Norwegian 787

Low cost long haul airlines are a relatively new addition to the range of airlines you can fly with. Most of us are used to flying with budget airlines for short flights. But is a low cost airline worth considering for a long haul flight? 

The cost of flying in Europe has been driven down over the last 15 years by low cost short haul airlines. The no frills fares mean you can pay for only the parts of the trip that you’ll use, such as a checked bag and food and drink on the plane.

Low cost long haul airlines work in a similar way. The basic fare includes a seat on the plane and not much else.

The basic air fare can be superb value. But for long haul flights you’re more likely to be checking in a bag and you’re almost certainly going to want something to eat and drink at some point. Adding on these extras can quickly bump up the total cost of the flight.

Also, some traditional airlines now have hand baggage only fares on some of their long haul routes. 

This makes comparing fares between airlines a bit trickier as you need to make sure you’re including all the extras you would use for your flights.

Economy Basic Fare Example
Economy Light fare with a ‘traditional’ airline

What’s Included When Flying With A Low Cost Long Haul Airline?

To help compare fares, I’ve listed extras you may want to add when comparing low cost airlines with other airlines. I’ve also added the long haul routes that each low cost airline flies.

Low Cost Airlines With Long Haul Flights Or Connections From The UK

Norwegian

Routes: Gatwick to many cities in the USA, Buenos Aires. Other European cities to the USA, Thailand, Dubai, Amman, Israel.

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, pillow and blanket

Thomas Cook Airlines

Routes: Gatwick and Manchester to the USA, Caribbean South Africa, and Goa (India). Also offers connections through Germany to Brazil, Canada, Mauritius, the Maldives, Namibia, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Seychelles, Malaysia.

Pay extra for: airport check in, checked bags, drinks (meals are included), pillow and blanket

TUI 

Routes: Many UK airports to the USA, Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Mauritius, Maldives, Goa (India)

Pay extra for: checked bags, drinks (meals are included), pillow and blanket

Wow Air 

Routes: Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh and many other European cities to Iceland with connections to many cities in the USA and Canada.

Pay extra for: larger carry on bag, checked bags, food and drink, pillow and blanket. Inflight entertainment is not available.

Westjet

Routes: Gatwick and Glasgow, plus some European cities, to Canada. Also offers connections to many cities in the USA, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Pay extra for: checked bags. Food and drink, pillow and blanket are included if you’re flying on one of their Boeing 787 aircraft, otherwise you have to pay for them.

Eurowings

Routes: Germany to the USA, Caribbean, Mauritius, Cape Town, Windhoek (Namibia) and Bangkok. Connections to long haul flights from many UK airports.

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, inflight entertainment, pillow and blanket

Level

Routes: Barcelona to the USA, Buenos Aires, and Paris to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean. 

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, pillow and blanket. Charges for inflight entertainment will start in 2019.

Scoot

Routes: Singapore to Berlin and Athens plus many cities in Asia, Australia and Hawaii.

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, inflight entertainment, pillow and blanket

Low Cost Airlines That Don’t Fly To The UK

Air Asia X

Routes: Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to many cities in Asia, Australia and the Maldives.

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, inflight entertainment, pillow and blanket

Jetstar 

Routes: Australia and New Zealand to many cities in Asia and the Pacific.

Pay extra for: checked bags, food and drink, inflight entertainment, pillow and blanket

Things To Watch Out For

Delays and cancellations can happen with any airline. Whilst they are probably no more common on low cost airlines than other airlines, a delay or cancellation with a low cost airline may have a bigger impact on your journey.

This is because traditional airlines tend to have more back up aircraft and crews, plus they are more likely to be a member of one of the three large airline alliances. This means they can more easily reroute you with one of their partner airlines so you get to your destination more quickly. 

Premium Seats On Low Cost Airlines

Premium Economy seat

One area where many low cost long haul airlines win over the traditional airlines is premium seating.

Most low cost long haul airlines offer a premium cabin with bigger seats and enhanced service. This is equivalent to (and sometimes better than) the premium economy cabin on traditional airlines. The premium fare usually includes checked bags, food and drink, entertainment, pillows and blankets. They often also include priority boarding, dedicated check in areas and sometimes priority security and lounge access.

Because low cost airlines’ costs are lower they can offer seats in their premium cabin at prices that are often much lower than the equivalent service with a traditional airline.

Each airline offers something slightly different so it’s worth checking out their websites if you’re considering upgrading to see what you’ll get.

A small number of low cost airlines including Air Asia X and Westjet also offer a full business class with lie flat seats on some of their aircraft. Seats in these cabins aren’t priced at economy fares but they are sometimes cheaper than business class on a traditional airline.

Conclusion

For me, low cost long haul airlines are always worth considering.

The golden rule is to compare the prices and to make sure you add in the costs of all the extras you will want for a long haul flight. This includes checked bags, food and sometimes things like inflight entertainment.

Alongside price, I also consider convenience and comfort. Some low cost long haul airlines fly non-stop routes for a similar price to a one stop flight with a traditional airline. Others fly non-stop from my local airport, so I don’t have the hassle of travelling to another city to start my trip. This can make a huge difference, cutting hours and in some case days off an already long journey.

If I want to travel in more comfort then low cost long haul airlines are often my first port of call. They have premium cabins and often their prices are much lower than the equivalent with a traditional airline.

Have you flown with a low cost long haul airline? What was your experience? Share in the comments below.

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