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It’s a popular held belief that in life, you get what you pay for, and that’s usually true when it comes to budget airlines; with lengthy delays, hidden charges and uncomfortable seating, picking a good low-cost airline can sometimes be akin to playing a game of roulette.

But there are some budget friendly airlines who are bucking this trend, and have dedicated themselves to providing an exemplary service – despite the fact that you’re not paying for it.

So if you’re looking for the best of both worlds, the following are the world’s best budget airlines; all living examples that low-cost flying doesn’t always have to be limited to a no-fills experience. Bon voyage!

The World’s Best Budget Airlines

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Norwegian

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Probably the finest budget experience of any kind, Norwegian exemplifies quality and politeness. And it’s difficult to remember that you’re traveling budget when the food is fantastic and there’s a lot of seat room.

Norwegian were the first airline to introduce in flight Wi-Fi, and we love their catchy marketing campaigns and fantastic in-flight magazine. In 2017, Skytrax awarded them best low-cost airline in Europe as well as for long-haul travel.

Fun #travel fact: @Fly_Norwegian were the first airline to introduce in flight Wi-Fi!Click To Tweet

Pilot airline flight

AirAsia

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The Malaysian low-cost airline, headquartered near Kuala Lumpur, AirAia is built around the charismatic CEO Tony Fernandes who managed to turn a once failing airline around into a world beater in just 15 years.

People praise their customer service, friendly cabin crew and efficient operation. In 2007, The New York Times described the airline as a “pioneer” of low-cost travel in Asia. It has also been voted the best low -cost airline overall for the ninth year running by Skytrax.

easyJet

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Though the British low-cost carrier was roasted when it first appeared, easyJet has since cleaned up its act and now services over 820 routes in 30 countries.

That orange infused color scheme does make you wonder, but if you can get past that, the overall experience is fun, safe and always comes with a smile.

If you live in Europe, you may have noticed the ongoing low-cost war waged between Ryanair and easyJet, but the latter steals the crown here.

Easyjet plane airline flight

Photo by Mark Harkin

Jetstar

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This Australian-based airline has been serving its nation since 2004. Owned by parent company Qantas, Jetstar has been voted consistently in the top 10 best low-cost carriers by Skytrax.

If you want to get to Southeast Asia for cheap from Australia, Jetstar is the way to go; they have made heavy inroads into China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Fiji, Indonesia, the U.S. and even the Cook Islands.

Their prices are reasonable, and the value for your money remains top of its class. Jetstar Asia has an 85 percent on-time record, which ranks up there with many world-class airlines.

Looking for the best budget-friendly airline in #Australia?? Check out @JetstarAirwaysClick To Tweet

Jettar Australia flight plane

Photo credit: Jetstar Airways

Eurowings (was Germanwings)

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Even by Germans standards, this airline has outdone themselves. Now that Air Berlin is out of the picture, this low-cost efficient master class owned by parent company Lufthansa has become one of the finest travel experiences in Europe.

With travelers able to choose from three flying experiences — Basic, Smart and Best — upgrades are handled with ease, such as speedy boarding, checked baggage free of charge and even extra legroom on the plane.

If you check the reviews, most people agree they are friendly, cheap and on time.

Virgin America: Now Alaska Airlines

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Now merged with Alaska Airlines, it’s the entertainment system that everyone raves about. The variety of TV, movies and games on board Alaska Airlines flights never fails to wow customers. Just for that alone, it’s worth our attention.

Started in 2004 by Alaska Airlines as a low cost flier, Virgin America managed to come in the top 10 best budget airlines many years running courtesy of Skytrax. A recent merge means the two airlines are now one company under the name Alaska.

But it’s the additional mood-lighting, snacks, power outlets, Wi-Fi, leather seats and video touchscreens in every seatback that set the pace for its competitors. They fly to 21 destinations across America at affordable rates.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    29 Comments

  1. Hey thanks for sharing this wonderful blog post with us. Will be useful for those who are travelling frequently.

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. I believe that Virgin America has been subsumed by Alaska Airlines. Alaska is a good choice, but certainly more expensive that a budget line.

    • I’ve found that many budget airlines end up being subsidiaries of larger parent companies – for instance Jetstar is owned by Qantas, which is great because I can still claim my travel rewards but have the option to travel budget if I need to :)

  3. Good review but do any of them allow you to buy a seat and not fight like a football team for an aisle seat……

    • Hi Lee, most of them allow you to check in and choose your seat 24 hours in advance :) If you’re worried about it definitely check specific airline policies before you confirm your booking, sometimes airlines change their procedures from time to time.

  4. Can’t stand flying budget – fine if you’re a backpacker, but you do get what you pay for – idiots who complain about bad service in budget should realize that’s what they signed up for.

    • Hi Sandy, yes, when you’re flying on a budget airline you should definitely be aware of the fine print and what is and is not included – for instance it can be quite a shock is you assume you automatically get to check a bag and realize once you’re at the airport that you have to pay extra. I do agree that many complaints are likely because the traveler has unrealistic expectations about what they’re booking.

  5. EasyJet is my FAVORITE way to get around Europe – we picked up flights from London to Ireland for St Patricks Day last year for for £20 – the actual fare was £2 or something, and then airport taxes kicked in. Bloody brilliant, so many cool possibilities for weekend trips.

    • They have great deals for sure – I spent my gap year in the UK and used Easyjet constantly :)

  6. We don’t have too many budget options in Australia, but you’re right that Jetstar is probably the best. Tigerair is cheap too, but not as reliable.

    • Yes I’m not a fan of Tigerair either – it’s never a good sign when there’s a reality TV show about how terrible an airline is!

  7. Norwegian is great!

    • Absolutely – it wouldn’t have been a “best of” list without them!

  8. Thankyou for this list. But you missed SpiceJet. Cheapest flights in India and the best ever airline curries.

    • Thanks for the heads up on SpiceJet Arnav – we haven’t flown with them before, but will keep them in mind when we finally visit India :)

  9. Awesome list Meg! I would add WOW air to your list, we picked up some great deals when flying to Iceland with them. There were some pretty mixed reviews before we flew, but we went with it anyway (we figured every budget airline gets pretty mixed reviews) – nothing outstanding about the flight, it was pretty normal, but a super cheap way to get to Iceland from North America; I heard you on a podcast this week that Iceland is your favorite country. Us too!!

    • Thanks Cassi, glad you enjoyed the post :) Yes, I feel head over heels for Iceland – and fell hard! I can’t wait to get back at some point.

      Thanks for the heads up on WOW air – we flew with IcelandAir during our trip and they were really fabulous, but it’s awesome to know that WOW air is a great budget alternative.

      Happy travels!

  10. I’ve flown with a lot of budget carriers lately, and the experience ha been overwhelmingly positive. I think budget airlines get a lot of bad press but the shit that goes wrong is usually bearable, like delays, or not having food on short legs.

    • Fabulous to hear that France. Yes, I think people booking budget airlines need to have realistic expectations, and as you said, a lot of the frills we’re used to on full service airlines aren’t that difficult to give up when you remember you’re saving $$$.

  11. Dude. Jetstar is terrible. You can’t pick your seats and even if you do pick your seats they reallocate them away from you. Don’t include baggage. By the time you pay for it you may as well just fly Qantas.

    • Sorry to hear that you haven’t had great experiences with Jetstar Danyelle. Yes, when you’re flying with a no or low frills airline you definitely have to be aware of things like extra charges for seat selection or checked luggage, and budget out whether it’s worthwhile paying for those extras or finding a similar fare on the full service equivalent :)

  12. Hi Meg! I’ve had great experiences with Norwegian, and you’re right, their inflight WiFi is stellar.

    Ken

    • Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed flying Norwegian Ken – They’re truly at the top of the budget experience :)

      Happy travels!

  13. Thank you so much for this list, once i visited India by AirAsia and the experience was good.

    • Glad to hear it Stephen! AirAsia is a fantastic budget airline :)

  14. Flew Jetstar Singapore to Bangkok. the flight crew spent almost all the time behind a curtain

    • Sorry to hear that Ian, I’ve had pretty decent experiences with them, though only flown domestically throughout Australia.

    • The happy faces were reserved for boarding.

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