Low-Cost European Airlines: The Pros and Cons of Cheap Flights to Italy

Want to fly on a low-cost airline to Italy? Here's what you have to know!

Want to fly on a low-cost airline to Italy? Here’s what you have to know!

Looking for a cheap flight to Italy? Europe boasts tons of low-cost airlines—so if you can make it to a European hub (like London, Dublin, or Madrid), getting to Italy on a budget is easy.

That said, hopping a low-cost airline to Italy isn’t always the best (or even the cheapest!) way to go. Here are some things to keep in mind before you book your flight!

Ryanair isn’t your only option anymore.

The airline made famous for its 99p fares (and infamous for its customer service) remains loved, loathed… and one of the most popular budget options out there. It also connects to 23 different cities in Italy, including Venice, Rome, Pisa, and Palermo.

That said? In recent years, Ryanair has had some serious competition. And it’s debatable, once you add in the airline’s many extra fees, whether it’s always even the cheapest option. Extra charges include hefty baggage fees, a 2 percent charge for booking with a credit card online (impossible to avoid unless you sign up for Ryanair’s own card), expensive on-flight snacks and food, and even the highly-controversial £60 fee, which is levied if you forget to print your boarding pass at home. Obviously, that adds up!

Of course, all of the budget airlines charge for various “extras.” It’s how they keep their fares low. But Ryanair’s extras often add up more quickly than other European airlines.

Yes, you can get to beautiful Venice even with a budget airline!

Yes, you can get to beautiful Venice even with a budget airline!

So when you’re searching for a cheap flight in Europe, cast a wide net. EasyJet flies to 14 destinations in Italy, including Rome, Naples, Venice, Verona, and Bologna. Monarch connects the U.K. with Rome, Verona, and Venice (although one of our followers notes that, in the past, they’ve canceled flights with little to no notice).

Meanwhile, our vote for budget flights goes to Vueling, one of the newest, and, we think, best budget airlines out there. The cheap European airline already has 12 destinations in Italy, including Florence, and it connects them to a variety of hubs across Europe, like Barcelona, Madrid, London, and Paris. Best of all? We find that their planes, service, and attitude are top of the budget-airline industry.

Don’t forget to check the non-budget airlines, too.

Especially when you add in those extra fees, it’s sometimes cheaper to book with a traditional airline. Lufthansa, British Airways, and Alitalia all can have surprisingly good deals—and without the extra fees and headaches. All three, for example, let you check one bag of up to 23kg for free, even if you’re traveling only within Europe or Italy. Not to mention that they’ll give you snacks, drinks, and maybe even a meal, for free! Talk about luxury.

To cast as wide a net as possible, always check aggregator sites (we like Kayak, Opodo, Vayama, Mobissimo and Skyscanner), which run through fares for multiple airlines, including most of the major ones.

But remember that not every airline chooses to have its fares included on every search engine—so it’s worth checking airline sites individually, too. (Hey, we never said finding a cheap fare would be fast!).

Heading to your budget flight? Great. Now weigh your bag. Measure its dimensions. And weigh it again.

If you want to bring this much luggage with you on a low-cost European airline... be prepared to pay extra!

If you want to bring this much luggage with you on a low-cost European airline… be prepared to pay extra!

Don’t think that you’ll be able to sneak that overweight bag past a sharp-eyed Ryanair or Easyjet attendant. Well, okay, you might be able to at an Italy airport, where things tend to be slightly more lax. But probably not. And in London, Paris, or Dublin? No chance.

So read the fine print, and both measure and weigh your bag. If you’re planning on buying some souvenirs on your trip, it’s worth picking up one of those handy, portable luggage scales that you can get for less than $10, just to make sure you haven’t added too much weight along the way.

It’s also worth having an idea of whether you’ll want to check a bag before you book your budget flight—and definitely before you arrive at the airport. With Ryanair, for example, if you want to bring more baggage with you than the 10kg you’re allowed into the cabin, that’ll be an extra €15—if you’re checking a 15kg bag, in low season, and select the option when you initially book your flight. The same 15kg bag will cost you €20 if you opt for it later, or €60 if you pay for it at the airport. (And in high season, that same bag costs you up to €100… or €140 if it’s 20kg).

What airport does my budget flight land at, again?

Headed to Milan? Just double-check which airport you're landing at!

Headed to Milan? Just double-check which airport you’re landing at!

This is another consideration to keep in mind, and one that can potentially add another expense to a budget flight. Instead of using a city’s biggest airport, many cheap European airlines fly into smaller airports, often located farther outside the city center.

This isn’t always an inconvenience. The airport for budget flights to Rome, for example, is Ciampino. To get from there to the Rome city center, you can either take a combination of a 5-minute bus ride and a 15-minute train ride (total cost: €2.50), a bus that goes directly there (about €5), or a taxi (the flat, city-set rate is €30). From Fiumicino, the international airport, on the other hand, the train is either €8 or €14, a bus is €5, and a cab is €48.

But other cities can be a little trickier. For Milan, many budget European flights land at Milan Malpensa, 48km outside the city center (although Malpensa is well-connected to the city center by public transport, the Milan Linate airport, on the other hand, is just 7km from the city center). So always double-check where your flight is landing—especially if you’re trying to make a connecting flight, or if you’re having a transfer come to pick you up!

If you’ve chosen a budget airline, go to the airport prepared.

Most charge you for drinks and (terrible!) food, so it’s often worth having some snacks and sandwiches made up and bringing them with you instead. Also keep in mind that many of the low-cost European airlines, including Ryanair, make extra money off of selling you products on board, which can result in a nonstop parade of flight attendants up and down the aisle, calling out that they have a new product to sell.

If you think you’ll find this as annoying as it sounds, bring noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. And a sense of humor!

Have you ever flown on a low-cost airline in Europe? Would you do it again? Let us know in the comments!

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2 Responses to Low-Cost European Airlines: The Pros and Cons of Cheap Flights to Italy

  1. Samantha February 16, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    If travelling from the north of England, also check out little known Jet2 from Manchester or Leeds. A small budget airline, but more Easyjet then Ryanair, good service and paid checked baggage is 22 kilos. Daily direct flights during the summer season, and almost every day the rest of the time, with Rome service arriving at Fiumicino.

  2. TennisWeBlog.com February 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Thats’s true, European airlines offers some pretty interesting flights to Italy. For example, I used Raynair from Warsaw, Poland to Bologna, Italy and it costed me only 100 euros !! That was just great, althought there may be even cheaper airlines in Europe. Ah and I’d like to add that they were super comfortable and we landed 15 minutes earlier than we were supposed to ;D

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