How Budget Airlines Work?

I posted a video on why flying is so expensive, and, people seemed to like it, however, they wanted to know, how ar budget airlines so cheap? Well it’s another complex answer but an interesting one. For the purposes of simplicity, and to keep our European friends from feeling left out, we’ll focus on the European model of budget airlines. While there are low-cost carriers in North America, South Africa, India, Asia, and plenty of other places, budget airlines really were first successful in Europe and that’s where they’re still most prominent today.

The magnitude to which airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet reduce the cost in Europe is also much more significant. Budget airlines in the US might be 10 or 20% less expensive than their traditional competitors while in Europe a fare on a budget airline might only cost half or a third of what you would pay to a normal airline. You can regularly find 2-3 hour flights on budget airlines for less than 10 euros So how do they work? Well, unsurprisingly, budget airlines essentially take every expensive part of the flight and make them less expensive.

 The most essential thing an airline needs is airplanes and it is possible to spend less on those. In the months and years following 9/11, the growth of air travel stalled and most airlines were simply fighting to survive. Meanwhile, Ryanair was thriving and placed a massive order of 151 737’s from Boeing at unbelievably low-prices. A circumstance like that luckily isn’t frequent but budget airlines can place large orders at any time which gives them a bulk discount. It might seem weird that a budget airline would buy brand new airplanes, but the newest planes are the most efficient which saves fuel. The fuel efficiency of new aircraft offsets the higher purchase price, so EasyJet (4.0), JetBlue (4.7), Ryanair (5.0), and Spirit Airlines (5.7) all have younger fleets than any major airline (KLM 9.4, Air France 11.5, Lufthansa 12.4). Budget airlines will also typically have only one type of plane. Ryanair only operates 737’s and EasyJet only operates the a320 family.

 Having only one type of Aircraft means that pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and ground staff only need to be trained on one type of aircraft which saves an enormous amount of time and money. Within the planes,budget airlines will often avoid luxuries to keep costs down. Ryanair seats, for example, don’t recline because that increases the initial purchase price for seats and also requires more maintenance. The seat design also saves time for flight attendants since there are no seatback pockets to clean between flights.

Flight attendants on budget airlines are often in the beginning of their careers and receive little training. Of course they’ll get the required safety training but only minimal hospitality training. They’ll also often serve multiple roles. While on the ground, some of the flight attendants might go to the gate and check tickets while others clean the airplane. Through this, the airline eliminates three or four positions that they regularly would pay for. Onboard, flight attendants are of course responsible for food and drinks which are almost never free. Onboard service can be an excellent way for the airline tomake money. Many budget airlines also do duty free sales and Ryanair even sells lottery tickets.


Let’s talk Airports. You’re never going to see Ryanair fly to London Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle because those airports are expensive. There’s only a set amounts of flights per day that can operate out of them so supply and demand dictates that landing fees are high and slots are regulated. Instead, Ryanair flies to Gatwick, Stansted, or Luton in London or Beauvais in Paris, which, by the way, is a 80 minute bus ride away from Paris, isn’t even technically in the same region of Paris, and has a website that looks like this! In a lot of cases, Ryanair or other budget airlines are the only or one of a few airlines flying out of an airport which gives them huge negotiating power. Often they will take a small regional airport a ways away from a city and rebrand it as another city airport.

They can ask for lower landing and takeoff prices and, if the airport doesn’t comply, just leave and the airport will essentially cease to exist. If there isn’t a viable.

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