How to Make Flying on a Low-Cost Airline Less Soul-Killing

How to Make Flying on a Low-Cost Airline Less Soul-Killing
Photo: PixieMe, Shutterstock

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t enjoy flying on low-cost carriers (LCCs). The seats are cramped, there are a million fees, and it’s often just not a great experience. But there are steps you can take to make the experience less painful, because sometimes the cost is low enough that it doesn’t make sense to pass up the deal. Here’s how to make your next flight on a low-cost carrier more bearable.

Pay attention to the airport. Some cities have multiple airports, and sometimes LCCs fly into a less-convenient airport. (London, for example, has six major airports.) Make sure you know which airport your LCC is flying into or out of before you book your ticket.

Travel as light as possible. This one is a no-brainer. The less you have to lug around, the better. Not only will it make getting through the airport quicker and easier, but it’ll also mean more legroom for you on the plane. Plus, most LCCs will charge you extra for a checked bag, and many will even charge you for a full-sized carry-on. The checked bag fee is often lower than the charge for a carry-on, but that means you’ll spend time waiting around at baggage claim to save a few bucks. Where possible, better to avoid bag fees altogether. If you do need an extra bag, book it ahead of time. You’ll typically pay more if you wait until the last minute. And definitely make sure your bag isn’t overweight — there will be fees for that, too.

Check in early. Checking in early may help you get a good spot on the plane if you haven’t paid for a seat selection ahead of time, lest you get stuck in the middle seat of the very last row. Keep in mind that different LCCs allocate seats in different ways, though. If you haven’t paid to select your seat, you may not be able to choose the seat you want at check-in like with full-service carriers.

Bring your own entertainment (and snacks). This is key. Most LCCs don’t have inflight entertainment, so you’ll want to make sure you have something to keep you occupied during the flight. And as long as you’re flying low-cost, you should try to remember to bring your own snacks to avoid overpriced airport and airline food while you travel.

Consider the total cost, and be prepared for fees. This is probably the most important tip. LCCs are notorious for charging fees for everything from food to baggage to seat selection, so even though the base fare may be quite a bit lower on an LCC compared to a full-service airline, the fees can quickly add up. Some LCCs even charge a fee to print your boarding pass at the airport. Make sure you know what potential fees you can be charged, and avoid as many of them as you can (print that boarding pass at home). That said, if you do have to pay for certain fees, pay ahead of time online — you’ll often pay more if you wait until you arrive at the airport.

If you really want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, also consider the value of the miles that you could earn on a full-service carrier before pulling the trigger on an LCC ticket.

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