28 Cheap Airlines Around the World
Cheap airlines are more prevalent than ever, even offering steeply discounted rates on international flights. And there are new carriers cropping up every day, offering competitive prices on popular routes and stripped-down tickets for no-frills travelers who don’t need much to stay comfortable on a flight.
Budget airlines utilize a number of strategies to cut costs and keep ticket prices low (sometimes, flights may be 50 percent cheaper than full-service competitors). Some, like Norwegian Air and WOW, operate newer, more fuel efficient aircraft. Others, including JetBlue and RyanAir, get discounts for placing bulk orders for aircraft. When airlines save on jet fuel or airplanes, they’re able to pass on those savings to travelers.
Strategies for selling inexpensive tickets are sometimes more obvious. Spirit Airlines, for example, has slashed already meager baggage allowances, and charges for seat selection and in-flight refreshments, including water.
Bargain airfare can be found in virtually every country — and these are the airlines every traveler needs to know about for cheap airline tickets.
See the cheapest airlines for North American travel, below.
In addition to being one of the country’s most affordable airlines, Long Island-based JetBlue is also the fifth largest airline in the United States. From hubs in New York City, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and San Juan, travelers can reach more than 90 destinations across the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Travelers may not be able to take JetBlue flights across the pond (yet), but the airline is beloved for serving complimentary snacks — like those iconic blue chips — while still offering wallet-friendly prices. The airline is also well known for regular flash sales, with fares as low as $39 one-way.
Best known for its valuable loyalty program (you can even get a year-long Companion Pass for your favorite travel buddy), Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas. More than 90 destinations are reachable with this budget-friendly airline, including Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Los Cabos) and the Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas, among others).
In addition to regular flash sales, Southwest has been known to apologize for flight delays with $49 trips and offer complimentary light snacks. For better or for worse, the airline doesn’t assign seats — so families may want to opt for Business Select fares to ensure they’re one of the first to board.
With the motto “low fares done right,” it’s no surprise this Rocky Mountain carrier has a reputation for cheap flights. They’ve even gone so far as to offer $1 flights to select cities. Frontier flies to more than 55 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic — and they’ve even established a new route to Cuba.
Travelers should know that the price for a cheap Frontier flight might come in the form of tiny bathrooms and thin seats. They are, however, making the middle seat less terrible, offering travelers an extra inch of width as a consolation for being wedged in the middle.
Canada’s budget carrier has been around since 1996, though they still haven’t aced customer service. But the airline’s service has been expanding, and travelers can even take cheap transatlantic flights. And unlike most low-cost carriers, your ticket actually includes a checked bag. While useful for regional service around Canada, the airline also has plenty of flights to nearly 90 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Spirit’s introductory Bare Fares are everything you’d expect: stripped down, no-nonsense tickets that literally get you from point A to point B. Be willing to pay more on seat assignments, water, and luggage (baggage allowances just got even smaller on Spirit).
Travelers should be aware that the airline isn’t going to impress you with comfort or service. After all, the airline notoriously deflects customer queries and concerns to a Twitter account, Spirit Autopilot, which can’t offer more than bot-generated responses. In 2016, Spirit earned the dubious No. 1 spot on the World’s Worst list for customer service.
One of the first low-cost airlines to enter the Mexican market, VivaAerobus just upgraded its entire fleet with brand new Airbus A320s. While this airline is largely useful for travelers navigating around Mexico, there are a handful of flights to the United States available (think: El Paso, Texas).
Flying Volaris won’t be something to write home about, but the Mexico-based low-cost airline does offer very cheap airline flights to more than 60 destinations in Mexico, the United States, Central America, and Puerto Rico.
See the cheapest airlines for European travel, below.
Europe’s second-largest discount airline brand is present in 32 countries, making it a smart option for cheap international flights. Be aware that your ticket gets you only one carry-on bag — an overhead or under-seat item, but not both. In addition to cheap tickets, the airline has also become somewhat well known for being an innovator in the industry. To further cut costs (and, theoretically, pass on those savings to travelers) EasyJet is exploring the use of drones to inspect aircraft. The airline is also exploring an investment in 100 new A320s.
This budget airline disrupted transatlantic travel when it launched $69 one-way fares from the United States to Europe in 2017. Norwegian may be based in Norway, but it has one of the most extensive networks of any budget carrier, operating flights to the Middle East, Africa, Thailand, Europe, and the United States. How are they making this magic happen? Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos has raved about his new, fuel-efficient fleet of Boeing 737MAX airplanes. Bring your own device to watch on-demand movies using the free Wi-Fi on most flights within Europe.
Ireland-based Ryanair has a reputation for offering ridiculously cheap flash sales and free flight giveways. If you’re looking to do some regional travel around Europe (England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Norway, and other Western European countries) keep a close eye on Ryanair’s Twitter feed. The airline loves to announce last-minute £2.99 trips, and has even indicated an interest in making flights free within the next decade. The fee to check in at the airport is $55, so use the Ryanair mobile app to do it ahead of time and save.
Don’t expect much in the way of cabin comfort from this Spain-based budget airline. But unlike many cheap carriers, frequent travelers can earn points on Vueling and partner flights. While the main hubs are in Barcelona and Rome, travelers can connect to more than 140 destinations across Europe. Avoid trying to bring an extra carry-on aboard or you could get slapped with a $39 charge.
Iceland’s low-cost carrier began operating transatlantic flights as recently as June 2015 — though it’s these cheap fares to Europe that have attracted the most attention. While best known for selling $99 one-way tickets, WOW Air has lowered the cost even further, selling $69 flights from West Coast cities to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol, and Edinburgh.
Hungary’s low-cost carrier is based in Budapest but serves 138 cities in 35 countries throughout Europe in addition to Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Wizz Air offers bundled packages for travelers depending on their needs: light travelers can choose a basic fare that includes one small cabin bag; the Wizz Go package allows one large cabin bag and 23 kg of checked luggage along with free seat selection; and the Wizz Plus package includes unlimited flight change, priority boarding, 32kg in checked luggage, extra legroom, and free airport check-in, which would otherwise cost an extra $11 to $33, depending on the flight.
Launching in June 2017, this low-cost airline from International Airlines Group (owner of full-service airlines British Airways and Iberia) will introduce cheap trips between the West Coast and Spain, with routes to Argentina and the Caribbean to follow.
Inaugural flights between California and Barcelona sold for $149 one-way, though the airline charges ancillary fees for in-flight food, seat assignments, and checked luggage.
See the cheapest airlines for Asian travel, below.
Cebu Pacific Air
Not everyone can have the good fortune of being born on a Cebu Pacific Air flight (and, consequentially, receiving a lifetime of free Cebu Pacific Air flights). Known commonly as just Cebu Pacific, this low-cost airline based in the Philippines is headquartered in Manila, and operates 57 aircraft — a mix of Airbuses in varying shapes and sizes. Their network is quite substantial, too. Travelers can catch Cebu Pacific flights from Australia, India, Myanmar, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Japan, and Indonesia, to name a few. Cebu connects nearly 40 destinations in the Philippines, and even flies to the U.S. territory of Guam, among others. Meals can cost about $25 per flight, so plan ahead. Join the GetGo Rewards program for exclusive fares.
Travelers love this low-cost carrier, with hubs scattered across Asia. You might not even realize you’re flying on a budget airline: on long-haul AirAsia X trips, travelers can upgrade to business class, where there are lie-flat seats. Look for AirAsia’s affordable tickets on flights to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. Sign up for the AirAsia newsletter and follow the airline on Twitter to learn about flash sales.
One of India’s largest airlines, IndiGo serves dozens of cities in India from hubs in New Delhi and Mumbai — though travelers can also take the airline to nearby, international cities including Dubai, Singapore, and Bangkok. Pros of flying with IndiGo include a free checked bag and complimentary water (surprisingly hard to come by). But travelers should be prepared with old-fashioned activities, like books and crossword puzzles. After all, the airline has neither in-flight entertainment nor Wi-Fi. Prebook in-flight meals for a 15 percent discount.
Southeast Asia-based fliers love Tigerair, which has a reputation for being less strict about carry-on bag limits. Of course, you’ll pay for the leniency in other departments. There’s a fee for using your credit card, for checking a bag, and for selecting your seat. Tigerair’s main hub is in Singapore, though it services over 50 destinations across the region. Check the airline’s site Thursdays (Singapore time) for ultralow Tigerflash one-day sales.
The Melbourne-based carrier is a subsidiary of Qantas that offers cheap flights to 37 cities in Australia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as regularly schedule flights to Fiji and the Cook Islands. Jetstar also runs a daily flight between Honolulu and Melbourne, with fares sometimes as low as $299 AUD ($220 USD) each way. Be wary of the amount of luggage you bring: no single bag or item can weigh more than 32 kg (70 lbs), even if your total checked luggage allowance is 35kg or 40kg. Anything overweight will have to be checked as freight. Its Friday Free Fare Frenzy sales are popular with frequent fliers, who jump on the chance to book $24 one-way tickets.
The South Korea-based low-cost carrier serves 31 cities in 11 countries in Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Its major hubs are in Seoul (at both Gimpo and Incheon airports), and Jeju, South Korea. Fliers on Jeju can pre-order meals, purchase seat assignments in advance, as well pre-pay for checked luggage. It operates pre-flight lounges at seven airports that are free to all fliers. One unique perk: when you get to the airport, you can book the empty seats next to you for $10 to $50 more for a little extra room and comfort.
Vietnam’s international low-cost carrier is a comparatively new addition to the compendium of budget airlines crisscrossing the globe. Travelers can use this airline to cheaply hop between major Vietnamese cities, though it also flies to Bangkok, Taiwan, Hangzhou, Singapore, Siem Reap, and other major Asian hubs. Opt out of services you don’t need, such as trip insurance; otherwise you will be charged for them.
India’s SpiceJet airline operates hundreds of daily flights to 45 cities. Most of those destinations are in India (Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, for example) though it also flies to six international destinations, including Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Considered Japan’s first low-cost carrier, one major downside to flying with Peach is their boarding process, which separates travelers from their companions. But if you don’t mind sitting solo (or reconnecting after boarding) travelers can use Peach to connect to major cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok.
Peach’s fleet is entirely Airbus A320s, though the secret to the airline’s instant popularity may have more to do with its exclusive terminal at Kansai Airport.
In 2013, Scoot made headlines by creating a ScootinSilence upgrade, banning children under the age of 12 from certain rows. But in general, this Singapore-based budget airline is known for offering reasonable prices on long-haul flights. Destinations include Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jaipur, and others. The airline is transitioning to a modern fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
See the cheapest airlines for South American travel, below.
Free music and videos for travelers with mobile devices is a major perk for travelers flying with this São Paulo, Brazil-based carrier. Destinations serviced by GOL include South America, the Caribbean, and select destinations in the United States. GOL is best flown by travelers who pack extremely light, as carry-on suitcases must not exceed 22 pounds.
Travelers exploring Brazil will love Azul, which boasts an intricate network of local routes — and, more recently, select non-stop flight to destinations in the United States, including Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Europe, and South America. During flights, Azul offers passengers an assortment of complimentary snacks and drinks (including mango juice and polvilho cookies) as well as live TV entertainment.
See the cheapest airlines for African travel, below.
Get around Africa swiftly and cheaply with FastJet, which operates cheap fares to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, among other popular destinations on the continent.
You can’t miss Mango, with its bright orange livery, when it takes to the skies. Travelers on these affordable domestic flights in South Africa will fly on new Boeing 737-800s, and even enjoy onboard Wi-Fi. Destinations serviced include Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and bi-weekly trips to Zanzibar.