Getting a first class experience from a budget airline

Make the most of budget airlines

I’ve been on quite a few budget flights this year which has given me the opportunity to pick a few hints and tricks to make the most of the experience.

Don’t get to the airport too early.

Getting there an hour before your flight is due to take off is usually plenty of time. Why waste your time being bored in the airport and buying expensive cofffe and snacks? Plan your transport to arrive at most an hour before the flight (depending on the size of the airport of course). Although airlines say they board an hour before the plane takes off this simply isn’t true, getting to the gate 30 mins before the flight means you have a minimum time to wait while everyone else boards.

Get on the plane last

Most airlines have dedicated seating these days so there’s really no reason to stand in a queue for 40 minutes while the flight is boarding. Getting on last has some disadvantages if you have large carry-on luggage (see the next point for how to avoid that)

Take a backpack rather than a suit case for a faster exit

Once the cabin reaches a certain capacity, they start putting your bags in the hold. Staff are usually looking for any suitcases, this means they forget about backpacks a lot of the time. You can usually get away with taking a backpack onboard even when they are putting other bags in the hold. Backpacks also squash into spaces in the overhead lockers.

Check in at the last minute for a seat upgrade

As most budget airlines assign you a random seat these days, you can hijack their process to bag yourself an upgrade. The seats with the most leg room (those at the front and in the middle by the emergency exits) are picked last. This means you can check in at the last minute when most of the plane is full and you are more likely to be given the best seats as they will be the last ones left. As some airlines try to split passengers who are travelling together up unless they “upgrade”, they often leave empty seats and try and find a free row. This gives you even more chance of getting the leg room seat.


The advice given here is based on my own personal experience. I am not a professional, your milage may vary.