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Budget airlines rated: What you get for your money on Ryanair, easyJet and the rest

From seat pitch to baggage fees, here's how the top low-cost carriers fared

Friday 14 October 2016 12:48 BST
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Ryanair is hard to beat on price, but its customer service still leaves something to be desired
Ryanair is hard to beat on price, but its customer service still leaves something to be desired

Ryanair

Carry-on baggage: 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (10kg weight limit), plus one small bag up to 35cm x 20cm x 20cm

Checked baggage: a 15kg bag costs £25 each way, 20kg is £35

Food: sandwiches, snacks and hot food including flatbreads and chips; lasagne costs €6

Seats: non-reclining, with 76cm pitch, 43cm width; choosing a seat costs from £4

Online check-in: available 30 days to four hours before departure for those who buy seats (up to seven days in advance for those who don't); airport check-in costs £45 on the day of departure - check-in rules have changed since the time of publication, see the new rules here

What we say: “Ah, Ryanair, the airline we all love to hate - but perhaps that’s because it’s the airline that loves to hate you, too. Probably the most irritating element of the Ryanair experience is how the baggage fees push the majority of passengers to bring carry-on, when the overhead lockers have absolutely no hope of accommodating it all. This results in passengers being forced to check luggage anyway, without charge, which might be a bonus it weren’t presented by staff as some sort of public shaming ritual, and it didn’t hold up the boarding process. But, on reflection, the most irritating thing about Ryanair is this: despite the company’s flagrant disdain for its customers, we take it like the globe-trotting masochists we are, because few can beat the big blue-and-yellow bus in the sky on price.” Laura Chubb

easyJet

Carry-on baggage: 56cm x 45cm x 25cm; no weight limit

Checked baggage: 20kg in the hold costs between £13 and £30 each way, depending on the route

Food: sandwiches, porridge and snacks; meze selection from £4.50

Seats: non-reclining, with 72.5cm pitch, 44cm width; choosing a seat costs from £1.99 (up to £19.99 for first row)

Online check-in: available 30 days to two hours before departure; easyJet has no check-in desks but you can check in for free at airport bag-drop desks if necessary

What we say: “Among UK airlines, easyJet has done more to democratise aviation than anyone else — cutting fares and expanding choice. It also has a very generous cabin baggage policy. My one request: sharpen up on punctuality. With Ryanair, I expect to be on time; with easyJet, I anticipate a delay.” Simon Calder

Onboard easyJet

Norwegian

Carry-on baggage: 55 x 40 x 23cm, plus one small bag up to 25cm x 33cm x 20cm (15kg combined weight limit)

Checked baggage: from £40 for 20kg

Food: on short-haul flights the menu includes sandwiches, salads, chicken tikka and porridge; a wrap and a drink costs £6; three-course meals are included in long-haul fares

Seats: reclining, with 74-79cm pitch, 44cm width; seat reservations from £7 on certain flights, while on others seats can be changed free of charge at the airport

Online check-in: available for most flights within Europe from 24 hours to one hour before departure; not available on certain routes; airport check-in is free

What we say: “I’ve flown Norwegian a few times, most recently to Chania, Crete, just last week. Seats don’t recline much, but the service is friendly and efficient (much better than I've experienced on other budget airlines), and the fact you can change seats for free is a bonus.” Nicola Trup

Norwegian offers online check-in only on certain flights

Flybe

Carry-on baggage: 55cm x 35cm x 20cm; 10kg weight limit

Checked baggage: £18.50 for 15kg, £19 for 20kg, £24 for 23kg

Food: sandwiches, pastries and snacks; sandwiches from £4

Seats: reclining, with 76cm pitch, 43-45cm width; choosing a seat is free at booking

Online check-in: available 36 hours to two hours before departure; airport check-in is free

What we say: “I flew to Edinburgh with Flybe recently and was pleasantly surprised by the simple, no-frills ease of it all. Well, on the outward leg, at least. Coming back to London, however, was less relaxing: a 90-minute delay without a whisper of explanation, and then I was arbitrarily (and might I add gruffly) hauled out of line to check my hand luggage on the grounds it was 'too big' and the flight was full. Never mind that the bag demonstrably fit the measuring cage of doom, and the yawning space in the overhead bins once I boarded mocked me happily until take-off.” Laura Chubb

'Simple, no-frills': Flybe

Jet2

Carry-on baggage: 56cm x 45cm x 25cm; 10kg weight limit

Checked baggage: from £10 for 22kg

Food: snacks, sandwiches and hot meals including macaroni cheese and chilli; snack boxes £3.60

Seats: non-reclining, with 71-78cm pitch, 43cm width; seat reservations from £8.50

Online check-in: available from 28 days to five hours before departure; airport check-in costs £12 at time of booking, £17.50 on the day of departure

What we say: “I recently flew Jet2 from Rome to Manchester. The flight itself was perfectly fine, the seating felt a bit more cramped than Ryanair or Monarch but the crew were helpful and friendly. At Manchester however, it took over 90 minutes for Jet2 to get the baggage from the Tarmac to the baggage claim. This would have been a lot less annoying if Jet2 staff hadn’t told us our luggage would be there very soon.” Joe Vesey-Byrne

Jet2 

Wizz Air

Carry-on baggage: 42cm x 32cm x 25cm, larger cabin bags of up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm are £12.50; no weight limit

Checked baggage: £28.50 for 30kg

Food: meal deals cost £5, which includes a sandwich, drink and a snack

Seats: non-reclining, with 71-73cm pitch, 45cm in width; choosing a seat costs from £2

Online check-in: available from 30 days to three hours before departure; airport check-in costs €5 at time of booking, more on the day of departure

What we say: “Oh, the things I could say about Wizz Air. I actively avoid it now, after the absolutely terrible communication on my most recent journey with the airline, when the plane was standing on the Tarmac at Luton for several hours without explanation, with a very similar experience coming back from Warsaw. And their hand baggage policy is absurd.” Nicola Trup

A Wizz Air safety demonstration

Monarch

Carry-on baggage: 56cm x 40cm x 25cm; 10kg weight limit

Checked baggage: £15 for 20kg

Food: snack boxes, sandwiches and hot meals, from English breakfasts to Thai curries; sandwiches are around £4.80

Seats: reclining seats are being phased out; 71cm pitch, 51cm width; seat reservations from £3.99 one way

Online check-in: available from 28 days to six hours before departure; airport check in is free

What we say: “Monarch is a good, mostly reliable airline that has been commercially outwitted by its upstart rivals. In my experience its crew are excellent. But its odd policy of insisting that you must pay for a seat if you want to check in online is exasperating.” Simon Calder

Monarch has been overtaken by upstart rivals

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