Are you looking for the safest, most reliable and cheapest European airline in 2019, but not sure where to look? Well, I’ve not flown with them all, but I’ve got plenty of experience. Let me take you through some of the best I’ve flown with during 2019 so far. Hopefully, it’ll help you out somewhat!
Before you go any further, I’m not affiliated with any airline, which means I can provide honest feedback. Amazing, right?
Who I’ve flown with so far
While I might have notched up some air miles so far this year, you’d be surprised to know there are only a few major airlines to choose from. Normally I will find myself flying with either Ryanair or Easyjet due to price, but I’ve also experienced a few others.
Here’s who I’ve flown with so far:
- Norwegian Air
- Lauda Air
- British Airways
- Thomas Cook
- Wizz Air
As previously mentioned, the majority of my flights I’ve taken have been with either Ryanair, EasyJet or Jet2; for these airlines, I can give a solid review. After that, I’ve flown with Norwegian, BA and Thomas Cook the most. The rest, such as Norwegian, Lauda, Wizz Air, Vueling and SAS, I’ve only flown with once or twice.
Just a note: the following reviews are based on my own personal experiences. The airlines are in order of my experience.
What sucks: Their overbooking policy.
What’s great: 30-day check-in. Decent planes. Nice staff.
Operating a 6:45 am Manchester to Malta route, EasyJet has been my main carrier for my regular visits to Malta for business.
Now, travelling early in the morning is never pleasant — especially as I often have to travel from York to Manchester Airport at 2 am, so I’m already in a bad mood — and so it may well be that my opinion of EasyJet is already blinkered, but here’s my review of EasyJet.
The booking process with EasyJet is all online. Their website is easy to navigate, quick and simple to use. Choose your flights, pay and then check-in. For first time users, it may throw you off that you don’t add your travel details (name, passport number, expiry etc.) until checking in, but other than that it’s super easy.
Pre-flight I’ve only ever checked-in luggage twice, as I normally just bring a carry-on bag. The process was relatively swift; show your boarding pass to the check-in agent, drop your bag and off you go. I think they have a 20kg limit, which is decent enough for one guy. It costs about £30 each way to check-in luggage, which is pretty standard across the budget airlines.
When it comes to boarding, again, they are a very decent carrier. From time to time, you will get that one member of gate staff who diligently checks the size of every bag, but that rarely happens. They do have a strict one bag policy unless you’re a priority customer, but I’ve taken a small backpack and a hand-luggage case without any hassle — although I’ve seen them stamp down on people bringing huge rucksacks through.
Taking off, I think we’ve only ever departed late (late being 30 minutes or more from departure time) a handful of times. I don’t count 10-15 minutes from departure time as ‘late’ — the people who do are normally holidaymakers excited to be on their way. It’s natural to be anxious, but chill out guys, if you’re on the tarmac the plane is just waiting for a departure slot.
In-flight service is pretty much standard. Trolly service, relax, trolly service, relax, “duty-free”, relax, trolly service, buckle up and land. I find the range of drinks to be decent with EasyJet, although I’m not really in the position to knock back a gin and tonic at 7am. I think they offer two spirits and mixers for around £8. They also have a breakfast offer where you get a bacon sandwich and a drink for a decent price, although at the moment I can’t remember whether it’s £6 or £8.
I find the seats on EasyJet flight to be a little thin, but otherwise not bad for a short-haul flight. The newer planes are very smart, while the older planes need to be phased out as they look a little too run-down for comfort.
What most people want to know is what is bad about EasyJet? Well, from my experience not much, but here’s a quick summary:
- Do not check-in a few days before: This is very, very important. If you check-in too late you will be placed as a stand-by passenger due to the fact EasyJet often overbooks its flights. Doing so will ensure your place on the EasyJet naughty bench, hoping someone doesn’t show up for their flight. Normally you get a place, but if you don’t, you can always claim the standard Delayed Flight compensation, which off the topic of my head is like £300 for short-haul flights, a hotel room and a place on the next flight.
- The off-chance you get caught with two bags: I have witnessed this myself (although never caught) and it’s pretty humiliating. You get brought aside, interrogated and presented with a card machine. I think the penalty might be £45 nowadays, which for a backpacker is a lot of money. The backpacker who I saw didn’t have the cash, but with enough pleading, they let her on. Again, a little embarrassing. They do state the rules throughout the booking process though, so you don’t really have any excuses.
Oh lord, the airline with the worst reputation in the industry. Their obnoxiously coloured blue and yellow planes shuttle millions of passengers around Europe every year. And while you might feel that they’re a must-avoid airline, in all honesty for the price you’re paying you’re getting a pretty good service.
The reputation might be in part due to their low prices. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that fares are only a part of Ryanair’s business model; they generate a good chunk of their income by earning a commission on passenger purchases at airports. And often the airline will negotiate extremely low or even free landing fees at out-of-city airports or cities which are desperate for an airline to boost tourism in a particularly quiet area. It’s not as if Ryanair is cutting back on the life-jackets, or charging people to use the toilet, to keep fares down.
Anyway, regardless of their business model, it’s all about customer service. Here’s my experience with Ryanair.
Again, I’m not going to delve into the booking experience with Ryanair. As a major budget airline, they’ve invested a lot into creating a swift and simple booking experience and you can use the app to download your boarding passes straight to your phone.
What I will delve into though is their somewhat confusing policy around baggage. The Ryanair baggage policy has had plenty of media coverage over the last year or so, so I won’t explain too much, but let me try and summarise.
- Travelling with just hand luggage? Then you have a couple of options.
- Opting for priority which is around £7 more will let you jump the queue and bring on your hand luggage (which is a regular size hand-luggage case and a small bag to put under the seat).
- Or, you if are too late and miss out on a priority ticket you can opt to check-in your hand-luggage before security — this cost £10. You will be allowed to carry a small bag on the place.
- Otherwise, with a non-priority ticket, you can only bring a small bag. Don’t try and cheat, you won’t get away with it.
- Travelling with a suitcase? Again, you have a few options:
- Purchasing a ‘plus’ ticket will give you 60-day check-in, a 20kg bag, priority boarding and a standard seat. This ticket is normally double the price and more expensive than booking a normal ticket and paying for extra baggage.
- Purchasing hold luggage (the term for luggage that you check-in) beforehand. It’s £25 for a 20kg bag and you can purchase up to three.
- Purchasing hold luggage 2 hours before your flight, but after booking your tickets, for £40 online. It costs more to do it at the airport.
- I hope that’s clear enough!
Again, with most airlines, there is an element of waiting around. You’ll be called to the gate some 45 minutes from boarding. Sometimes you’ll board straight away, other times you’ll be told the plane needs cleaning/refuelling/safety checks and you’ll be forced to wait around for 30 minutes or so. Either way, most of the time, you’ll be on the plane before your departure time.
Boarding is a little more chaotic and does involve some standing around. First, they call the priority customers up — which often wise will be a queue longer than non-priority customers. Then the non-priority customers will jump on. Here you will experience some pretty strict bag checks, depending on the crew. I’ve often found the Leeds Ryanair crew to be relatively strict, while Manchester’s isn’t so bad. Once you’re out of the UK it’s often a lottery, but your best bet isn’t to risk it and flout the rules.
It’s all about getting into the air, right? As long as you’re flying you’re, well, not dying. Getting into the air is often a gamble at any airport due to takeoff slots, but don’t worry, Ryanair will often get you into the air without any hassle. I’ve only ever been stuck on the tarmac for forty-five minutes with these guys and that was due to congestion. Otherwise, pretty standard.
I have to be honest, I hate Ryanair’s inflight service. It’s not what they have to offer — that’s alright — but it’s how they offer it. Although I might be wrong, I’m pretty sure that even on an hour-long flight they will offer: drinks, scratch cards, drinks, duty-free and more drinks. It feels constant, and it’s unpleasant. And sure you can easily ignore it, but for some reason, it really bugs me.
Otherwise, what they offer is pretty normal in terms of price and range. You can expect to pay up to £4 for a small can of lager, or £2.50 for a soft drink. Food is around £7 for a meal-deal, which involves a sandwich, drink and bag of crisps. They have a coffee and a chocolate bar deal for around a fiver. Hot food for around £7. Not bad, not revolutionary.
In terms of comfort, it’s fine. Being relatively short I’ve never had any issues. Occasionally I’ve taken the front seats for an extra £20 and they are great, although the tray table is a little awkard as it comes out of the size.
So, what do I really despise about Ryanair?
- The in-flight service, as just mentioned. It’s too much.
- The draconian fees for either checking in luggage at the airport or for having too big of a bag at the gate.
- The confusing baggage policy.
- The extortionate cost to book seats, but the lack of oversight when it comes to enforcing pre-bookings. Some people just sit where they like and get away with it.
- The awful yellow seats.
If I hear that ‘Hold My Hand’ song one more time, I will vomit. Poor Jess Glynne, she must be devastated with all the royalties. According to NME, a spokesperson told them: “Our ‘Hold My Hand’ concept is very popular with customers, and we receive a huge amount of positive feedback about both the advert and the song.” Bullsh*t, genuinely. Nobody likes that song. Nobody.
But anyway, let’s get on to my experiences with Jet2. This section will be shorter than the others, as I’ve not flown with them as often — mostly due to the song.
Booking / Takeoff / In-flight
Booking like all other airlines is simple and their app is easy to use. I seem to always print out my Jet2 tickets for some reason. It may be due to the fact their app is difficult to use, or I’ve had trouble using my phone with them in the past — I honestly can’t remember.
I’ve never checked-in luggage with Jet2, but I imagine it’s relatively simple. In regards to hand-luggage, everyone gets the same allowance — awesome. Boarding and taking off is super simple. Aside from the shocking aforementioned song, the one thing I love about Jet2’s in-flight service is that they offer Pot Noodles for around £3. There is nothing like eating a tub of ‘chicken’ and sodium at 35,000ft. That’s when I realised I made it in life.
I find the seats on Jet2 flights to be adequate. They fall in line with EasyJet and Ryanair in regards to pitch and foot space. The only time I recommend someone booking a front or exit lane seat is if you’re over six foot, or really like to stretch.
The only negative is that damn song.
Listen, I’m not going to waste your time writing about airlines I’ve only rarely travelled on, as I can’t give them a full review. Instead, I’ll summarise my experience of the others with one line.
- BA: Like the rest, but don’t take cash in-flight (also, they don’t take Revolut or any other pre-paid card, like a lot of airlines actually).
- Vueling: The Spanish version of Ryanair who don’t always operate on time.
- Lauda Air: Really nice and modern with comfortable planes — now owned by Ryanair.
- FlyBe: Don’t sit next to the wings unless you want to contract tinnitus.
- Wizz Air: It’s just Ryanair, guys.
- Norwegian Air: Lovely planes which will occasionally offer free wifi.
- Thomas Cook: 8kg hand-baggage allowance which is weighed because their online check-in never works.
- SAS: It’s a Scandinavian airline so already miles ahead of the UK.
And that’s your lot. As I travel more with the above European airlines I’ll be able to expand on my reviews. Thanks for reading and if you have any feedback drop me a comment below.