How budget airlines work

by Sohail Sawlani

Ever wondered how budget airlines, such as Ryanair, sell flight tickets for very cheap prices without going bankrupt? Through this write-up, you will learn more about budget airlines and how they earn a profit despite their low prices.

A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 © Ryanair

A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 © Ryanair

What are budget airlines?

A budget airline is an airline that sells flight tickets for unbelievably low prices. For example, if you book a budget airline flight from Barcelona to London, the price will only be around USD $30, while flights on major carriers, such as British Airways, will set you back USD $60.


An EasyJet A320 Landing at Newcastle Airport © EasyJet

Here are some strategies budget airlines use to give you cheap, affordable tickets:

Cheaper ground costs save money

If you have ever been on a budget airline, you would have noticed that they prefer not to use an air bridge to disembark and use a stair truck instead. Why? It is cheaper. If more equipment is used, more staff will be required to operate and maintain them, increasing staff costs.

Spirit Airbus c Aibus

A Spirit airlines Airbus A320 © Airbus

To put things into perspective, the fees of using an air bridge can be more than twice the fees of using a stair truck!

Using only one type of airplane

Budget airlines tend to use only one type of aircraft. For instance, EasyJet, a British low-cost carrier, only uses the Airbus A320 variant. This is because when ordering their aircraft, they can get a bulk discount because airplane manufacturers tend to give a large deduction of price when ordering airplanes in large quantities.

A320neo EasyJet

An EasyJet Airbus A320neo © Airbus

Hiring younger cabin crew

Cabin crew members onboard budget airlines are likely at the beginning of their career. This is due to the fact that younger cabin crew are less experienced, resulting in cheaper salaries and further reducing the cost of your ticket.

James Scarle, British Airways Cabin Crew

James Scarle, British Airways Cabin Crew | Credit: Valery Collins

However, this does not mean that the crew are unsafe. During their training period, all cabin crew, junior or senior, will receive adequate training to protect you in an emergency.

Fewer luxuries onboard

Did you know that aircraft maintenance is a major cost of your ticket? All of those seat reclines, headrests, and in-flight entertainment screens have to be maintained regularly, and those maintenance costs need to be paid by the passengers. However, budget airlines try to reduce these maintenance costs by removing those luxuries.

A seat view of a Ryanair 737-800 | Image by: Oscar Nord on Unsplash

A seat view of a Ryanair 737-800 | Image by: Oscar Nord on Unsplash

As an example, imagine that the cost of maintenance for a flight is around $500, and there are 100 passengers onboard. So, if you calculate the cost of each person’s maintenance fee in their ticket, it would be around $5 because $500 divided by 100 passengers is $5.

Avoiding major airports

Have you ever seen a budget airline fly to major international airports like London Heathrow Airport or New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport? You probably have not. This is due to the fact that landing at major airports is expensive. Landing fees at these major airports may even go up to the thousands.

Due to this, budget airlines tend to fly to a less popular airport in the same region. As an example, Ryanair, a budget airline, prefers to fly their planes in and out of London Gatwick Airport instead of the mega-hub London Heathrow Airport.

No assigned seating

Budget airlines love not to assign seats to their passengers. Why? If a seat is not assigned to a passenger, it is highly likely that they will turn up earlier to ensure they get the seat of their choice.

An image of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 © Quintin Soloviev

An image of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 © Quintin Soloviev

American budget airline Southwest Airlines loves to use this method to get their planes off the ground early, and on schedule.

No flight connections

Flight connections are too much of a hassle for budget airlines because they need to spend more money to hire baggage handlers to sort baggage to the connecting aircraft and get more staff to settle arrangements for those who missed their connection.

A Former Norwegian Air Boeing 787

A Former Norwegian Air Boeing 787

Have you flown on a budget airline? Share your experience below!

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Rajkumar Krishnan
Rajkumar Krishnan
5 months ago

Great article. I have flown Air India Express, possibly the most “budget” of all Asian budget airlines.

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