BA v no-frills: which is better?

Fred Mawer, Crafty Traveller, Mail on Sunday

Last updated at 11:45 13 October 2003

If you're booking a city break, your first port of call may well be a no-frills airline.

But full-service airlines such as British Airways often offer competitive fares too. Last week the watchdog Air Transport Users Council published a study into fares on routes offered by both types of airline.

While it concluded that no-frills carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet were usually cheapest, the difference in fares can be minimal, and on occasion BA had the lowest fare.

The study highlights how transfers with no-frills airlines can be more expensive (and time-consuming), because they often use airports further from city centres. But there are other factors to consider.



  • Seat allocation BA:

    Yes. easyJet: No. Ryanair: No.



  • Baggage allowances BA:

    Hand 6kg; checked-in 23kg. easyJet: Hand 5kg; checked-in 20kg. Ryanair: Hand 7kg; checked-in 15kg (excess £4 per kg).



  • Catering BA:

    Free food (short-haul, that means a 'deli box') and drink. easyJet: You pay. Ryanair: You pay.



  • Delays BA:

    If longer than 90 minutes, drinks provided; if longer than three hours, a meal provided; if longer than six hours, accommodation provided 'as appropriate'. If the delay means you miss last train/bus from the airport, they will usually pay for a cab or lay on alternative transport.

easyJet: If longer than one hour you can change flight to a later date/time or get a credit for cost of the flight; if longer than two hours £3 refreshment voucher provided; if longer than four hours £5 refreshment voucher provided and you are entitled to a flight refund (in credit form) and can fly for free; if you have to wait overnight they will pay for accommodation.

If a delay of more than two hours means you miss last train/bus from airport they lay on transport to nearest town, may consider taxi claims.

Ryanair: No drinks, meals, accommodation or compensation. If you miss last train/bus from airport, tough.



  • Cancellations

    The airlines promise to put you on their next available flight (with easyJet, you fly free if you've waited more than four hours) or refund the cost of the flight. BA may try to put you on a flight with another airline.



  • Delayed baggage

    What will the airline contribute to cost of purchases while passengers are without their bags?

BA: No set amount, depends on circumstances.

easyJet: If delay is more than 24 hours £25 per person per day, up to £75. Ryanair: If delay is more than 24 hours £15 maximum. Under international law, if luggage is lost or damaged, airlines must compensate passengers £14 per kg of the luggage weight. Travel insurance cover may be better.



  • Ticket flexibility BA:

    Depends on the type of ticket. The cheapest economy fares are non-changeable, non-refundable and non-transferable.

easyJet: Up to two hours before departure you can change the name on ticket, dates and times of travel for £10-£15 per person. If the new flight is more expensive you pay the difference.

Ryanair: Up to three hours before departure you can change the name on the ticket, dates and times of travel for £15 per person. If the new flight is more expensive you pay the difference.



  • Verdict BA

    may not usually be cheapest but if the fare is reasonable it can offer value for money and can be a more pleasant experience than with the no-frills players, with no queuing to bag a good seat, better baggage allowance and refreshments.

If you're badly delayed, BA and easyJet are likely to help out. Expect no assistance from Ryanair. easyJet and Ryanair win hands down on ticket flexibility.

Which airline has the best record? The Association of European Airlines now publishes punctuality, cancellations and baggage handling records ( For June, BA was 18th out of 26 for on-time arrivals and 22nd out of 24 for missing bags.

The reports do not include non-member airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, which lists its own statistics on its website and claims it is 'No1 for punctuality and fewest lost bags and cancellations'.

'They are very naughty,' says an AEA spokesman. 'We have no way of knowing how Ryanair puts together its figures.'

Ryanair counters that the lists are compiled in the same way by all airlines. The European Commission is setting up a more comprehensive system which could get off the ground next year.

You can book accommodation and car hire through the websites of BA, Ryanair and easyJet. But you will normally be booking with a company that is separate from the airline.

For example, to book a hotel on Ryanair's website you're taken to, a trading name for a separate company called With BA, however, you book through British Airways Holidays, part of BA.

Read the cancellation terms; if you cancel a hotel booked through Ryanair's website three months to seven days in advance you pay for the first night. If you pull out within seven days you get nothing back.

Lastly, though it might appear that by booking flights, hotel and car hire through one source you are booking a package, in legal terms you are not - and do not benefit from the consumer protection for package holidays.

More airline details can be found on, and

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