Which is the best budget airline?

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.

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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 [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.

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