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All You Need to Know About Low-Cost Carriers

Travel on the cheap! Start your trip planning with budget flights from these low-cost carriers near you (and check out our tips below to make sure you get the best deals). Save money on your next trip by flying with these low-cost carriers. We give you all the details for budget airlines in Canada, U.S. and Europe.

Low-Cost Carriers in Canada

There are already a few low-cost carriers in Canada but 2019 should be bringing in a couple of ultra-low-cost carriers. It seems like airline companies are rebelling against the super high cost of flights across the country. Flair Air and Swoop are the low-cost carriers already in existence, with Enerjet and Canada Jetlines on their way.

Flair Air destinations:

This low-cost carrier strictly flies to a few locations within Canada: Abbotsford, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax, Kelowna, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

Flair Air offers a “pay what you want” model, which means the base price includes a place to sit and one personal item (7 kg). Optional fees include carry-on bags, checked bags, reserved seating, priority boarding snacks, and flexible fares.

To keep the fare low, make sure to check-in online and print your boarding pass ahead of time (or save it on your phone – one boarding pass per one cell phone). Calling into the call centre will also result in an additional fee, so try to do everything online.

Swoop destinations:

Swoop mostly flies within Canada but they also have budget-friendly flights to the U.S. and to a few locations farther south.

Year-round destinations include Abbotsford, Edmonston, Kelowna, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Halifax, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Cancun and Montego Bay. Seasonal flights include Phoenix, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

As an additional feature, Swoop offers FlyDay Fares, which are sale-fares released every Friday at 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. MST – perfect for last-minute getaways.

For the low-cost fare, the base price provides you with a seat and a free personal item. Optional fees include seat choice, snacks, carry on bags and checked baggage. Calling the call centre can result in an additional fee, so do everything online when possible.

Learn more about Swoop Airlines here.

Woman looking out plane window while smiling. Tips for Flying with Low-Cost Carriers | Skyscanner Canada
Tips for Flying with Low-Cost Carriers | Skyscanner Canada

Canada Jetlines destinations:

While the airline has not revealed its complete list of destinations, their news releases leave little to the imagination.

So far, there are confirmed Jetlines partnerships with Vancouver International Airport, Kelowna International Airport, Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, Aéroport Montréal Saint-Hubert Longueuil, and Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport.

Destinations on Jetlines will include New York, Florida, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, and Cancun airports in Mexico, and Puerto Plata, Samaná, and Santo Domingo airports in the Dominican Republic.

Enerjet destinations:

This charter airline company in Alberta is rebranding and expanding in 2019 to offer ultra-low-cost flights. Destinations have not been revealed.

world map and plane
Where to next?

Low-Cost Carriers in the U.S.

Flying through the U.S. is notoriously cheaper than flying through Canada, and these popular low-cost carriers are part of the reason.

Southwest Airlines destinations:

This low-cost carrier is the largest in the world and has the perks to go with it. Not only does your fare include a regular carry-on bag, but it also includes two checked bags. Southwest Airlines also pride themselves on not having any flight change fees – you just pay the fare difference rather than incur a separate change dee.

One unique feature of Southwest Airlines is the open seating policy. You’re assigned a group based on your fare, and then you can sit anywhere you want once your group has been granted boarding access.

Southwest Airlines also has its own loyalty program called Rapid Rewards® where you can accumulate reward points and use them whenever you want.

This low-cost carrier flies to 100 destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Popular flight routes include Chicago to Atlanta, San Jose, Costa Rica to Baltimore/Washington, Las Vegas to Denver, and Houston to Dallas.

Spirit Airlines destinations:

Spirit Airlines offers a “Bare Fare,” which gets you a seat and a free personal item (a very small personal item). Extras like larger seats, snacks, and checked luggage cost more – and Spirit Airlines is known for being incredibly strict with their rules.

You can sign up for their loyalty program called “Free Spirit” to collect reward points or sign up for their “$9 Fare Club” to benefit from additional travel deals and special bag prices.

Spirit Airlines has low-cost flights throughout the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and a few South American destinations like Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Their non-stop services are constantly expanding and can be viewed on their website.

Other low-cost carriers in the U.S. include Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, jetBlue and Sun Country Airlines.

canal in Amsterdam with houses and boats
Take a low-cost carrier and see Amsterdam

Low-Cost Carriers in Europe

EasyJet and Ryanair are arguably the two most popular low-cost carriers in Europe, but that doesn’t mean they are your only two options.

There are plenty of low-cost carriers across Europe, headquartered throughout their respective countries.

Hungary has Wizz Air, Turkey has Pegasus Airlines, Spain has Volotea and Vueling, Romania has Blue Air, and the Netherlands has Transavia, among many other options in Europe.

The best way to check for low-cost carriers is to search for deals through flight engines like Skyscanner or Google “country + low-cost carrier.” Some of these budget airlines only fly within their home country, while many fly to neighbouring destinations and a few carriers fly as far as Asia and Africa.

Tips for Flying with Low-Cost Carriers

Budget airlines are not known to be glamorous. Their main goal is to get you to your destination for a low cost. This often means cutting out non-essential services like complimentary snacks, seat assignments, and even carry-on bags.

We have a few tips to get you through your low-cost flight as comfortable and stress-free as possible!

1. Weigh and measure your bag beforehand

Some higher-end airlines are fairly lenient with the bags you bring on board, even offering free baggage check at the gate during busy flights. Low-cost carriers are not lenient. Be prepared for them to weigh and measure all of your bags. If it doesn’t fit their standard, they will charge you. Don’t wing it – make sure your bag fits their dimensions and weight limits.

If the dimensions seem ridiculously tiny, that’s because they are. Don’t get stung with extra charges at the airport by thinking you can get away with a bigger bag.

Read: How to Avoid Baggage Fees on Your Next Flight.

2. One personal item means one personal item

If your base fare includes one personal item, make sure you really have just one personal item. A full backpack is one item. A full backpack and a laptop on the side is considered two items and won’t be allowed. This goes for purses, wallets, cameras, extra coats, etc. One personal item is one personal item.

If you think you have more than one personal item, it is recommended to purchase extra baggage online as fares at the gate are significantly more expensive.

baggage scale and red suitcase. It's important to weigh your luggage beforehand to avoid any hidden fees, especially when travelling with low-cost carriers.
Weigh your luggage beforehand

3. Print or download your boarding pass before the airport

Figure out the boarding pass situation before heading to the airport. Some airlines allow you to have a mobile version (albeit often one boarding pass per one mobile device). Others require that you have a printed version.

If you need a printed version at the airport, they will charge you for this service and it is definitely more expensive than printing it at a local computer café (a LOT more expensive).

4. Check the airport code

One of the ways these low-cost carriers save money is by flying out of less popular airports in a destination. Don’t assume you’re at the main international airport in your destination or departure city – always double check!

Read: Alternative Airports that are Typically Cheaper.

5. Bring your own food on the flight

There won’t be any complimentary snacks on your flight so make sure to bring a few goodies to keep your tummy content throughout your journey. Same goes for any drink you might want to have on board with you. Better yet, bring an empty water bottle through security so you can fill up on free water at the gate (it helps your wallet while preventing extra plastic waste).

6. Bring your own entertainment

Download some podcasts or Netflix shows on your device to keep you entertained on the flight. Don’t expect any entertainment on board, so pack a good book or a tough crossword puzzle.

7. Check the Terms and Conditions

It might sound boring but it is important to read the terms and conditions before purchasing your budget flight. There might be some fine print that is important to know – like whether or not they reschedule cancelled flights.

Some airlines charge extra for infants, strollers, pets, etc. Always check these costs before booking your budget flight.

8. Shop around for deals

If you are planning on adding additional services like checked baggage, meals, and assigned seating, you might not be getting the best deal after all. Some airlines that don’t fall into the categories of low-cost or ultra-low-cost carriers might have some better deals or sales once you’ve accounted for all the add-ons.

Just because an airline is marketed as a budget airline, doesn’t mean it will always give you the best flight deal. Do your own research – or let Skyscanner do it for you with our search engine!

How to Find Cheap Flights: 7 Travel Tips and Tricks

Ready to book a budget flight? We can help! Find flight deals and low-cost carriers with the Skyscanner search engine.