaris won’t be something to write home about, but the Mexico-based low-cost airline does offer very cheap airline flights to more than 60 destinations in Mexico, the United States, Central America, and Puerto Rico.
Rob Mitchell / Flickr
Europe’s second-largest discount airline brand is present in 32 countries, making it a smart option for cheap international flights. In addition to cheap tickets, the airline has also become somewhat well known for being an innovator in the industry. To further cut costs (and, theoretically, pass on those savings to travelers) EasyJet is exploring the use of drones to inspect aircraft
. The airline is also exploring an investment in 100 new A320s.
This budget airline disrupted transatlantic travel when it launched $69 one-way fares
from the United States to Europe in 2017. Norwegian may be based in Norway, but it has one of the most extensive networks of any budget carrier, operating flights to the Middle East, Africa, Thailand, Europe, and the United States. How are they making this magic happen? Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos has raved about his new, fuel-efficient fleet of Boeing 737MAX airplanes.
Roel Hemkes / Flickr
Ireland-based Ryanair has a reputation for offering ridiculously cheap flash sales and free flight giveways. If you’re looking to do some regional travel around Europe (England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Norway, and other Western European countries) keep a close eye on Ryanair’s Twitter feed. The airline loves to announce last-minute 2.99 trips
, and has even indicated an interest in making flights free within the next decade
Don’t expect much in the way of cabin comfort from this Spain-based budget airline. But unlike many cheap carriers, frequent travelers can earn points on Vueling and partner flights. While the main hubs are in Barcelona and Rome, travelers can connect to more than 140 destinations across Europe.
Iceland’s low-cost carrier began operating transatlantic flights as recently as June 2015 – though it’s these cheap fares to Europe that have attracted the most attention. While best known for selling $99 one-way tickets, WOW Air has lowered the cost even further, selling $69 flights from West Coast cities to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol, and Edinburgh.
Launching in June 2017, this low-cost airline
from International Airlines Group (owner of full-service airlines British Airways and Iberia) will introduce cheap trips between the West Coast and Spain, with routes to Argentina and the Caribbean to follow.
Inaugural flights between California and Barcelona sold for $149 one-way, though the airline charges ancillary fees for in-flight food, seat assignments, and checked luggage.
Cebu Pacific Air
Not everyone can have the good fortune of being born on a Cebu Pacific Air flight
(and, consequentially, receiving a lifetime of free Cebu Pacific Air flights). Known commonly as just Cebu Pacific, this low-cost airline based in the Philippines is headquartered in Manila, and operates 57 aircraft – a mix of Airbuses in varying shapes and sizes. Their network is quite substantial, too. Travelers can catch Cebu Pacific flights from Australia, India, Myanmar, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Japan, and Indonesia, to name a few. Cebu connects nearly 40 destinations in the Philippines, and even flies to the U.S. territory of Guam, among others.
Travelers love this low-cost carrier, with hubs scattered across Asia. You might not even realize you’re flying on a budget airline: on long-haul AirAsia X trips, travelers can upgrade to business class, where there are lie-flat seats. Look for AirAsia’s affordable tickets on flights to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines.
One of India’s largest airlines, IndiGo serves dozens of cities in India from hubs in New Delhi and Mumbai – though travelers can also take the airline to nearby, international cities including Dubai, Singapore, and Bangkok. Pros of flying with IndiGo include a free checked bag and complimentary water (surprisingly hard to come by). But travelers should be prepared with old-fashioned activities, like books and crossword puzzles. After all, the airline has neither in-flight entertainment nor Wi-Fi.
Southeast Asia-based fliers love Tigerair, which has a reputation for being less strict about carry-on bag limits. Of course, you’ll pay for the leniency in other departments. There’s a fee for using your credit card, for checking a bag, and for selecting your seat. Tigerair’s main hub is in Singapore, though it services over 50 destinations across the region.
Blue Stahli Lun / Flickr
Vietnam’s burma international airport low-cost carrier is a comparatively new addition to the compendium of budget airlines crisscrossing the globe. Travelers can use this airline to cheaply hop between major Vietnamese cities, though it also flies to Bangkok, Taiwan, Hangzhou, Singapore, Siem Reap, and other major Asian hubs.
India’s SpiceJet airline operates hundreds of daily flights to 45 cities. Most of those destinations are in India (Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, for example) though it also flies to six international destinations, including Colombo, Sri Lanka.
MIKI Yoshihito / Flickr
Considered Japan’s first low-cost carrier, one major downside to flying with Peach is their boarding process, which separates travelers from their companions. But if you don’t mind sitting solo (or reconnecting after boarding) travelers can use Peach to connect to major cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok.
Peach’s fleet is entirely Airbus A320s, though the secret to the airline’s instant popularity may have more to do with its exclusive terminal at Kansai Airport.
In 2013, Scoot made headlines by creating a ScootinSilence upgrade, banning children under the age of 12 from certain rows. But in general, this Singapore-based budget airline is known for offering reasonable prices on long-haul flights. Destinations include Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jaipur, and others. The airline is transitioning to a modern fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Skyler Smith / Unsplash
Free music and videos for travelers with mobile devices is a major perk for travelers flying with this So Paulo, Brazil-based carrier. Destinations serviced by GOL include South America, the Caribbean, and select destinations in the United States. GOL is best flown by travelers who pack extremely light, as carry-on suitcases must not exceed 22 pounds.
Travelers exploring Brazil will love Azul, which boasts an intricate network of local routes – and, more recently, select non-stop flight to destinations in the United States, including Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Europe, and South America. During flights, Azul offers passengers an assortment of complimentary snacks and drinks (including mango juice and polvilho
cookies) as well as live TV entertainment.
Get around Africa swiftly and cheaply with FastJet, which operates cheap fares to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, among other popular destinations on the continent.
You can’t miss Mango, with its bright orange livery, when it takes to the skies. Travelers on these affordable domestic flights in South Africa will fly on new Boeing 737-800s, and even enjoy onboard Wi-Fi. Destinations serviced include Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and bi-weekly trips to Zanzibar.
Based in the United Arab Emirates, this top-ranked budget carrier operates regularly scheduled flights to other destinations in the Middle East, as well as cities in North Africa, India, Central Asia, and Europe. While the main airport is Sharjah International Airport, the airline also focuses attention on Ras Al Khaimah (also in the UAE), Alexandria, and Casablanca. Travelers appreciate flying with the modern fleet of Airbus A320-200s.
Papas Dos / Flickr
Flydubai may have only launched in 2009, but the Emirati airline already reaches 85 destinations (primarily the Middle East and Gulf countries, Africa, Central Asia, India, and Europe) with a young fleet of Boeing 737-800s. Highlights of Flydubai include the HD touch screen in every seat and the option to purchase snacks and hot meals on select flights.
Having since expanded to markets across Asia, including Jetstar Pacific in Vietnam and Jetstar Japan, this airline was originally created to be the low-cost answer to Australia’s full-service airline, Qantas. Expect strict baggage limits in exchange for access to markets across Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.