Vueling at Bilbao Airport

Independent Travel Awards 2015 - your chance to nominate

Airlines, particularly of the budget variety, are the subjects of some fierce criticism from Independent readers. Yet there is much to celebrate. Over the past year, improvements have included more no-frills airlines offering allocated seating and the introduction of more modern aircraft on a wide range of routes. These are some of the contenders that have caught our eye.

Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” slogan has been derided as “Couldn’t Get Any Worse”. The current spats with (for example) the Danish authorities and Madrid ground handlers show that Europe’s no-frills giant remains uncompromising. But Ryanair’s new seat allocation policy impressed the judges, as did its relaxation of cabin-baggage limits to allow a second small bag to be carried on board. The airline also launched the most innovative new route, a weekly service from Stansted to Sao Miguel in the Azores.

Arch-rival easyJet responded with a link from Luton to Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

Vueling, the low-cost sibling to British Airways and Iberia, continued to challenge the European giants with a new Gatwick-Bilbao link, but more innovative routes were established by sister companies Iberia Express from Heathrow to Tenerife North and Air Nostrum from Luton to Vigo - both Spanish airports previously unserved.