As of 2017, discount airlines account for roughly one-third of flights in the U.S. and up to 45 percent of flights in Europe – offering savings on air travel up to as much as 50-80 percent. While attractive prices are an obvious reason these airlines have captured an increased market share in the past decades, what is perhaps surprising is that a good number are now providing many of the amenities and perks we’ve come to expect from the legacy airlines.
Ready to enjoy superior comfort and service when you fly without having to pay a premium on your fare? Before you book your next flight, check out which budget airlines offer the highest passenger satisfaction based on findings from leading consumer air travel rating agency Skytrax. Here are the World’s Best Low-Cost Airlines according to Skytrax, ranked from 10 to 1:
10. IndiGo: Based in India, this fast-growing airline gets high marks for cabin service, seat comfort and value. It not only ranks among the 10 best low-cost airlines in the world, but has also been named “Best Low-Cost Airline in Central Asia/India.” With a brand new fleet of more than 100 Airbus A320 jets and more than 400 Airbus jets on order, it’s also the largest airline in India by passengers carried and fleet size. The airline provides service to 46+ destinations, including 39 domestic and seven international.
9. Southwest Airlines: Known for its fast flight turnaround, friendly service and honesty, Southwest Airlines actually coined the word Transfarency® to describe its approach to customers and pricing. The airline’s free checked bag policy is popular among travelers, as are its complimentary television streaming over Wi-Fi and no change fees (rate differences may apply). The largest low-cost carrier in the world, Southwest operates more than 700 jets with service to approximately 100 locations in the U.S, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2018, look for service on Southwest to Hawaii, subject to government approval.
8. Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras: More commonly known as Azul Brazilian Airlines (or just Azul) to North Americans, this São Paulo-based airline was co-founded by JetBlue and WestJet’s David Neelemen. Originally operating in underserved areas of Brazil, it now offers flights to 100 plus destinations in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, French Guiana, Portugal, the U.S, and Uruguay. For the second consecutive year, Azul was also awarded “Best Low-Cost Airline in South America” and “Best Airline Staff in South America.”
7. AirAsia X: The long-haul subsidiary of Malaysia’s AirAsia, this discount airline serves 23 destinations throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Africa. Among the growing number of low-cost carriers offering both premium and economy service, the airline also took the Skytrax award for “Best Low-Cost Airline Premium Cabin” and “Best Low-Cost Airline Premium Seat” for a second year in a row.
6. Jetstar Airways: Wholly-owned by Australia’s national airline, Qantas, Jetstar is headquartered in Melbourne and offers service to over 75 locations across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific (including Hawaii). The airline’s fleet includes a mix of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A320 and Airbus 321. Cabins include both Business Class and an “Economy Starter” with the flexibility to add on premium options.
5. Virgin America: A stylish interior, mood lighting, sleek leather seats and state-of-the-art entertainment are just a few of the amenities you’ll enjoy on Virgin America, even in the main cabin. All seats are also outfitted with personal power outlets, on-demand Wi-Fi, Free Chat™, live TV, free movies and music. Looking for more legroom, complimentary food and drinks and priority boarding and security checks? Choose their Main Cabin Select or First Class cabins. To view top destinations from the Bay Area, visit http://bit.ly/VirginAmericaDestinations. Although the company was bought by Alaska Airlines in 2016, the beloved Virgin America brand will remain in place until 2019.
4. EasyJet: Established in 1995, this British low-cost airline carries over 73 million people annually to an extensive network of over 820 routes in more than 30 countries in Europe and northern Africa. The second-largest carrier in Europe by number of passengers, it gets high ratings by travelers for its low prices, high-quality cabin service and comfortable seats.
3. JetBlue Airways: When it came onto the scene in 1998, JetBlue quickly raised the bar for budget airlines. With free in-flight entertainment, complimentary snacks and drinks, award-winning service, and extra legroom with 34 inches of pitch, it’s still a cut above the other U.S. based discount carriers. According to industry experts, its premium Mint® service with fully lie-flat seats and artisanal dining options is in many ways comparable to the international business or international first class experience on a legacy carrier. The airline flies to 90+ destinations with new routes starting soon.
2. Norwegian Airlines: This airline with the number two spot on the 2017 Skytrax list of “World’s Best Low-Cost Airlines” also holds the title of “World’s Best Long-Haul Low Cost Airline” and “Best Low-Cost Airline in Europe.” With one of the industry’s newest fleets, it flies more than 500 routes to 150+ destinations around the world. The airline offers their lowest possible rate, and then gives you the flexibility to pay for more amenities. In 2017 alone, Norwegian added 25 new U.S. routes, and 11 more will be introduced in 2018.
1. AirAsia: To those familiar with this airline’s exceptional service, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that AirAsia has earned the distinction of being “The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline” for the ninth year in a row. The Kuala Lumpur-based company is now the largest low-cost carrier in Asia with service to more than 165 locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the U.S. Select airport locations also include an option for Red Carpet Service including access to their signature AirAsia Premium Red Lounge at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.
Given the high-quality service and premium offerings that many low-cost airlines now provide, booking a reservation on a legacy carrier such as American, Delta or United could seem like a poor choice for your money. However, these more established airlines still offer advantages worth noting. For example, they provide more flights to smaller, out of the way cities and more international flights. The legacy airlines also tend to have more robust loyalty programs with zone-based awards, generous perks for elite status and flexible point transfer programs. Ultimately, whether you’re better off booking with a low-cost airline or one of the legacy carriers depends on your preferences and unique situation.