It's no secret that flying anywhere, whether it's domestic or international, can get really pricey really fast. Airfare has only increased in the last few years, and on top of that, most airlines make extra cash off of all of the hidden fees that always seem to come with your ticket. That said, it's not surprising that many travelers are ditching big airlines, like Delta and American Airlines, for budget airlines such as Spirit and Southwest, just to name two. Budget airlines offer lower airfare than many competitors, making them appear to be the best option. But there's actually a surprising problem with budget airlines that might make you rethink using them.
When booking your flight, a quick search through a platform like Google Flights might make a budget airline seem like the best deal: the prices can be significantly lower for the same time and even leaving from the airport closest to you. Why wouldn't you book right away over something that's nearly double the amount? But here's the truth: budget airlines don't always save you as much as you think. In fact, sometimes they may even end up costing you more money.
The major cause for this is the extra fees that almost always come with a budget airline ticket. Have you ever wondered why that airfare is so much lower than a bigger airline? It's because it doesn't include anything. With almost all budget airlines, you have to pay extra if you want to choose a seat before your flight, bring any baggage aside from a carry-on (and in some cases, you even have to pay for the carry-on), and eat a snack in-flight — and that doesn't cover every potential extra cost. So, even if you're getting a ticket that's relatively inexpensive, the cost of all of those extra fees (if you choose to opt for them) can make things pricier and more compatible with a legacy airline.
Another reason budget airlines can end up being more money than you think is because of on-ground transportation. Many budget airlines don't leave from major city airports — instead, they fly out of smaller airports that can be further away from where you are. For example, TripSavvy notes that while it's easiest and most cost-effective to fly out of London from Heathrow or Gatwick, "many low-cost carriers fly out of Luton or Stansted, both of which are more than 30 miles from central London." You have to then pay for transportation to this further airport, which can add up. And that's only one city example!
Unrelated to money, budget airlines may not be worth it if you're looking for a seamless, pain-free flight. As Traveller writes, budget airlines can have a reputation for late flights, cancelled flights, and bad customer service. They also don't often offer the same amenities as a bigger airline, so the seats may be less comfortable, the televisions may be more outdated, and the food may not be as good.
Does this mean you should swear off budget airlines forever? Not necessarily. If you're going on a short flight, you don't need to check luggage, you're fine with forgoing a luxury experience, and the rates really are cheaper, then a budget airline is totally worth it. But if you're heading on a long flight, have a lot of baggage, and want more control over your experience, then you probably want to go for a legacy airline — it will just be more worth it in the end.