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British Airways vs easyJet vs Ryanair – who is really the cheapest?

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The BBC News website ran an interesting piece of research recently into airline pricing – in particular, how it jumps around.  This was linked to a BBC programme “Flights and Fights: Inside the Low Cost Airlines“.

The link to the original story is here.  The research compared British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair pricing on typical flights from London to Berlin, Barcelona and Rome, tracked over six weeks.

You can see the results in pictures here:

Price graph

Whilst this won’t come as a surprise to many Head for Points readers, what you see is:

Prices do not just go upwards, they move around.  However, British Airways pricing was more stable that easyJet or Ryanair.

British Airways is not necessarily more expensive than easyJet or Ryanair

BA actually looks worse than it should be for the Rome and Berlin examples, because the experiment was done assuming ‘hand baggage only’.  British Airways would have allowed a free suitcase, which the easyJet and Ryanair flights would not.

For Barcelona, the BBC has compared BA’s experimental ‘hand baggage only’ fare from Gatwick.

You also need to factor in the cost of getting to different airports.  Assuming that you aren’t prepared to take a bus, it is cheaper to get to Heathrow on the tube than it is to get to Gatwick or Stansted via National Rail.  That would have worked in BA’s favour on the Berlin comparison, which compared the Heathrow service to competition from Stansted.

At the end of the day, the low cost carriers have been hugely successful in convincing people – often wrongly – that they are actually ‘low fare’ airlines.  As the example above shows, this is not necessarily true.  Why British Airways has failed to tell the other side of the story is a different matter.

Comments (17)

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  • Susan says:

    For Easyjet I’d agree with you as the hand luggage allowance is reasonable but Ryanair allows no more than 10kg including handbag/laptop etc which is barely a week-end’s shoe allowance for some of us.

  • Gordon says:

    Easyjet is about to get much worse when you look at the percentage deline in the size of the hand baggage they will allow. No change if you have easyjet plus.

  • callum says:

    What many frequent fliers on here and similar websites is that most people don’t care about assigned seating. Most don’t care about 1″ less legroom. Most don’t care about a free drink and a biscuit etc etc.

    Its no mystery why the budget airlines do so well. And although someone above was complaining that the hand luggage allowance is barely enough just for shoes, I’ve regularly gone away for up to 3 weeks with hand luggage only. Its people like me who hugely benefit from the budget airlines, not generally people who want to take their whole wardrobe or are fussy about service (not that I’ve ever found Ryanair etc to have bad service if you follow the simple rules).

  • Squire says:

    I have no idea what callum is on but I’d like some too. Ryanair’s simple rules? Must have missed those…

    As someone living in Northern Ireland I’m often forced to use budget/sh*t airlines at some point in a journey. I’ve used Ryanair quite a few times from Dublin, and thankfully have never been stung by extra fees. The reason for this, is that I view Ryanair flights as a kind of game. I must jump through several hoops and pass several obstacle courses and as a reward I get a cheap flight.

  • Sideysid says:

    Also worth noting that Tesco run a clubcard promotion (no points required) that nets you a discount of £15pp (when spending over £100pp on European BA flights).

    With some of the cheaper destinations, checked luggage fares can nudge you over the £100pp threshold (discount counts for infants too under the threshold regardless) so it actually works out cheaper to fly BA.

  • » Are Ryanair/Easyjet actually cheaper than the non-budget airlines? says:

    […] the Headforpoints blog (which helpfully alerted me to this research) concludes, “the low cost carriers have been […]

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