A discount airline is an airline that offers a stripped-back service, with no added-extras but at a very affordable price. The idea behind a discount airline is that by offering a flight ticket that only entitles you to the minimum that you need during your flight, the airline is able to sell its flights cheaper than if it were a full-service carrier offering extras.
Discount airlines go by many other names, including low-cost carrier, budget airline, no-frills airline or a seat-only airline.
Although discount airlines don't include things liked checked baggage, in-flight meals and seat-selection within the price of their ticket, quite often, they'll offer to includes these extras at an additional cost. This means that even if you're flying on a discount airline, you can personalise your flight experience to meet your needs.
Discount airlines are usually made up of one cabin-class — Economy Class. Some discount airlines might have a Premium Economy cabin and others might offer seats within Economy that have increased legroom for a fee. However, the majority of discount airlines will only fly with one cabin, where all seats are uniform in size and legroom.
The majority of discount airlines only fly short-haul (both domestic and international), although, in recent years, there has been a rise in popularity for low-cost long-haul airlines, such as Norwegian and LEVEL.
Ryanair is the most popular discount airline in Europe. It flies to destinations all across Europe and has hubs set up at more than 70 airports, more than any other airline in the world. The airline has hubs in most parts of Europe — almost everywhere except Scandinavia. Although, the airline still flies to/from Scandinavian countires.
Ryanair's hubs include Dublin, London Stansted, Ibiza, Krakow, Frankfurt, Milan, Marseille, Prague, Pescara, Faro, Budapest and many more.
Ryanair is a perfect example of a low-cost airline, with one cabin and extremely cheap fares. The airline also requires you to pay for carry-on baggage, which is something that most discount airlines actually include as free.
easyJet is the second-largest discount airline in Europe. In flies to many destinations across Europe and has hubs in over 20 of them. Its hub are at London Gatwick, Paris, Porto, Glasgow, Basel/Mulhouse, Venice, Bordeaux, Barcelona and many other destinations.
Southwest Airlines is the most popular discount airline within the US and the largest discount airline in the world. It has a huge fleet of over 700 planes, flies to more than 100 destinations across North and Central America and has over 10 hubs within the US.
One of Southwest's budget features is open seating. Open seating means that no seat is assigned to any one passenger and you can choose any available seat at a first-come-first-serve basis when you board the plane.
The AirAsia Group is the second-largest discount airline in Asia and with all of its subsidiaries, flies to more than 150 destinations across East Asia, Southeast Asia and to parts of Australia.
The Group is made up of seven different discount airlines — AirAsia, AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X and AirAsia India.
IndiGo is the largest discount airline in Asia, however, it primarily offers flights to/from India, rather than between destinations all across the continent. The airline flies to more than 80 destinations and has seven hubs within the country.
International destinations that it flies to include Dhaka, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Jeddah, Dubai, Hanoi and more.
JetSMART is the second-largest discount airline in South America, after Brazillian carrier GOL. However, unlike GOL, JetSMART focuses on flights between several destinations within South America, rather than just to/from Brazil.
JetSMART has two bases in Chile, as well as a base in Argentina with its subsidiary JetSMART Argentina.
Air Arabia is a Middle Eastern discount airline that also flies in North Africa and the Middle East through its subsidiaries Air Arabia Maroc, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia Egypt. Altogether, the airline flies to more than 200 destinations.
If you're not worried about adding extras to your flight, such as pre-selecting your seat, complimentary in-flight food or having a free checked baggage allowance, then flying with a discount airline is definitely worth it. Discount airlines are a lot cheaper to fly on when compared to full-service airlines that fly the same routes.
Discount airlines make money by reducing the cost of operating a flight so that it doesn't have to sell it's flights at a high cost to make a profit. The airlines can afford to sell their tickets cheap because they reduce the cost of operating a flight by running a reduced service. For example, because checked baggage isn't given as free on flights, the aircraft weight is lower and the airline uses less fuel. Another example of reducing cost is by the fact that discount airlines don't give complimentary food and drink on their flights.
Yes, discount airlines are completely safe! Just because they're cheaper to fly on, doesn't mean that they're any less safe than full-service carriers. Discount airlines still have to abide by and carry out all the safety measures and protocols that any other airline does. If any airline doesn't meet the safety regulations, it'll not be allowed to fly.
No, a discount airline isn't an airline that is running a promotion or offering deals or vouchers as a one-off discount for its flights. 'Discount airline' is just another term for a 'low-cost airline'.
If you're looking for a one-off discount code for any of the 600+ airlines available at Alternative Airlines, check out our flight discounts and deals page.