Travel SOS: Which is the best budget airline?

Deborah wants to know which is the best budget airline.

Which is the best budget airline?

Travel writer, photographer and author, Dr Tiana Templeman is a Brisbane-based travel author, award-winning freelance journalist, radio presenter and media industry academic. She is the creator of the popular travel website Good to Go and contributes to Australian and overseas media outlets. Tiana also appears on radio talking about where to visit, what to see and travel industry trends.

Deborah doesn’t have a lot of money but feels she deserves a holiday. She wants to know what to expect on cheaper airlines and if some budget airlines are better than others. We put the question to travel pro Dr Tiana Templeman. Here are her tips.


Budget airlines aren’t a favourite with many travellers, but you won’t hear any complaints from me. I would rather fly at a bargain price and spend the money I’ve saved having fun at my destination. Wherever you choose to travel, budget airlines tend to be similar. The secret to having a good flight comes down to being prepared, both prior to departure and when you are on board the plane.

This starts right from the time you book your ticket. With a limited number of aircraft and tight turnaround times, scheduling changes tend to be a regular occurrence for budget airlines. The best way to combat this is to book the first flight of the day, as your plane will probably already be at the airport. Later flights tend to rely on incoming aircraft which is risky if you need to depart at a certain time.

Even if your aircraft is delayed, your winning smile probably won’t get you on board if you try to check-in late. Budget carriers tend to be strict with cut off times. Consider leaving for the airport a little earlier than usual, just to be sure you’re there in time.

Take care with the weight of your bags too. While full service airlines often turn a blind eye to heavy carry-on, budget airlines weigh everything at check-in. If your carry-on bag is overweight, you will have to pay (a lot) to check it in. Consider pre-purchasing checked baggage, even if it’s just for one passenger. It’s very difficult to adhere to the maximum 7kg rule for carry-on, even if you’re good at packing light.

While paying for extras such as checked baggage does add to the expense of that ‘bargain fare’, you will have a more relaxing and enjoyable flight experience. Purchase a seat with extra legroom so you are more comfortable, even if you aren’t that tall. Treating yourself to a hot meal if you’re on a dinner-time flight is also a good idea but bring your own snacks at other times. Just remember to show consideration for fellow travellers. Now is not the time to indulge your love of tuna sandwiches.

If you are travelling on an overnight flight, come prepared with your own earplugs, eye mask and a sarong or shawl which can double as a blanket. If the flight departs from your home town, consider bringing an old pillow which can be discarded at your destination for some extra onboard comfort.

When you travel on a budget airline it is easier to have a good flight when your expectations are in keeping with the bargain price you paid for the ticket. Don’t judge a budget airline against a full-service equivalent. Just think of all that money you’ve saved and smile.

If you have a travel question, send it to and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    4th Aug 2018
    I think they are all pretty poor, maybe Scoot is the best I have encountered, especially now with the 'Dreamliners' they are amazingly quiet and comfortable. I don't eat their food or drinks, expensive and aweful. I just wait till I reach my destination.
    I have found that if you shop around, the major airlines often come in about the same price by the time you add baggage etc. as you rightly say.
    4th Aug 2018
    They are what they are. We use Jetstar a lot and they are ok apart from the ongoing attempts to have add-ons to slug travellers. I could tell you about overseas carriers who behave really badly but then our own Tiger is in the same sort of category and best to avoid.
    4th Aug 2018
    I have no idea why anyone would fly with jetstar and the like, they are rude crude and unattractive! They seem to be in the news on a weekly basis, throwing someone off somewhere.
    No, I pay for virgin flights, am up to gold membership so use the lounge between flights and have never had a problem since they started up in aus. They insist on smiles, mainly because there is plenty to smile about.

    4th Aug 2018
    Flying later this month with Scoot again, reason is they are flying from my local airport a few km away. We have decided to fly ScootBis from now on, a bit more expensive but worth it. Normally fly with Singapore Airlines and Scoot is their cheaper companion. Seats are a bit crammed in at Jetstar but then we flew Hawaiian to Honolulu and Jetstar home again. So that is maybe we felt a bit hemmed in.
    4th Aug 2018
    The unanswered question.
    What is the best budget airline?
    4th Aug 2018
    My vote is with Scoot. Have never been on Tiger but.
    4th Aug 2018
    Certainly NOT Tiger - worst flight I have ever been on.
    5th Aug 2018
    Air Asia gets my vote, however have never flown scoot.
    5th Aug 2018
    I like airasia best. I experienced good customer service at no extra charge when i had to do a name correction after booking a ticket. Jetstar charged a friend 50$ for being 1kg over on her carry on luggage. Otherwise I have no problem with jetstar either, nor tigerair. I use budget airlines all the time.
    5th Aug 2018
    Forgot to mention the good and cheap food on airasia, especially if you book with your flight. None of the other airlines can compete on food in my humble opinion, though food may be a matter of taste
    5th Aug 2018
    This weekend my daughter was to spend the Friday and Saturday night in Brisbane and she booked Tigerair. The flight from Sydney was cancelled due to a 'bird strike' so she could not leave until Saturday. Due back Sunday the flight from Brisbane was cancelled due to 'engine problems' so could not get home until tomorrow, Monday and so at least a half day off work. Budget Airline ? Try "Micky Mouse" airline. Totally unacceptable.
    6th Aug 2018
    The only international flying I do these days is to New Zealand - last time I flew economy with Air New Zealand and my expectations weren't high but in the end I had no real complaints and they have certainly improved from their cattle class economy of a decade ago.
    I agree with Tiana in that I'd rather put up with a bit of inconvenience and discomfort and have the extra money in my pocket on arrival.
    Flying domestically in Oz I have no problems with Jetstar but it's better if you understand their system and that starts with being able to navigate their website without buying any extras you don't need. As Tiana says, choose the right flights, be at departure in plenty of time and know how much your baggage weighs so you can pre-purchase check-in baggage on-line rather than at the airport. Using the Jetstar website and booking a fair bit in advance I've been able to fly from Melbourne to Sydney or Brisbane return for not much more than the fees in the long term car park.
    One thing I have discovered is that when traveling on flights that are not likely to be chock-a-block full it's good to book a seat in the last two rows at the back when you will often have the whole row to yourself with more room to spread out and statistics show that being near the back in a crash you are more likely to survive!
    10th Aug 2018
    Have only flown with Qantas & Singapore Airlines from Aus to o'seas - shame abt Delta in USA.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles

    You May Like