If you want to grow an airline quickly, don’t aim for the high-end traveler. Apparently the fast growth track is at the bottom of the spending scale.
I came across this story on the world’s fastest-growing airlines in a magazine I write for regularly. It’s from January, but it turns out that this list has been little changed since 2012. There are several aspects that stick out in here that are key things to keep in mind if you’re traveling around the world on a budget.
1) At least a few of these are companies you probably haven’t ever heard about.
2) Many of them don’t come up in a typical flight search online via Expedia, Priceline, Vayama, or Google Flights for that matter. You need to search them directly.
3) Some of them really suck and everyone hates them, yet they’re still growing like mad. So we are collectively saying we care about service and amenities, but giving our money to the very worst-rated airlines anyway.
Assume with all of these airlines the listed great deals come with a pile of add-on fees. If you travel light and aren’t picky about your seat, however, they can be cheaper than a bus or train. Here’s who keeps expanding—so they’re hopefully not going under or cutting back—and why you should have them on your radar.
Based in Spain (aren’t they still in a recession?), in just over a decade this company has gone from flying two planes to being a major player. “The airline announced 31 new routes for the 2015 summer schedule for a total of 140 destinations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. And the airline plans for as many as 120 new planes to join its fleet between 2015 and 2020.” Within and out of Europe, put Vueling.com on your search list. Standout deal: Barcelona to London for less than 43 euros.
Based in Jakarta, Indonesia, this airline has been buying planes like a rapper buys sneakers, purchasing 178 of them from Boeing in the last round. Their slogan is kind of odd—“We make people fly.” You’re forcing us to board? The clunky website will give you flashbacks to the year 2000 also. But if you can ignore the Indonesian carriers’ collectively bad aviation safety record, the price is certainly right. Standout deal: Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur for US$33.
In less than a decade, IndiGo has become India’s largest domestic carrier. It’s also a rarity in that country for being…profitable. And arriving on time. It also has an attractive website that works. Standout deal: Delhi to Mumbai for $35. (If you haven’t heard enough horrible India travel stories, let me tell you about our 36-hour 2nd class train ride on this route for probably not much less than that flight.)
I’ve never heard one person say anything nice about this airline. They talk about flying on it the way people talk about how much they enjoyed going to the dentist for a filling. “It may be the most complained-about U.S. carrier, but it is also the fastest-growing, which indicates price frequently wins out over service. ” And there you have it. Our version of RyanAir keeps expanding because people keep buying tickets. If you can suck it up, they can get you to Colombia and Nicaragua for cheap. Standout deal: Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale for $58 plus luggage (even carry-ons require a fee).
The local counterpart to Turkish Air—which itself flies to more countries than any other airline—Pegasus Airlines now serves 89 destinations in 39 countries. That’s on top of the big domestic network, which can save you a lot of time away from traffic in every-more-clogged Turkey. Their lowest “Essentials” package includes 15kg of luggage. Standout deal: Istanbul to Bodrum for 20 euros.
Norwegian Air Shuttle
This company looked at the lousy service to price ratio in the U.S. and going across the Atlantic and said, “We can do better.” After all, it wouldn’t take much effort to outperform the likes of Delta, American, United, and British Air. Passengers have been flocking to the better service for a better price at Norwegian Air. The company is now expanding to more U.S. markets and even from there to the Caribbean. They’re crazy cheap within Europe, like Riga to Stockholm for €26 or Budapest to London for €80. Standout deal: Oslo to Los Angeles for 300 euros round trip!
Not included in this article but coming on strong are some of the Mexico airlines like Interjet and Volaris. They keep adding new routes each year and with tourism to Mexico continuing to climb and the local middle class getting bigger, they should keep expanding.