Europe is really opening up with the advent of small, low-cost carriers that collectively support a huge network of regional and city airports in many countries across continental and eastern Europe.
When you think of low cost airlines, the two most well known ones that come to mind are Ryanair and Easyjet. There are many other small, low-cost airlines which continue to expand their routes across Europe and offer excellent flight packages for their customers.
The Low Cost Airline Guide (www.low-cost-airline-guide.com) web site provides complete information for low cost airlines in Europe and can highlight which carriers fly the routes that you’re interested in. Below is some more information about five of the more interesting, less expensive European carriers.
airBaltic is a mostly state-owned low-cost airline with a smart image (even the cabin staff wear a snazzy pin-stripe suit with collar and tie). With flights priced in Euros, they fly to many big name destinations including Barcelona (for city living crossed with beach-filled days), Istanbul (for that Turkish flavour), Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.
airBaltic clearly isn’t restricting itself to European destinations any longer. They’re not so small either, flying over three million passengers a year to over 50 destinations. They have a modern fleet of 25 aircraft including some Boeing 737 planes and Bombardier Q400 Next Gen airliners.
They’ve been operating since 1995 and are majority owned by the Latvian state.
Volotea Airline is a relatively new low-cost airline based in Barcelona, but initially commercing operations in the spring of 2012 from Venice, Italy.
The airline flies to many destinations within Spain and also to small and mid-sized cities within France, Italy, Portugal and the Greek Islands. The airline does not presently connect to any airports within the UK, but it is an excellent option for short hop flights within continental Europe.
The airline is equipped with a number of Boeing 717 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce engines. These smaller aircraft hold just 125 passengers, with a 5 seats per row configuration. The focus of Volotea is to provide a no-fuss, affordable service.
Wizz Air with its name and blended pink and white airline design clearly aims to make a statement. The airline flies to over 280 destinations within eastern and central Europe. There are 17 operating bases for this airline including ones in Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic.
The operations extend well across Eastern Europe, continental Europe and to Luton in the UK. Luton is not too close to London, but has been a useful hub for the many Polish workers visiting the UK who use Wizz Air to fly in from Gdansk and Warsaw, and take mini-buses to get into the capital.
The airline was founded in 2003. It uses a fleet of new Airbus A320 planes with 180 leather seats on-board. The service is designed to be simple, single class and very affordable for travellers. No-frills comfort, essentially. As such, Wizz has built-up a loyal following of frequent flyers who can easily connect to their network.
Even though all seats are leather, Wizz does offer premium services like priority boarding, extra leg-room and reserved seating for those who wish to pay a little more.
Transavia has a rich 45 year history which dwarfs that of most low-cost airlines. This Dutch airline company is part-owned by Air France which retains a 60% stake, with the other 40% being owned by the Transavia operating company.
The airline covers numerous short-hop destinations within Europe, as well as flying to Gatwick Airport, near London. Many of these flights can cost as little as 50 Euros making flying with them often as affordable as driving. Their sprawling network covers all the major summer spots like Nice, Majorca, Corfu and Rome, but also flies to popular winter sport locations too, making this a good all-year-round airline to consider.
The fleet of 30 airliners includes Boeing 737-700 and Boeing 737-800 jets which can carry either 149 or 189 passengers per trip. In 2012, the airline flew over 5 million passengers. This modern fleet is able to operate at lower cost and with less CO2 emissions.
Smartwings is based out of Prague, Czech Republic. From this base, the airline flies to many popular European destinations such as Ibiza, Malaga, Kos, Naples, Hamburg and Stockholm. There are actually very few European destination cities that they do not reach, but they serve the Nordic region and Eastern Europe far less expansively.
Their focus is on creating a growing list of destinations connecting continental Europe with Prague, rather than linking two other airports unrelated to the Czech Republic as a new route served by Smartwings.
As such, Smartwings is more useful as an airline when you’re either presently visiting Prague and wish to go on the next leg of your pan-European tour or alternatively when you’re travelling within continental Europe and become interested in visiting the historic city of Prague. In which case, this airline should be a top choice.