Why I Try to Avoid Low-Cost Carriers

Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.

Love them or hate them, low-cost carriers have unquestionably shaken up the aviation market. A LCC is easy enough to define: an airline supposedly offering fewer comforts and lower fares, whilst charging extra for such things we used to take for granted, such as food, seat assignments, checked luggage, etc. Of course, several readers – and a few InsideFlyer contributors – will undoubtedly jump in with the completely valid argument that most, if not all, airlines would qualify these days as a “low-cost carrier” according to that definition. And the world’s largest low-cost carrier – Southwest Airlines in the United States – is often considered to be one of the best airlines on that side of the pond.

Nonetheless, we all instinctively “know” what a LCC is, even if the dictionary definition comes up short. A certain gentleman has been largely responsible for this perception… And I challenge you to name the CEO of any other airline.

Your first thought is surely British AirwaysAlex Cruz who, coincidentally or not, many people love to bash because he, too, has a background in running a low cost carrier.

Your second thought? Me too… I couldn’t really think of one without resorting to Google (Sir Richard and Willie Walsh no longer qualify as CEOs)…

Many people love a good moan (although they might not admit it), with a certain UK newspaper doing excellent business reporting stories of woe. And airlines are a great target for a good moan. Whether it’s flight delays, overbooking or cramped seating, one often wonders why we fly away on holiday, when we seem to complain about it so much. I suspect that Misters O’Leary and Cruz have discovered something really quite simple – we don’t need to love an airline to take out our debit card (credit would cost extra!) and buy the cheapest ticket available. And most once-or-twice-a-year flyers simply do not care which logo is painted on the plane, much less concern themselves with positioning to Stockholm for a Qatar Airways flight in Business Class that still costs more than an Economy ticket. So any chance for the airline to cut costs is an opportunity to lower fares and attract more business (and/or increase profits).

I refuse to play along, unless I absolutely have no alternative for the city pair I require. If I have a truly bad experience with an airline, I make every effort to avoid sending more of my “hard earned” in their direction. So I bear my grudges for a bit longer! Decades in fact. So, for your amusement this weekend, I decided to share some of my worst LCC experiences.


The airline we all love to hate (except Joe, who loves to fly to Portugal cheaply).

My last experience with Ryanair came, believe it or not, more than ten years ago. A work colleague and I were going to fly from London to Sardinia, and meet an Italian friend there for a weekend away. A conference call that ran a bit late, a slight miscalculation about how long it would take to walk from the office over to Liverpool Street station and how long the Stansted Express would take… resulted in our arrival five minutes late for check-in. (this was well before today’s print-your-own-boarding-pass system – back then boarding was a free-for-all but you were organised into groups based on your arrival time to the airport, unless you paid extra for Priority Boarding of course…)

After denying our check-in, we were cheerfully informed by the agent that we could spend £200 per person to fly the next day at 6 a.m. My response is obviously unfit for publication… I’m sure that if this was a genuine moan I would receive lots of feedback about arriving on-time, it was our own fault, bla bla bla… But that’s not the point of the story.

I suggested to my friend that we at least grab a pint or two and dinner before braving the Stansted Express back to London. So, perhaps 90 minutes later we started to exit the airport when I chanced upon the Departures information screen. Lo and behold, the flight to Sardinia had been massively delayed and still had not departed. Not only had we never been in any danger of missing our flight, we could STILL make our flight.

A second attempt at check-in resulted in the same answer. At that point, I realised that Ryanair were stiffing us, SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY COULD! And since then, I’ve never paid Ryanair a pence or euro cent, simply because I refuse to!

Air Asia

If you travel around Asia, you might have come across Air Asia. Substantially cheaper than the traditional Asian mainline carriers, I had booked several flights with Air Asia for a backpacking trip with my partner around Southeast Asia a few years ago. On our first couple of flights, we were slightly overweight with our checked luggage and were forced to be “those people” embarrassing themselves by repacking in public, wearing three layers of clothing and stuffing more than should be logistically possible into a carry-on backpack.

So for the next Air Asia flight, I decided to be clever and purchased an extra piece of baggage allowance online. So we checked in with our three bags only to be told that we were overweight. “Huh? But I paid for an extra bag”? “Yessir, that’s correct, but you can still only take 15kg per person”. In what could be a slapstick comedy sketch complete with horrible racial stereotypes, I eventually figured out that you have to pay for “weight allowance” separately from (and in addition to) “baggage allowance”.

Again… clearly my fault… didn’t read the fine print… bla bla bla… I have only flown Air Asia since when I had no other choice, but learned to only take a light bag with me.


Commonly seen as the “best of the lot” when it comes to low-cost carriers, I haven’t yet had a truly miserable experience on the few Easyjet flights I’ve taken. I could mention a Sunday evening flight that was supposed to arrive at 11pm but instead arrived at 2am, but that could (probably) happen to any airline although naturally nothing was offered on the ground despite the drip-drip of additional delays. It was easy enough to check that the outgoing plane still hadn’t left Gatwick, even though no Easyjet personnel would confirm that and hand out meal/drink vouchers…

But here’s the thing with Easyjet… my experience is they aren’t actually all that cheap. Once I start adding in the “credit card fee”, “seat selection fee” and the rest of the delightful add-ons common to short-haul travel, I rarely, if ever, find Easyjet to be cheaper than the competition, so why bother? I can always choose a Oneworld or Star Alliance airline, enjoy the lounge pre-flight and select my seat for free, thanks to elite status…


A planeload full of passengers bursts into applause upon landing. Except that the flight was one of the most placid, turbulence-free flights I have ever experienced. A cynical friend and I struggled to keep a straight face, but perhaps these were frequent Wizzair flyers who knew when to applaud something rarely seen at Wizzair? I decided not to test my luck a second time…



I find it close to impossible to avoid Barcelona-based Vueling. At least it’s not Ryanair…

And, despite all of its flaws, Vueling has two redeeming factors…

  • You can earn Avios
  • You can redeem Avios

And, for what it’s worth, Vueling is responsible for at least 25% of the web traffic to my blog Flying Piggie as people try to figure out whether Vueling is a part of the Oneworld alliance

After my last cramped, uncomfortable, middle seat, no lounge, delayed flight Vueling experience, I thought about getting a tattoo for my mouse-clicking hand that would read “don’t confirm that Vueling booking you idiot”. But I can earn 125 Avios, and 5 Tier Points if I book using a BA code. Oh dear, I must be truly addicted to Avios…


What’s Your Opinion?

Do you avoid low-cost carriers as vehemently as I do? Do you have even worse stories to share? That’s what the comments section and the InsideFlyer forum are for…


  1. Mark L says

    My least favourite part of travelling with low cost carriers is not knowing which departure gate to go to until the last moment. My experience of Flybe and EasyJet is waiting airside, watching the screens for information. Message for my flight will be ‘wait in lounge’ no gate info right up to boarding time when the message changes to ‘gate closed’ !!! and at last the gate number appears. Sometimes the gate is changed while you are making your way there. There may be too few screens to catch this update.

    Another gripe, admittedly from a few years ago and things might have changed, had to depart Birmingham on Flybe. My taxi driver dropped me at departures. I was last minute due to overrun of the course I’d been attending. Nearly missed the flight when found out Flybe check-in desk is in arrivals. Yes, Flybe departures is in arrivals. Cue panicked sprint through airport.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I’ve been involved in a couple of airport sales and that’s part of the behind-the-scenes deal, especially with the LCCs… keep everybody in the shopping areas as long as possible… LCCs don’t mind because if you screw up and arrive to the gate late or with too much shopping, then they can blame you and charge extra.

    • Pangolin says

      That’s still the setup at BHX. You arrive via the shuttle service from B’Ham International at ‘Departures’, go down to the check-in desk in Arrivals and then go back up to Departures. This check-in area is for airlines like Wizz, Monarch, and the usual suspects (yes: I flew WizzAir).

      These days I’m so used to it that going downstairs then upstairs is something that I can do in my sleep. BTW, a tip for BHX – if you’re flight is in the morning or afternoon peak periods, be sure to pony up the £5 extra for Fast Track (only £3.50 if you buy in advance). You can easily save 20-30 minutes of stress by doing this.

  2. RichT says

    Never had any issues with any of the LCCs – Especially Ryanair since it went “nice”. Mobile boarding pass, £30 return to select an exit row with tons of legroom (available to everyone not just frequent flyers), and most importantly departing from a convenient regional airport without having to deal with getting to the city that believes it is centre of the known universe!

    Generally travel HBO in Europe anyway to save the waiting around the other end. If you can’t fit a week’s worth of clothes in a 10kg carry on you’re packing wrong.

    If BA flew regular flights from BHX, MAN or EMA I’d consider them (and maybe pay a small premium) but until then a direct flight for ~£100 each including extra legroom seating on any of the LCCs is my preference for short haul!

    The time I save getting to/from the airport, connecting or paying LHR extortionate parking charges, more than makes up for the lack of a lounge experience – especially now airports are investing in making the general waiting area more pleasant with WiFi and power points etc.

    Can spend the money saved on a nicer hotel or meal out at the destination, and no one needs to know you arrived on a flying Megabus…..!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I did smile because “convenient regional airport” at the UK end of the journey is great for non-Londoners, whilst a non-central airport at the other end can be quite an inconvenience.

      I sometimes forget that, since the lounge is so crucial to my experience, not everybody receives that experience on the likes of BA and can only compare the on-board (and find little difference these days). Since I’m well watered with champagne before boarding I notice it a lot less… 🙂

      • RichT says

        I experienced that with Ryanair to “Venice” but I was booking a week before in August so anything into Marco Polo was £300 more – so we suffered the 1hr Ryanair coach.

        However interestingly Easyjet fly to Marco Polo… And they are getting better at flying to main airports instead of fields in the middle of nowhere with a shed… But yes take that as something to watch out for, but I still hate London!

    • Pangolin says

      These are good points, RichT, and as I generally have to fly from BHX (or LPL or MAN) I also make use of LCCs due to the lack of realistic options (nope, an extortionate KLM service with a lousy transfer doesn’t quite cut it). BA thinks that people in the Midlands/North may as well be living on the far side of the moon. They milk monopolistic profits at LHR so don’t see any great need to spring their wings to regional airports where others have the chance to compete with them.

      Most of the bloggers are very LDN-centric and all about LHR, LGW, LCY with BA/Avios as the only game in town.

      • Craig Sowerby says

        Very true, but there’s not much to write about with “miles and points” or “travel hacking” for the main LCCs. Apart from highlighting particularly cheap fare sales or new routes to somewhere intriguing. (usually long haul)

        • Pangolin says

          That’s why I tend to concentrate my points earnings on the hotels… much richer pickings and you don’t have to worry about booking classes, 2-4-1s, blackout dates or finding availability! 🙂

          I still make use of some of Avios earnings opportunities (like the Tesco printer cartridge one) but those won’t be my bread and butter.

  3. James says

    BA 🙁

    “A LCC is easy enough to define: an airline supposedly offering fewer comforts and lower fares, whilst charging extra for such things we used to take for granted, such as food, seat assignments, checked luggage, etc”

  4. Roland says

    I’m flying in the past few years only with BA or Lufthansa but my first ever flight experience was with Wizzair and it was quite good. I have flown with Easyjet once and I thought I’m going to die there. But actually my most perfect flight experience was with Norwegian. We departed from LGW exactly on time which is a miracle and arrived more than half an hour earlier to BUD. One time I had a massive delay with them and when we finally departed I was like I need to drink something but nobody knows why the didn’t accept Barclays debit card and I didn’t have cash and the flight attendants just gives the wine to me for free.

  5. Pangolin says

    The reason given for avoiding Wizz is a bit flippant. I’ve flown with them more times than I care to remember I could practically write a book on their issues (Priority Boarding passengers have to stand in the bus while non-priority get a seat; bizarre carry-on baggage policy; website which often craps out at the moment of paying and leaves you with a zombie booking; messed-up refund policy, etc. etc.). Yet the thing about clapping is more to do with where the passengers come from than the QoS. It’s an Eastern European based airline which is very popular with Poles, Hungarians, etc. and I’ve noticed that people from these regions (obviously we’re not talking frequent flyers) tend to do this much more than pax from western Europe. I also find it a bit cringeworthy but these days I can tune out…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *