When the aviation industry was born, flying was a privilege reserved for a select few that had the wealth required to pay for a ticket. For much of the 20th century, even as air travel became more accessible, commercial passenger flights were dominated by national flagship carriers who had little incentive to reduce the costs to the consumer.
This all changed as de-regulation in various markets around the world, particularly North America and Europe, increased competition among airlines. This led to the creation of low-cost carriers such as the USA’s Southwest Airlines, and Ireland’s RyanAir.
This completely changed the way that many people traveled and went on holiday. For example, in Britain, holidaymakers who had traditionally visited British resort towns like Blackpool, Brighton and Margate, suddenly began flying to Spain, Greece and Portugal to take advantage of the guaranteed sun and all-inclusive deals.
Today, if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself a flight for less than €10, though as with most things in life, you often get what you pay for. So if you’re booked onto a low-cost flight, here are some of the things you can do to make it more comfortable.
Check What You Booked
Each airline has its own rules, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. However, many low-cost airlines keep their costs low by removing elements of their service from the ticket price.
For example, RyanAir in Europe will charge you to reserve a seat next to your travel companion(s) and actively seat you apart if you don’t. Similarly, you’ll need to pay if you want to take anything larger than a laptop bag on board, or if you want to check-in luggage as well. You’ll pay extra to be one of the first to board the plane and get extra legroom, you’ll also need to print your boarding passes at home or keep them on your phone, otherwise, they’ll charge you to print them.
So check before you book so you know exactly what you’re getting and book any “extras” early as they’re usually cheaper then.
Plan Your Entertainment
A flight from New York to Washington or from London to Berlin may not seem like a long flight, but with no onboard entertainment, those couple of hours can drag. And with Norwegian and other airlines offering low-cost flights across the Atlantic, an eight-hour flight will become unbearable without something to do.
Thankfully, modern technology comes to the rescue. Your smartphone or tablet can provide you with all the entertainment you need. If you enjoy reading, the Kindle or Apple Books apps can provide you with access to just about any book you could ever want to read. Similarly, you’ll have access to countless hours of music and podcasts through services like YouTube Music, Spotify, and Deezer.
If you’d prefer to watch some TV or a movie or two, then why not use a streaming service. Some airlines, particularly those in North America, offer onboard WiFi, meaning you can stream content like when you’re on the ground. Alternatively, most now give you the option to download content for later.
You have plenty of choice too. There are all of the major streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu, as well as niche services like BroadwayHD which streams hundreds of Broadway shows, and PokerStars TV which carries coverage of live events and interviews with players.
Book an Aisle Seat
It may be nice to look out the window, but if you’re traveling alone or in a pair, seating in the aisle may be a better option. You have the ability to get up and walk around, something that is important on longer flights.
Buy Your Own Food
Food on low-cost flights is almost never free and can actually cost you a lot of money. Rather than wait until you’re on board, you can buy your own food either in the airport or before you arrive.
Security rules mean it’s difficult to take your own drinks, but bottled water and other drinks in airport terminals are almost always cheaper than what you pay in the air. You may also want to take items like a pillow and wipes, since these are also not provided by most low-cost airlines.
Low-cost flights can make flying more affordable, but to have an enjoyable experience you will need to plan ahead before you get onboard.