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Budget Europe Airlines 101

Get around Europe cheaper, faster, and with less hassle than ever before

By Elissa Richard

May 2nd, 2006

It's no surprise that spring and summer are peak travel season in Europe, but what you may not know is that visiting multiple European cities on a single itinerary no longer requires train trips and Eurail Passes. Indeed, the low-fare airlines boom in Europe has revolutionized travel overseas, bringing an end to the long-standing dictum that if you weren't knighted or descended from royalty, you could forget about affording air travel. Now, budget-savvy travelers can take to the skies, too – rather than schlep luggage on fatigue-inducing ten-hour train rides (however quaint in theory they might seem) – and complete the same journey in a quick hour-long plane ride, often at less cost than the train, to boot!

The major players in the low-fare European airlines sector, such as Ryanair, easyJet, and Air Berlin, have brought on a bold challenge to the traditional European carriers, such as Air France and British Airways, quite similar to what discount carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue have done in the U.S. Offering no-frills service at dramatically reduced prices, the new airlines have forced legacy airlines to slash their own fares considerably, creating a competitive and very consumer-friendly market overseas.

The success of premier European budget airlines has seen dozens of new smaller budget airlines emerge in recent years, resulting in a continuously expanding network of routes and a plethora of tempting air deals to go with them. We've grouped some 50-plus discount European carriers in countries from East to West to help you make the most of your next European adventure and get around cheaper, faster, and with less hassle than ever before.

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