Monday, 10 September 2012

How to Avoid Travelling with Low-Cost Airlines

I'm a child of the Ryanair generation. If I ever become a grandmother, I shall sit my offspring's offspring on my knee and regale them with stories of how, back in around 2004, it was possible to fly from one European city to another for under 30 euros return and you didn't even have to pay extra for your suitcase.

Unfortunately, that was back in 2004. That was before low-cost airlines got nasty. Yes, there were taxes that always pushed the fares up above the 99p headline price, but that was about all. You didn't have to pay for luggage, to use your credit card or for the privilege of checking in for your flight. Yes, there was the bus that took you from a car park in a dodgy bit of town to a tin shed with a runway 50 miles from your supposed departure spot, but in the days when you were still allowed to bring your own bottle of water on a plane, being stranded with unpalatable and expensive catering options was less of a problem.

When Understanding Frenchman and I nearly missed our 250 euro EasyJet flight to Dubrovnik because we had spent two hours queueing to drop of the suitcase that cost us 30 euros to put on the plane and to pass through security at a seriously overwhelmed Orly airport I realised that if there ever even was a golden age of cheap flights, it was over.

But that's OK, because there's another solution.

A travel option where you can arrive ten minutes before departure, upgrade to first class for ten euros and bring your own bodyweight in suitcases (as long as you can lift them off the ground). Where you can bring your toiletries, surf the internet and use your mobile phone on board. Where you arrive to buildings that are often masterpieces of architecture right in the middle of the city centre and where nobody tries to sell you scratchcards on board.

Recently, I have travelled from Paris to London for 90 euros return to Milan for 70. Milan to Venice or Bologna is 9 euros, and (with a bit of help from a friend) I even went to Brussels for free. First class to Berlin was cheaper than EasyJet and we're looking at Amsterdam for a budget weekend later this year. Admittedly it's time consuming, but I'd rather spend 8 hours on a soft seat watching the countryside fly by than 2 in an airport where they were too stingy even to put any seats (I'm looking at you, CDG terminal 2B).

It's a means of transport that forces you to relax, sit back and enjoy the experience. To admire the landscape and appreciate the distance you have covered. That gives you time to contemplate your experiences, write in your diary and fit in a little snooze as well. In short, for me, it's a means of transport that allows me to be the kind of traveller I want to be.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your European travel needs, may I suggest letting the train take the strain?


  1. All these budget airlines became super popular after I left France in 2001 so I have really little experience with them. Low-cost airlines were handy in Australia and SE Asia though.

    My only experience with low-cost airlines in Europe was from London to Nantes and back (see my post today...) and while flying turned out to be convenient, the experience was strange. Hard to budget when everything is extra including things that shouldn't be, and the crowd was insane!

    1. Hi Zhu, I saw your post on this and totally understood your dilemma. Cheap airlines are not usually as bad as some of the horror stories you read, but some parts of the experience are hard to evaluate until they're actually happening to you. I've learned I'd rather pay a bit more or spend a bit more time, but it's really difficult to figure out where the "worth it" boundary actually is!