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Which airlines offer the best value on short-haul flights?

Just how cheap is a cheap flight? Often there’s more to consider than the basic ticket price. Baggage charges, seat reservations and on-board catering can all add to the total cost. So we’ve rated the 20 most popular airlines flying short-haul from the UK in four key categories – with surprising results.

And the winner is…

Each of the 20 airlines1 were ranked in four areas: baggage charges (per kg), the price of a seat reservation, the cost of on-board catering and the average price of a flight. The airlines were then scored on each category, and the total points scored were added up.

As a result, our Best Value Airline for Short Haul in 2018 is easyJet, followed in second place by Eurowings.

But our top five isn’t dominated by the low-cost carriers. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. KLM and SWISS are in joint 3rd place.

Best value short-haul airline: overview

Ranking Airline
1

2

3

3

5

easyJet

Eurowings

KLM

SWISS

Vueling Airlines

It’s proof of something frequent flyers have long known. If you’ve got a suitcase to check into the hold, and want a range of other services on your flight, you need to look beyond the basic price of your ticket. Once all the extras have been added up, a bargain price might not be so tempting after all.

However, not everyone wants to buy all the items we’ve considered – and our survey shows that different airlines have done well in each of the four categories. To help you find the best carrier to suit your individual needs, here’s a breakdown of the results.

Ryanair offers the lowest average flight prices

If you really are a no-frills flyer then you only have one question to ask: how much is the basic price of your ticket? When it comes to average flight prices, Ryanair topped our survey.

Best value average flight prices6

Ranking Airport Average Return Economy Flight Price
1

2

3

4

5

Ryanair

easyJet

Flybe

Vueling Airlines

Wizz Air

£90.67

£121.52

£128.56

£128.61

£128.95

It is important to note that airlines may from time to time offer discounts and deals which could alter whether they are better value, therefore it is important for travellers to take the time to review all options available to them on the day of booking.

But do bear one final factor in mind when working out your costs: airport charges. Parking, drop-off charges, fast-track check-in and airport lounges can all add significantly to the final cost of flying – and airports tend to charge different prices. Check out our guide to Britain’s best-value airports to find out which are the cheapest.

Eurowings is best value for baggage charges

This is one of the categories in which traditional airlines do well. It’s headed by Eurowings, but Iberia, BA, Lufthansa, SWISS and TAP Portugal are all close behind.

Best value baggage charges3

Ranking Airline
1

2

3

4

4

4

Eurowings

Iberia

British Airways

Lufthansa

SWISS

TAP Portugal

Many airlines offer value packages, which for a higher flight price include charges for checked-in baggage. With the price of a checked-in suitcase topping £50 return on some short-haul routes, these are worth considering if you’re taking more than a carry-on bag.

Blue Air has the best seat reservation prices

Blue Air came out on top for offering the cheapest seat allocation price, followed by Vueling Airlines and easyJet. Once again, we suggest looking at an airline’s “value added” flight bundles if seat allocation is important – especially if you’re checking a suitcase into the hold (both items are usually included in the package).

Best value seat allocation charges4

Ranking Airline
1

2

3

4

5

Blue Air

Vueling Airlines

easyJet

Wizz Air

Iberia

Hungry? Several airlines still offer free food

Not everyone has the time to eat before they fly, or wants to stuff their carry-on bag with sandwiches. If that sounds like you, include KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, TAP Portugal and SWISS in your calculations. All offer complementary on-board catering.

Best value on-board catering5

Ranking Airline
1

1

1

1

1

KLM

Lufthansa

Air France

TAP Portugal

SWISS

Footnotes

1The 20 airlines were selected to take part based on the top 20 most popular airlines for UK to European destinations in 2017, taken from Skyscanner.net data.

3Baggage charges were based on return flights from London to Malaga mid-August based on the lowest possible charge available when booking online on 23 April 2018. The Aer Lingus result was based on a flight from Belfast to Malaga as no flights from London were available. Wizz Air and FlyBe results were based on flights to Croatia in mid-August as there were no flights to Malaga for both carriers. To ensure fairness a cost per kg was used as the method of ranking.

4Seat charges were based on return flights from London to Malaga mid-August based on the lowest possible charge available when booking online on 23 April 2018, the cost of value packages was also taken into consideration to find the cheapest method. The Aer Lingus result was based on flights from Belfast to Malaga as there were no flights to Malaga available. Wizz Air, FlyBe and Thomas Cook results were based on flights to Croatia in mid-August as there were no flights to Malaga for both carriers. To ensure fairness seats costs were calculated on the lowest fare available for each airline.

5On-board catering was based on a total cost for the following items: White wine, beer, crisps and a can of soft drink. Costs for items were taken from each airlines website as of the 23rd April 2018.

6Based on Skyscanner average flight prices obtained at the point of exiting the site in 2017, for adult return economy flights departing from the UK to all European destinations, including the UK.

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