6 ways to improve your low-cost flight experience

Jul 15, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

If you’ve managed to avoid flying a low-cost airline then you might be an outlier. Not only are airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air often the cheapest option, but sometimes a low-cost airline can be the best way to get where you want to go.

Related: Which European low-cost carrier is best for you: Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2 and Wizz Air

If you do end up flying low-cost, there are some great ways to improve your otherwise bare-bones flying experience. We’ve outlined six of them below.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

Use an airport lounge

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Believe it or not, lounges are not just for passengers flying in business class, first class or passengers with elite status. They’re a great way to get away from the masses in larger airports. Of course, the quality of lounges depends greatly on the airport you’re flying from and the type of lounge you find yourself in. Before you travel, research the lounges that are available at your airport.

Let’s use Orlando International Airport (MCO) as an example. The Club at MCO has outlets in Terminal A (home to Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sunwing and Avelo) and Terminal B (home to Spirit Airlines, Volaris, WestJet, GOL and  Sun Country). For a £38 day pass, you get complimentary snacks and beverages, including beer, wine and premium spirits, newspapers, free Wi-Fi and space to work.

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card comes with a Priority Pass membership, so you can use this perk to get into more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. Spending time relaxing in a lounge and having some decent food is certainly a great alternative to paying for overpriced and often subpar airport food.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2022

Pay for seat selection

You can pay extra for a Big Front Seat on Spirit Airlines. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Paying for a specific seat can be an annoying extra cost when flying, especially with a family or in a group, and it’s one not limited to low-cost carriers these days. However, it could make sense to pay for a seat on your low-cost flight rather than being allocated a seat randomly, as it will most definitely make your journey more comfortable.

The two main factors to consider are the proximity of the seat to the front and back of the plane, as low-cost airlines tend to board and deplane via both the front and the back. The closer you are to the doors, the quicker you can leave the plane once you’ve landed. Then there’s the issue of legroom. If you’re tall, then paying for a seat with extra legroom will make a huge difference.

For some airlines, seat prices vary from £0.84 to £210. When deciding which seat to pay for, consider the amount that you paid for the ticket originally and whether the additional seat cost would add sufficient improvement to your journey.

(Screenshot from Spirit Airlines)

Related: Everything you should know before flying Spirit Airlines

Keep in mind that if you’re travelling as a family, some of the low-cost carriers offer preferred seat selection methods where you’ll be seated together without having to pay extra. Do your research to make sure you’re not overpaying for a benefit you’d otherwise get for free.

Use fast-track airport security

Some airports, like London Gatwick (LGW), have fast track lanes where you can pay extra to beat the queues at security on departure and also at customs on arrival.

Depending on the time of day, this can save you significant time, especially in the peak summer months when airports are more crowded than usual. It can cost as little as £5 per person — a small price to pay for a more relaxing airport experience.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Bring your own snacks

(Photo by pawaritsakolpap/Shuttersrock)

If you decide not to indulge in an airport lounge, then bringing food along might be something you should consider. Save yourself some money by popping into your local supermarket and buying snacks for your flight that will fit into your carry-on bag or personal item.

Don’t worry about having issues taking snacks like sandwiches, fruit or anything dry and packaged through security with you. Then when you get on board, you won’t have to wait for the cart to arrive at your seat and then be subject to subpar, overpriced food.

Check the airline’s baggage policy

suitcases all over airport
(Photo by Jonas Walzberg/picture alliance/Getty Images)

I’ve heard countless stories of people being stopped at the check-in desk or at the gate about to board a flight and being told that their bag is too big, meaning they will be hit with a last-minute charge for it to be placed in the hold. Unexpected charges like this are not great at either the start or end of your vacation.

Luckily, this scenario can be avoided — it just means doing a bit of research before you fly about the size and weight of your carry-on luggage versus what the airline allows. For some strategies beyond that, check out this guide for packing hacks when you’re flying with a low-cost carrier.

Related: Credit Cards That Get You Free Checked Baggage

Download your own entertainment

One good thing about this online world we live in is that there is so much entertainment at our fingertips. Use this to your advantage and download the next episode of your favourite series or a couple of films if you know you’re about to take a low-cost flight.

Also, make sure you have a decent case for your device that will keep it propped up on your tray table — then you’ll never be bored on a flight again.

Image courtesy of United.
(Photo courtesy of United)

Bottom line

Flying with a low-cost carrier doesn’t mean you need to have a terrible experience. All it takes is a bit of research and planning about your departure airport, the airline and the airport you will be arriving at. Who knows — you might even consider booking a low-cost flight for your next trip rather than a full-service carrier.

Additional reporting by Daniel Ross.

Featured photo by robertcicchetti/Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.