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Most affordable international airlines are based in Asia or the Middle East

Konstantin Sheiko
May 22, 2018

According to the just-released 2018 Global Flight Price Ranking, which is based on analysis of more than 1.5 million economy-class prices from 200 airlines, Australia’s domestic carrier Tigerair is the world’s cheapest airline. 

The airline is the leader in the low-fare game with ticket prices that equate to about $0.06 per kilometre. The top ranking for its budget ticket prices follows years of bad press for Tigerair, which was voted Australia’s worst airline three years in a row. However, in 2014, the carrier was bought by Virgin, and its fortunes appear to have turned around, according to new reports.  

While that information may only be useful for those flying within Australia, the report also provides a wealth of additional data about leading carriers, including ranking the cheapest international airlines and domestic airlines as well. A staggering 24 of this year’s top 30 most affordable international airlines are based in Asia or the Middle East, with AirAsia X (ticket prices $0.07 per kilometre), Air India Express and Indonesia AirAsia (ticket prices for both are $0.08 per kilometre) forming the three leading players in this category. 

An additional international standout is newcomer Primera Air, ranking number four internationally this year at $0.09 per kilometre. The airline mainly flies between Scandinavia and European holiday destinations but has started branching out into low-cost flights from Europe to North America, according to the report. 

Scoot, meanwhile, is no longer one of the world’s cheapest international carriers. It dropped dramatically in ranking since the report was last issued in 2016 when the airline was number one. Scoot now comes in at 31, with the average per kilometer price of its tickets jumping from $0.07 to $0.12. 

Norwegian Air, which had a booming 2017 with headline-grabbing fares, has also fallen far down the list since the last report. Its fares are now almost twice the cost of Primera at $0.17 per kilometre. 

For European travellers, Ryanair ranks high in the list, with a per kilometre cost of $0.10. The short-haul airline dominates the European market and has an aggressive focus on cheap fares. It has made headlines in recent years with its novel takes on cost-cutting. Easyjet, Europe’s other main budget carrier, comes in substantially higher with ticket prices that are $0.19 per kilometre. 

In the United States, Southwest, one of the country’s top budget carriers, is almost three times the cost per kilometre of Ryanair at $0.29, which shows that the meaning of budget can vary widely depending on which side of the ocean you are on. 

Also noteworthy, the trifecta of Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad ($0.10 per kilometer), Qatar and Emirates, (both $0.11 per kilometer) continue to rank highly. But travelers seeking a bargain in the region should also consider Oman Air, Kuwait Air, Royal Brunei Airlines and Gulf Air Bahrain, all of which landed among the top of the heap in budget fares, as well and have an extensive route and destination offerings.