Who says travel has to be expensive? While domestic gas prices continue to fluctuate, plane tickets have stayed consistently low. Perhaps the world is getting smarter. From intelligent hotel booking solutions to digital flight algorithms, there’s never been an easier time to save big bucks on travel.
Whatever the case, budget airlines have played a huge role. By stripping away the frills, these providers are able to offer deep savings—if you’re willing to compromise on leg room and in-flight snacks, that is.
To help you find the perfect flight, consider some of the world’s best budget airlines.
1) Norwegian Air Shuttle
Based in Norway (where else?), Norwegian is consistently ranked as one of Europe’s best budget airlines. While it’s no surprise that the third-largest low-cost carrier in Europe offers extensive coverage throughout its native continent, it has also become a major player in the American market. Since 2014, the airline has offered transatlantic routes from major east coast U.S. cities.
2) JetBlue Airways
While many travelers may associate budget airline with labels such as “discomfort” and “poor service,” JetBlue works hard to put stereotypes to rest. Featuring plush leather seats, personal TV screens, and tasty, complimentary snacks, JetBlue ensures that guests are comfy, no matter where they’re seated. And with extensive domestic coverage, and expanding coverage in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, JetBlue is the perfect choice for your cross-country ventures.
Itching to cross Iceland off your bucket list? How about doing so during a layover? IcelandAir offers insanely cheap transatlantic flights—most of which include a Reykjavik stayover that can last up to a week. The budget airline is comfortable and friendly and offers specials from numerous major U.S. cities to destinations as varied as Copenhagen and Oslo. Whether you stick around for a few hours or embark on a seven-day excursion, you’ll be contributing to the country’s massive tourism boom.
4) SouthWest Airlines
One of the most recognizable names on this list, SouthWest built a name on customer service and its first bag flies free promise. Say what you want about America’s original large-scale, low-cost airline, but the Texas-based company is as about as reliable as domestic airlines get. While a layover is usually part of the SouthWest process, the airline’s extended coverage and consistent rates across the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico are hard to complain about.
Based in Luton, England—with numerous bases across Europe—the UK’s largest airline services 30 countries, all while offering some of the cheapest fares in Europe. While the no-frills flights may not offer the most luxurious, easyJet’s pricing and coverage are hard to beat. Flexible travel plans? The airline’s aptly-named Inspire Me tool enables travelers to book around budget and departure city, by highlighting available destinations, ticket prices, and flights in real-time.
6) Virgin America
Ranked as the number one domestic airline by Travel + Leisure in 2015, Virgin America has garnered a dedicated following, thanks to its affordable, nonstop, bi-coastal flights. Consistently ranking high across industry studies and traveler reviews, the airline prides itself in affordable rates, amenities, and comfort. While its current downside is domestic coverage, this is changing by the minute. In addition to Virgin’s rapid expansion into U.S. cities, a recent merger with Alaska Air has greatly increased its breadth.
Traveling to Asia? Look no further than AirAsia. Despite the notorious crash in 2014, AirAsia still managed to win the Skytrax World Airline Award for low-cost airline for the eight year in a row. Is it truly the world’s best budget airline? Maybe. However, competitive prices, reliable customer service, and solid in-flight options make this Malaysian-based airline one of the world’s best budget airlines.