Revealed: The world's cheapest airlines by mile (and where Ryanair ranks)
Global Flight Pricing report
Four of the world’s top five cheapest airlines are Asian, according to a new study.
The Global Flight Pricing report compiled by travel planning website Rome2Rio also found that the average cost per kilometre for flights had increased from 17.75 US cents in 2016 to 18.8.
Top 25 | The world's cheapest airlines
- AirAsia X
- Air India Express
- Indonesia AirAsia
- Primera Air
- IndiGo Airlines
- WOW air
- Virgin Australia
- Oman Air
- Jet Airways
- Air India Limited
- Sri Lankan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Kuwait Airways
- AirAsia Philippines
- Royal Brunei Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Lion Mentari Airlines
- Gulf Air Bahrain
- Cebu Pacific
The research highlighted Virgin Atlantic as one of the few airlines to have reduced the cost of its flights since 2016, rising from 100th in the rankings to 42nd.
But it was Asian and Indian carriers to dominate the top 25, with Air Asia X taking top spot, followed by Air India Express and Indonesia AirAsia.
Which is the cheapest airline in Europe?
Ryanair, by some distance. The Irish airline ranks in seventh overall, despite its cost per kilometre rising from nine cents to 10.
WOW air, which offers cheap flights to Iceland and beyond, ranks ninth, with a kilometre cost of 10 cents, while Wizz Air, in 53rd spot, has a cost per kilometre of 13 cents.
Primera Air, which operates transatlantic flights from Stansted, came fourth, while Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based airline, took a surprising sixth spot. Qatar Airways and Emirates also snuck into the top 25, at 15th and 25th respectively.
How did the survey work?
Rome2Rio analysed economy fares from 200 of the world’s airlines over a two-month period, racking up 1.5 million prices, to calculate cost per kilometres in US dollars.
Of European household names, Virgin Atlantic’s price per kilometre fell 4 cents to 13 cents, lifting it up the rankings, while Easyjet fell from 71st to 124th after its cost per kilometre rose from 14 cents to 19 cents. British Airways took 139th spot, down from 116th in 2016, with a kilometre cost of 20 cents, while low-cost, long-haul operation Norwegian came in 102nd.
Is flying more expensive than it was two years ago?
“Since our 2016 report, we have seen some significant shifts in pricing and ranking,” says Kirsteene Phelan, chief operating officer at Rome2Rio. “Airlines who have ventured into the budget scene - such as British Airways - as well as those such as Norwegian who have a reputation as budget stars - need to pass on higher fuel and operational costs to the customer.
“Sadly, the romance of air travel, whilst not dead, is certainly waning, with more airlines tipped to scale back their inflight offerings in favour of pay-to-play service to help boost profits. We anticipate those seeking to enjoy their journey will look for other options including rail to boost their travel experience.”
What is going on in Asia?
Of the top 30, 24 were based in either Asia or the Middle East.
“The AirAsia Group is particularly dominant with three of its airlines in the top 20,” explains Phelan. “Although Qantas (eighth) ranks highly for value, we are often seeing travellers from the UK to Asia and Australia booking with carriers such as Etihad (sixth), Royal Brunei Airlines (19th), China Southern (20th) and Emirates (25th).
“This suggests that whilst overall value may be high for one airline over another, specific route pricing can vary greatly and travellers need to be vigilant for deals to ensure the best price to their destination.”
What about flying across the pond?
Rome2Rio found that Primera Air was offering the cheapest flights across the Atlantic, followed by WOW air. It found that Air Canada and United Airlines, ranking 84th and 90th respectively, were next best value, while Norwegian fell from 86th to 102nd.
“Travel between the US and UK has been one of the hot markets in the last two years, driven by the arrival of Norwegian Air,” says Phelan. “New kid on the block, Primera Air, seems to have snatched Norwegian’s crown, whilst the traditional flagship carriers of United Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways continue to struggle to keep pace with their newer competition.”