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Discount Airlines

Unlike man, all discount airlines are not created equal and it is up to you, the intrepid traveler that you are, to find out which one will give you the best service at the lowest price, without setting you up in the cargo hold with a goat resting on your lap and a bag of human organs destined for some laboratory somewhere.

The wave of the future is the small discount airline.  In the past many people thought that the large international airlines would dominate the skies (many people even worried monopolies would form) but this has proved not to be true.  These large airlines are having a tough time meeting their bottom line and thus a new batch of smaller more streamlined carriers has emerged.

The following is a list of the most popular discount airlines in the world.  While by no means is a comprehensive list, it should give you a pretty good idea of where to start.


Hub: Atlanta

This discount airline based out of Atlanta is known for its southern hospitality…and I’m not joking.  With one of the friendliest staff’s in the skies it is usually a great pleasure to fly on this airline that mainly services the southeast.

The fares are on par with most discount flyers and they are actually a little better than most for smaller ’new south’ destinations in Tennessee and Virginia.  It also helps that Atlanta’s airport is one of the best in the country and it is the gate way for all travel in the region.

America West

Hubs: Columbus, Las Vegas, and Phoenix

America West is just one of several discount airlines competing for business in the southwest.  This has a lot to do with the rising population in the area and the large landmasses that need to be traversed to get to many large western destinations.  Also, nobody really wants to drive through the desert for 8 hours just to get to where they are trying to go.

As far as fairs they are slightly more expensive than most carriers but they do offer more flights with better arrival and departure times.  They also have excellent facilities on their planes and the staff is definitely above average for the industry.  You’ll be in good hands if you fly America West.

American Trans Air (ATA)

Hubs: Chicago/Midway*, Indianapolis

The Midwest, a place often forgotten by many American’s but luckily not by American Trans Air.  This discount flyer is the mainstay for short trips through America’s Midwest.  While this is a massive potential market for the carriers, millions of Americans live in the heartland after all, it is just a fact that these folks don’t fly very often.  Who knows, maybe life on the dusty plains of Kansas is just so peachy that they never want to leave.

Either way, ATA is one of the few airlines brave enough to cut into this market.  They have done fairly well, and they are making a large profit selling flights to smaller businesses.  You will get a good deal using this airline, the only problem is, you are traveling in the Midwest…sorry.

Frontier Airlines

Hub: Denver

Frontier Airlines, relative newcomers to the game of discount flyers, but a welcome addition.  There is so much to do in this part of the country that they have been aiming a tidy profit for several years, dropping people off in some of the most beautiful and exciting destination in the country.

They also have competitive prices that make your vacation just a little bit more affordable.  This Frontier Airlines out of Denver is truly a company to watch, and stay with if you are planning a trip out west.  The only problem is their prices reflect the success they’ve been having and thus have shown a slow increase over the year.

Gulfstream International Air

Hubs: Florida and the Bahamas

If you want to go to a place where there is plenty of sun and plenty of sand, Gulfstream International Air can take you there.  Unless of course you want to go to Haiti…then they cannot take you there.  Most people need to get away from time to time and hitting the sunny beaches of the Gulf of Mexico is a great way to do it.  All you really need is a hotel reservation and a ticket from Gulfstream International Air.  This airline flies to just about everywhere you wan to go in the region and their prices (due to heavy volume) are usually very good.

JetBlue Airline

Hubs: New York/JFK, Los Angeles/Long Beach

Jet blue, is the discount airline for small businesses.  While not localized to one region like most small discount carriers, JetBlue gets you to and from America’s power centers at a fraction of the cost of the major airlines.  You might think that this makes your ticket more expensive because of rising fuel costs and such, but really, having a special relationship with the major airports has allowed JetBlue to save some money and naturally they pass it on to the consumer.

Southwest Airlines

As the major competitor for America West airlines, Southwest airlines have been serving customers for a long time.  Initially ignored by the major airlines, southwest was one of the first companies to realize the growing demand for cheap regional flights and jumped on the bandwagon.

Ever since they have been the leader in the industry for niche travel and small destinations.  Their prices are solid and rarely change because their business model has been around so long.  The only problem with Southwest is that, with more and more competitors entering the market they are losing some of their status.

Spirit Airlines

If you have a spirit, then you will love spirit airlines.  If you don’t have a spirit, I feel very sorry for you and I will pray for you when I get home from work today.  Spirit Airlines is another relative newcomer to the game of discount airlines and it remains to be seen whether they will survive with the ever-increasing competition. Their chances look good however as they have expanded their routes and have recently added some new planes to their fleet.

TED Airlines

Hub: Chicago

TED Airlines is the major competitor for American Trans Air and so far things are looking good.  They have consistently lower fares than their competitor and they service more large cities than their competition.  They are a slightly more sophisticated airline for the Midwest.

Their prices are a little higher but usually this translates into better flight times, better service and just an all around better flying experience. Plus they leave from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, one of the countries best

International Discount Airlines

There are countless regional and discount airlines worldwide; the following list includes those that offer regular discounted service to major US airports, or that might offer affordable connections at international airports.

Air Polania

Flies between Poland and several European cities.

Flying discount in Europe is nothing like flying discount in America.  In Europe you can hop scotch your way around several countries in a day, and be exposed to many different cultures.  This is primarily why European discount airlines were the pioneers of the industry and still today, they have the best business models in the world.

Air Polania is no exception to this rule.  They run flights within Poland and to most other major East-European destinations, as well as many central and west European hubs.  Naturally, their prices are affordable and seeing as Poland is a developing nation there quality and the service is really quite remarkable.


Flies 34 routes between Ireland, the UK and 15 European cities.

Ryanair is one of the stars of the European discount airline sky.  They are one of the fastest growing airlines in the continent and they are always expanding their fleet of planes and the routes they travel.

The only real problem with Ryanair is that the quality of the flights is absolutely horrible.  There are few people who have traveled Ryanair who don’t have some sort of horror story.  But, on the flip side, it is cheap, cheap, and cheap.  This is the airline of choice for the island hopping English clubbing set and the sex starved weekend in Amsterdam types.  So I guess for what it sets out to do, it gets the job done splendidly.



Flies to 28 European cities and is based out of London’s Luton airport.

EasyJet is Ryanair’s largest competitor in the UK and the two airlines are fairly comparable in almost every way.  They fly to pretty much all of the same destinations for a very low price, but you also must be careful not to be fooled.  The prices might seem low, but there are always taxes that raise the price considerably.  Of course this is true with all of the discount flyers, not just EasyJet


Flies to 27 European cities, with hubs in Cardiff, Manchester, and East Midlands.

BMIbaby, really isn’t much to crow at.  This airline is the equivalent to the small Midwest airlines in the United States that basically ferry locals from place to place so they can visit each other for the holidays.

This bottleneck of travel can work in your favor.  If you book you holiday trip soon enough in advance you will save a lot of money, because it gives the airline a chance to budget for a large passenger rate.  However, if you fly at the last minute you might as well take the train because it will cost you a fortune.

Sky Europe

Hub: Slovakia

Sky Europe is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the skies over Europe.  As the dark horse of the European discount airline industry Sky Europe has snuck into the market and has carved out a pretty good share of business.

Smart Wings

Hub: Czech Republic

Smart Wings has a lot in common with Sky Europe and the two airlines are poised to battle it out for your travel dollar.  This will translate into big savings for the consumer, and with the rate of international travel going where it is, there could be room for both airlines to survive.

Virgin Express

Hub: Brussels

This is Richard Branson’s (the rebel billionaire) attempt at discount air travel.  So far the venture is paying off.  Branson already has hundreds of planes in his Virgin fleet and this is just another business model for him to make some more cash.  It is unclear how this will pan out for Mr. Branson, but the man has deep pockets and he has been very successful in the past at giving people what they want.