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updated 9/22/2005 3:35:20 PM ET 2005-09-22T19:35:20

The Deal
The low-fare airlines boom in Europe has revolutionized travel overseas, bringing an end to the long-standing dictum that if you weren’t knighted or descended from royalty, you could forget about affording air travel. Now budget-savvy travelers can take to the skies, too – long gone are the days of schlepping luggage on fatigue-inducing 10-hour trans-European train treks (however quaint in theory they might seem) – now the same journey can be completed in a quick hour-long jaunt by plane, and oftentimes cost less!

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The major players in the low-fare European airlines sector, such as Ryanair, Easy Jet, and Air Berlin, have brought on a bold challenge to the traditional European carriers, such as Air France and British Airways, quite similar to what discount carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue have done in the US. Offering no-frills service at dramatically reduced prices, the new airlines forced legacy airlines to slash their own fares considerably, creating a competitive and very consumer-friendly market.

The success of the premiere European budget airlines has encouraged the birth of dozens of new smaller budget airlines in recent years, leading to a continuously expanding network of routes, and a plethora of tempting deals on offer. So make the most of your next European adventure – get around cheaper, faster, and with less hassle then ever before – by checking out some 50+ discount European airlines we've reviewed in countries from East to West.

Visit the following links for budget airlines based in:

UK & Ireland
England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland

Central Europe
Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands

Southern Europe
Spain, Portugal, Italy

Scandinavia
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland

Eastern Europe
Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania

The Dollars
We've seen flights being practically given away, by such airlines as Ryanair, with customers paying only taxes and fees. Rates vary widely according to individual airline and season.

The Catch
While the budget airlines have their perks, there are a slew of pros and cons to weigh before booking, as well as some tricks of the trade that will make your experience better. We’ve outlined some of the most important factors to consider below:

Ticketing
The lowest-priced fares are often limited in supply or available only on certain dates. Book early for the widest selection of fare deals, which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and which usually increase in price as the travel date nears.
The jaw-droppingly low fares quoted in attention-grabbing ads will have hidden costs, like taxes and fees. Prepare to see the original low fare doubled or even tripled in price by the time taxes and fees are applied. Many of these airlines offer low fares on one-way ticket purchase, allowing for flexibility in your travel plans. However, don’t expect to receive any special discount for purchasing round-trip tickets, contrary to what legacy carriers offer.

Most airlines will not refund tickets if travel plans need to be cancelled, except in certain extreme cases, such as a death of a family member. However, some carriers offer insurance at an additional cost, which allows for cancellations under specific conditions. Be prepared – once you buy it, you own it. Nearly all of the companies, though, will allow you to change the dates of your reservation for a fee. Be weary of booking too far in advance with discount airlines, except with the more established ones, such as EasyJet, Ryanair, or BMI Baby. There’s a lot of turnover in the volatile air industry, and if the company you’ve booked with happens to go belly up, you might not only be stranded, but you might also have a headache on your hands trying to get your fare refunded.

Luggage
Most low-fare airlines offer non-stop, direct flights from their hubs to another city. Layovers are not usually incorporated into travel, and, as such, extended service may require you to collect your luggage and recheck it for the second part of the flight. Luggage restrictions may be more restrictive than on larger legacy carriers. Be sure to check individual airline policies in advance, as you’ll be charged for additional or overweight luggage.

Airports
Several no-frill airlines provide service to smaller airports in remote locations. Factor in additional travel time and ground transportation costs for these secondary airports.

Onboard
No-frills means just that.
Expect to pay extra for food and beverages onboard.

Several discount airlines don’t issue seat assignments, so anticipate a bit of a free-for-all with fellow passengers when boarding the plane.

Seating is infamously tight on many of these foreign planes, so be prepared to forego the legroom that you may be accustomed to on U.S. airlines.

ShermansTravel is a guide to top travel deals and destinations. Sign up for Sherman's Top 25 e-newsletter which features the best editor-screened deals from hundreds of travel providers and is delivered to over 2.5 million subscribers, free, each week. ShermansTravel also publishes trip ideas and travel features to inspire, guide, and go. Click to Home Page and More Deals!

Copyright © 2005 ShermansTravel

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