What’s a budget airline?

Last updated:
By David Em
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A budget airline is also known as a low-cost carrier, which strives to offer lower fares by reducing amenities to minimize costs.

Southwest Airlines airplane in the sky.

What’s a budget airline?

When you’re searching for a flight, there are a few options. You can go with a traditional big-name carrier, such as Alaska Airlines, a private jet, or a low-cost carrier.

Related: How to use Skyscanner to find cheap flights

It used to be that way. Now, the big-name carriers are offering basic economy fares, which allows the airline to compete with budget airlines.

If you choose the basic economy fare, you’ll get a great deal if you’re willing to sacrifice selecting your seat, priority boarding, and other flight amenities.

Before the major airlines offered the basic economy option, low-cost carriers had an edge when it came to price. After 1978, budget airlines began to appear in the airline industry.

This is due to the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, which removed the federal government’s control over several aspects of the airline industry, such as fares, routes, and entry of new airlines.

The benefit of the Airline Deregulation Act is that it resulted in a free market in the commercial airline industry.

It also led to a large increase in the number of flights, passengers, and miles flown. This all happened while the cost of flights decreased.

Southwest, Frontier, and Spirit Airlines are three examples of budget airlines that are based in the U.S.

Low-cost carriers are able to offer lower fares because the cut operating costs. The following are examples of ways an airline can reduce costs:

  • Using one type of airplane.
  • Locking in the cost of fuel.
  • Flying out of airports with cheaper fees.
  • Having a basic interior.
  • Eliminating premium seating and amenities.

Budget airline companies

There are several budget airline companies around the world. Unlike big-name or legacy carriers, a budget airline typically won’t be a part of an airline alliance or partnership.

This results in a limited network, and potentially fewer non-stop flights.

However, it’s a great way to travel for less. The following are the different budget airline companies based on location:


Low-cost carriers in Africa are as follows:

  • Air Arabia
  • Air Peace
  • FastJet
  • Fly540
  • Mango Airlines
  • Safair

Asia and Pacific

The following are budget airlines in Asia and the Pacific:

  • 9 Air
  • AirAsia
  • Airblue
  • Air Busan
  • Air Do
  • Air India Express
  • Air Manas
  • Air Seoul
  • Cebgo
  • Cebu Pacific
  • Chengdu Airlines
  • West Air
  • Citilink
  • Eastar Jet
  • GoAir
  • Golden Myanmar Airlines
  • HK Express
  • IndiGo
  • Indonesia Transport
  • Jeju Air
  • JetLite
  • Jetstar
  • Jin Air
  • Lion Air
  • Lucky Air
  • Malindo Air
  • Nok Air
  • Peach Aviation
  • Ruili Airlines
  • Scoot
  • Skymark Airlines
  • Solaseed Air
  • SpiceJet
  • Spring Airlines
  • Thai Lion Air
  • T’way Air
  • VietJet Air
  • Wings Air


Low-cost airlines in Europe are as follows:

  • Albawings
  • Blue Air
  • Blue Panorama Airlines
  • Condor
  • Corendon Airlines
  • easyJet
  • Eurowings
  • Helvetic Airways
  • Hi Fly
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Onur Air
  • Pegasus Airlines
  • Pobeda
  • Ryanair
  • Smartwings
  • SunExpress
  • Transavia
  • TUI fly
  • Volotea
  • Vueling
  • Wizz Air

Latin America and the Caribbean

Budget airlines in Latin America and the Caribbean are as follows:

  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Calafia Airlines
  • EasyFly
  • GOL Airlines
  • Interjet
  • Sky Airline
  • VivaAerobus
  • Viva Air Colombia
  • Volaris

Middle East

The following are budget airlines in the Middle East:

  • Air Arabia
  • flydubai
  • Flynas
  • Jazeera Airways
  • Jordan Aviation
  • SalamAir

North America

Low-cost carriers in North America are as follows:

  • Allegiant Air
  • Flair Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • Sunwing Airlines
  • WestJet

Due to competition and the basic economy fares by legacy airlines, it’s not uncommon to see a budget airline company shut down or get bought out by another airline company.

Frequently asked questions

Are budget airlines safe?

Budget airlines are just as safe as other airlines. Yes, a low-cost carrier focuses on minimizing costs. However, cutting costs and risking safety is something that will drive a company out of business.

Is the customer service worse?

No, the customer service for a low-cost carrier can be as good as any other airline. Good and bad experiences will occur regardless of the airline.

Do budget airlines have first class seating?

Most budget airlines don’t have the traditional premium seating, such as first class.


If you’re looking to save money on flights and don’t care for amenities or premium seating, a budget airline is a great option. Despite the myths, a budget airline is safe and departs on-time.

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Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Portrait of David Em.

About David Em

David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Travel, the destination for travel advice and inspiration. He launched Nola & Luna Travel to share expert advice, useful tips, unbiased reviews, and inspiration about destinations across the globe.