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Know How: What Is a Low Cost Carrier?

Low-cost airlines are airlines that offer flights at lower prices than more "reputable" airlines (eg: Delta Airlines). Of course, customers then have to cut corners somewhere and therefore forego comforts like legroom and free drinks. This concept is the no-frills concept. Therefore, low-cost carriers are also called "no-frills airlines" and "low-cost carriers." However, if there are certain amenities you can't live without, most airlines let you spend a little extra money to get them.

In addition to airlines like Spirit/Frontier, there are also many subsidiaries of classic airlines. An example of a classic airline is United, whose subsidiary Ted counts as a low-cost airline. 

Learn even more about airlines and dig into great travel tips here

What Are the Top Low Cost Carriers?

Let's get down to brass tacks. Which airlines do you trust? Where can you still expect quality despite the low prices? Although a budget airline will never be able to compete with the quality of giants like Emirates or Qatar Airways, they make up for their shortcomings with their crazy low prices.

Southwest Airlines

The American airline Southwest offers flights within North America, the Caribbean, and Central America. For entertainment, there is live TV and selected episodes of well-known series for free. Southwest scores high for their free transport of carry-on luggage and also free soft drinks on board. You like Happy Hour? Then you'll love Southwest's selection of twelve cocktails. On Valentine's Day, the first cocktail is even free. You can also buy snacks on board.

JetBlue Airways

With great service, free snacks, high speed wi-fi and satellite TV, as well as 86cm legroom and power outlets on board, JetBlue Airways raises the bar of low-cost airlines. Around 100 destinations are part of their route network, including stops in North America, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. On JetBlue's homepage you also have the opportunity to suggest new destinations. If you get hungry on board, you can get Eatup Boxes or treats from the Eatup Café for between $4 and $12 in addition to the provided snacks. Among them are a cheese selection with crackers, protein and fruit snacks, beef jerky, a grilled Brie sandwich with chicken, salad, or even the spicy korean-style chicken.

Virgin America

With stylish decor and unparalleled customer service, Virgin America has become the most popular boutique airline in the world. On-board entertainment, on-demand Wi-Fi, and power outlets await you to power your electronic devices. Over 115 destinations are controlled by Virgin America, including Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Texas. Of course you do not have to travel with an empty stomach. You can buy sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian, and non-vegetarian salads on board.


The number four spot goes to EasyJet. With around 230 Airbuses, EasyJet flies to almost 800 destinations in Europe. If you book a Flexi ticket, you can even reserve seats for free. Although EasyJet only flies to destinations within Europe, if you're hungry during your short flight, there is an on-board "bistro". You can buy snacks like nuts, crackers, or chips as well as all kinds of sweets like candy bars, English shortbread, popcorn, or muffins. There are also menus and more substantial food items like croissants, tomato soup, rice noodles, porridge, and a tapas snack box.

Air Asia X

AirAsia X is the long-distance carrier of Air Asia and, with its comfortable Economy and Premium cabins it's easy to reach your destination at a low price. We will enumerate the other advantages of Air Asia later, as this airline superstar reappears later in the list.

Air Asia

We said Airasia would be back! And rightfully so, because this Malaysian low-cost for short-haul flights occupies the number one spot. Air Asia is the largest low-cost airline in Asia, and although it has been the number one low-cost airline for years, it is an airline that used to be state-funded, barely known, and on the brink of financial collapse. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Air Asia has risen and now flies to over 120 destinations. Great customer service, an incredibly nice cabin crew, and efficient operations distinguish this airline. If you need help requesting an eVisa before your trip, you'll find assistance on the Air Asia homepage, which is available around the clock. For as little as $3 you can pre-order delicious dishes such as coconut rice with chili & chicken, vegan tofu with rice pilaf, chicken lasagna, or green curry before your departure. With nothing left to worry about, you can start your next flight within Asia with Air Asia.


This Indian airline has existed since 2006 and has developed nicely since then. According to Skytrax, the the great service and the price-performance ratio of the airline are very highly rated by customers. With IndiGo you can travel domestically within India, but they also offer flights to Thailand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Food on board is not free, as as it the case with most low-cost airlines, but is fairly affordable. Prices for snacks such as sandwiches, curry rice, cup noodles, nuts, cookies, and cakes (as well as hot and cold drinks) are between $0.72 and $3.60 at the current exchange rate.

Azul Brazilian Airlines

Azul Brazilian was founded by JetBlue and WestJet co-founder David Neeleman and serves destinations within Latin America, Florida, and Portugal. On long-haul flights you will be offered menus with fresh foods from Brazil and beyond in both Economy and Business Class (yes, there is even a Business Class on low-cost airlines). There is an entertainment system, 74cm seat distance to the next person, and an Amenity Kit with a sleep mask, dental kit, anti-slip socks, a pen, and various creams.

Jetstar Airways

The low-cost offshoot of the Australian airline Qantas takes sixth place for its good price-performance ratio and customer-oriented service. Jetstar Airways goes to Australia, Asia, Hawaii, Fiji, and New Zealand. You can pre-order menus before departure, including special kids menus or the upscale business class menus. On longer flights there is also in-flight entertainment.