Low-cost airlines have revolutionised the way we travel around Europe. If at all possible we will take a flight rather than catch a train or a bus, and in many cases, the choice is made based on the fact that these days, a plane ticket can cost much less.
However, do we end up travelling just as long to save a few dollars? How convenient are these airlines? Are we missing out on part of the adventure by changing the journey? Would Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have met in the Stansted Starbucks over a Frappuccino and decided to go to London during their 8 hour, low-cost layover?
Starting from Florence, let’s travel outwards, exploring our destination and mode-of-transport options whilst demystifying these low-cost airlines with their gamut of terms and conditions.
Are there low-cost flights from Florence’s Airport?
No, the two easiest and closest airports for budget flights are Pisa and Bologna. However, if you are willing to catch the train to Rome or Milan your low-cost destinations broaden enormously.
How cheap is cheap?
Starting from €0.01 – pretty cheap! To get the best prices from Ryanair or other budget airlines you need to book in advance and be flexible about your departure dates and times. When searching for flights, you should always check the day before and after your ideal departure date and also if possible the following week.
From the airport to your destination?
To keep their prices down, cheap airlines use lesser frequented airports that have lower grounding costs. The travel time from the airport to your destination tends to be about one hour give or take a little, the distance from Florence to Pisa, for example.
A lot of these airports have set up very good transfer services whose schedules cater to those of the budget airlines. In Italy, Terravision (www.terravision.it) runs transfers to Rome airports, Milan (Bergamo), and between Pisa and Florence. You can now check Terravision schedules and buy tickets in advance online. For other destinations, check the arrivals information on the airport website, look under the Ryanair destinations section, or simply google it.
This information is important to ‘Know Before You Go,’ especially if you have a late night arrival or an early morning departure because the cost of a taxi is guaranteed to be more than your flight.
When is it more convenient to look at a normal airline?
When time is more important than money. Meridiana (www.meridiana.it) is a half-way solution. It flies directly from the airport in Florence and tickets to fly outside of Italy start from 60 euro before tax. It generally flies to airports that are closer to your destination city, and it includes a food service.
When is it more convenient to go by train?
For the countries bordering Italy it is still faster and cheaper to take another form of transport. Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) has launched a Smart Price ticket to many of these destinations, with an average cost of 29 euro each way. Ask for it at the ticket office and book in advance. Sometimes if you have missed out on the Smart Price ticket one way you can still get it for your return. Remember also that travellers under 26 years of age get a discount.
Five things you need to know about Ryanair Flights (and a good indication of what to expect from other budget airlines)
1. There is no seat allocation. First on, best dressed.
2. Check-in closes 40 minutes before the flight takes off, after which time you will be denied boarding.
3. The luggage weight allowance is 15kg, after which you pay a fee of 4.50 pounds (approx. 6.50 euro) per kilo. You are entitled to one item of hand luggage weighing no more than 10kg.
4. No food is included with the cost of the ticket – eat before, take a packed lunch, or pay the in-flight service prices (not pretty).
5. All Ryanair tickets are non-refundable – except in the case of a flight cancellation or a significant flight time change.
Top student destinations by budget airlines:
Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia,
Amsterdam, London, Paris, Prague
Budget airline websites: