OK folks, sit up in the back row and pay attention. Hands up those who reckon they can name more than four Low Cost Carriers or (as we more commonly refer to them as) Budget Airlines in Europe?
Whaaat! Theres more than two? I hear you scream.
You mean to tell me that there is more than just Uncle Stelios and his merry band in the tasteful orange corner and his arch nemesis Mr OLeary and the shamrock brigade in the green one?
Big yes all round folks and the market is expanding like crazy with demand for new destinations popping up all over the place and it seems, airlines following suit!
OK lets look at a few of the major ones and see where we go from there. Firstly it has to be said that opinion is divided on the effect the arrival of the Low Cost Carriers has been on the industry but there can be no denying that it has opened up the skies and brought about an ever increasing diversity of routes and destinations and I guess for the consumer and holiday traveller this has to be good.
The knock on effect of this apparent abundance in routes and airlines servicing them is that more and more of us are being slightly more adventurous in our choice of where to go for short breaks. Once having tasted the delights of a weekend in Prague as opposed to two nights in Portsmouth more and more of us are coming back for more it would seem.
As I mentioned earlier whereas before the choice of where to go and how to get there was extremely limited now it would seem we are spoiled for choice.
However I digress from my very first question and that was how many Budget Airlines are there out there actually? The answer, ladies and gentlemen is a lot more than people think. Whilst the actual number of Low Cost Carriers varies due to a couple of anomalies in definition, what can be said is that there are definitely more Budget Airlines in Europe than ever before and possibly more than conventional main stream carriers.
Now theres a turn up for the books if ever there was one.
If we just take the Low Cost Airlines servicing the United Kingdom and Ireland we appear to have more than 40. There are the major brand names that we all know and love such as easyJet and Ryanair but add to that the following names and you begin to get the picture.
In alphabetical order we have Aer Arann, Air Baltic, Air Berlin, Air Scotland, Air Southwest and Aurigny. We then have Blue1, Blue Islands, Bmibaby (the low cost arm of British Midland or BMI). Next there is Centralwings, Clickair, and Condor. There is Dba, easyJet, Estonian Air, FlyBE (the latest incarnation of what used to be known as Jersey European and latterly British European Airways), Flydba, FlyNiki, Fly Nordic, FlyThomasCook, FlyMe. There is German Wings, Globespan, HLX, Iceland Express, Jet 2, Lithuanian Airlines, Manx 2, Meridiana, Monarch Airlines, MyTravelLite, Norwegian Air, Planet Air and RyanAir. Lastly we have SkyEurope, Sterling European Airlines, Thomson Fly, Transavia, Virgin Express, VLM, Wizzair and XL Airways.
I am sure that this list is not exhaustive and knowing the way the industry has expanded would not be surprised if another airline had launched whilst this list was being compiled but as you can see, there are probably few places in the entire continent of Europe that you cannot now get to within a few hours from the UK and that has to be good for the holidaymaker and those in need of somewhere different to chill out for the weekend.
So why are you still reading this and why have you not already popped down the nearest travel agent (or gone online) to book your next trip?
Go on, you know you want to?