Discount airlines have become an international hit. We list who is flying.
Riding on the success of Southwest and JetBlue (and Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe), budget airlines have become a global phenomenon. There are now more than 100 discount carriers worldwide, many launched since 2004. They don't fly direct from the U.S., but if your business itinerary has you hopping from Delhi to Mumbai, they can save you money, especially if you're going one way or on short notice. Here are a few of the best.
Routes: 43 cities in India with international flights to London, Malaysia, and Singapore Fares: A seven-day pass for unlimited flights in one of four regions in India is $320 Fleet: 40 Boeing 737s, three Airbus 340s, eight ATR-72s Why we like it: Among budget airlines, Jet Airways flies to the most Indian cities, and it's one of the few offering long-haul intercontinental flights. It has business-class seating and isn't selfish with its miles: You can redeem them for flights on KLM, Northwest, Qantas, and British Airways. www.jetairways.com
Routes: 12 destinations throughout India, including Calcutta, Delhi, and Goa Fares: From Mumbai to Bangalore for less than $120 roundtrip Fleet: Seven Airbus 320s Why we like it: All seating on its brand-new planes is Kingfisher class, with oversize leather seats, free in-seat personal video, and friendly flight attendants. Indian beer magnate Vijay Mallya (or as some call him, the Richard Branson of India) launched the airline in May 2005. www.flykingfisher.com
Routes: About 30 cities in Europe, North Africa, and the Mideast Fares: Amsterdam to Madeira for $100 one way Fleet: 26 Boeing 737s Why we like it: Transavia Airlines flies to a good mix of major European cities and hard-to-reach tourist destinations such as Malta, Madeira, and the Canary Islands, as well as cities in Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey. The service is bare bones, but there's one nice perk. The hub is Amsterdam's Schiphol, which is frequently voted one of the world's best airports in traveler polls. www.transavia.com/en
Routes: Six cities in Thailand Fares: Roundtrip from Bangkok to Phuket for $60 Fleet: Three Boeing 737s Why we like it: Spun off by Thai Airways in 2004, Nok Air connects Bangkok with Chiang Mai and Phuket, Thailand's big resort areas. An extra $12 a leg gets you first class, called Nok Plus, with bigger seats and double Nok Air's 33-pound baggage allowance. You can buy one of the 12 Nok Plus seats online in advance. www.nokair.co.th
AirAsia, Thai AirAsia
Routes: About 40 cities in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines Fares: Roundtrip from Bangkok to Xiamen for $75 Fleet: 26 Boeing 737s Why we like it: These sister budget airlines share an easy-to-use English website and fly only 737s with leather seats. But pack light: There's a 33-pound limit for checked bags. www.airasia.com
Routes: Throughout Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia (Uruguay and Paraguay coming soon) Fares: From Buenos Aires to Brasilia for less than $300 roundtrip Fleet: 40 Boeing 737s Why we like it: Gol offers few frills but runs efficiently and is loved by its loyal passengers. It operates its planes 14 hours a day (most budget airlines fly for 11), with some flights in the middle of the night. It's the only game in town for budget flights in Brazil. www.voegol.com.br/int
Routes: Connects 28 cities in 16 European countries to hubs in Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw, and Krakow Fares: London to Warsaw or Budapest starting at about $90 roundtrip Fleet: 11 Boeing 737s and four Embraer 120s Why we like it: SkyEurope offers cheap daily nonstops to Eastern Europe from London, Paris, and Rome, and KLM maintains its late-model fleet. But SkyEurope's one-way, one-leg system offers no baggage transfers whatsoever, so you'll play porter if you have a connecting flight. www.skyeurope.com
Routes: From Warsaw and three other Polish cities to major European cities such as Rome, London, and Dublin Fares: Warsaw to Milan for less than $60 roundtrip Fleet: Five Boeing 737s Why we like it: Centralwings is kind to American travelers. It has an English website and an English-speaking flight crew that accepts American currency onboard. The carrier is a subsidiary of LOT, the largest Polish airline. www.centralwings.com