They are called Ryanair, Easyjet, Transavia and Wizzair. These airline companies are well-known for being leaders in the low-cost market in Europe. Created in 1991, Ryanair is the pioneer in Europe, but the concept appeared much earlier in the United States. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 meant the start of airline wars for offering the lowest possible prices.
A decision was finally reached: flights could be offered at rock-bottom prices if all of the extras were eliminated. The company's sole purpose, then, is simply to transport passengers. If any passenger would like additional services, he must pay for them.
Low-cost companies guarantee the basic service: transportation, at the lowest possible price. All of the aircraft used are of a similar type, to save on maintenance costs. On the ground, rotation is faster because boarding procedures for passengers are simplified. The flights offered are all direct and link secondary airports or less important terminals.
In terms of passengers, they can only buy their tickets online, thus saving the companies all the associated costs of hiring ticketing agents. Check-in procedures are simplified and seats cannot be reserved. There is only one class and advertisements are distributed inside the aircraft. Finally, passengers have very limited luggage allowance and have to pay for any food or drinks they consume on board.
The final price is rarely the one posted by the company; hidden costs are a regular addition. This is the case for some airport taxes which are not taken into account in the original price of the ticket. Also, depending on the method of payment used, you may be subject to yet another tax.
There are more than a hundred companies of this type on the global market today. The American company Southwest Airlines was the first one to appear 40 years ago. Now, in 2011, the Malaysian company Air Asia has been elected the best low-cost airline company in the world for the third year running.
In Europe, there are several companies vying for the top spot and competing with the "traditional" companies. In England, Wizzair, Transavia, Vueling and Easyjet are the most popular. They service a large number of European capitals and cities. This is also the case for Ryanair, the undisputed leader of low-cost flights in Europe. This Irish company has carried more than 70 million passengers around the continent. Regularly making the headlines, Ryanair has a habit of creating controversy by attempting to exploit the low-cost model to its limits. By putting forth the idea of charging passengers to use the toilets on board or imposing an additional tax for obese people, Michael O'Leary, the company's CEO, was the first to put forth the question about how far the limits of the low-cost model can be stretched.