5 Limitations of Budget Airlines

Have you found amazing deals with budget airlines?  Have you already figured in the cost of the hidden fees that are often charged by these low cost airlines?  If so, then you’ll also need to beware of these 5 limitations with budget airlines.

1.  Alternate Airports

Many of the budget airlines fly to smaller regional airports.  Depending on your location and travel needs these alternate airports might be a blessing or a hassle.  For example, AirTran services Milwaukee airport which the AirTran website lists as a Northern Suburb of Chicago as the airline does not fly to Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airports.  Some regional airlines are improving their routes of service.  JetBlue which for years only flew out of Long Beach now offers service from LAX.

Be especially careful when booking flights with budget carriers in Europe as the cost of accessing the major city from the alternate airport might outweigh the savings of the budget airfare.  For example, Ryan Air services neither Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) nor Paris Orly (ORY) but instead service Paris Beauvais (BVA) which is located 85 km north of Paris – three times farther than Charles de Gaulle.  Budget airlines such as easyJet do not service London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) instead flying from Gatwick (LGW), Luton (LTN), Southend (SEN) or Stansed (STN).  Many of these regional airports offer shuttle service or train access to the city center.  Just be sure to do your research before committing to a flight that leaves you stranded a great distance from your destination.

2.  Delays and Cancelled Flights

It is not uncommon for the low cost carriers to make changes to scheduled flights.  Many of the budget airlines including Europe’s most popular carriers FlyBe and easyJet have a bad reputation for flight delays and cancellations.

3.  Missed Connections

Flight delays are always a hassle, but never more so than when your delayed arrival causes a missed connection.  Most discount airlines do not offer connecting tickets.  If you purchase a discount ticket as a segment with the intention of connecting to another flight be very careful with timings and consider the possibility of delayed or cancelled flights.  In many cases the airline will not take responsibility for a missed connection even if your connecting flight is on the same airline.

3.  Luggage Requirements for Connecting Flights on Budget Airlines

Even if you are able to book two “connecting” flights on the same budget airline be sure to confirm the airline’s rules regarding luggage.  In most cases you will be required to collect your luggage from the baggage claim and re-check your baggage at the check-in counter.  This will require a longer layover even if the flight arrives on time and may cause a missed connection if the first flight is delayed.

4.  Connections Between Budget Airlines and Major Airlines

Be especially careful if you are booking a regional flight on a budget airline with the intention to connect to a long haul flight on a major airline.  Budget airlines rarely have partnerships with the major airline alliances such as Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team.  Therefore if your flight on a budget carrier is delayed or cancelled and you miss your subsequent flight you will incur not only the cost of booking a new ticket for your connection but will often be faced with the cost of booking a hotel for the night.

5.  Limited Food and Entertainment

For Americans and other travelers who have flown on domestic flights in the USA within the last few years, you’ve already experienced the decline in-flight services that can be expected.  The budget airlines offer a similar experience.  Don’t expect any complimentary snacks or even in-flight entertainment on many of the budget flights.  Check with the airline to find out if snacks are available for purchase.  If not you’ll need to stock up on snacks and remember to purchase any liquids after passing through airport security.  You also might want to charge up your iPod or laptop if the aircraft doesn’t offer any in-flight entertainment.

Photo Credit: by Vox Efx on Flickr

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