The Cheapest Flight I Have Ever Taken

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Hello from London!

I’m finally back after four months of travelling. I have a few debriefing posts about the trip I’ll do in the next few days including my experience island hopping around the Caribbean.

I’ve held British Airways Executive Club Silver status for over a year now, which is oneworld Sapphire. But I haven’t actually used it that much. I find the British Airways lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5 so underwhelming that I often just stay home and arrive at the airport as close to my flight as I possibly can.

When I travel long haul I usually use miles to fly in a premium class so don’t need to use the status there, and also have a Priority Pass membership.

The status expires in May and I probably won’t requalify.

So I wanted to make use of it while I could.

While I’ve used Heathrow Airport dozens of times, I’ve never actually flown out of Heathrow Terminal 3 (although I’ve flown into Terminal 3 on Virgin Atlantic several times).

I knew that British Airways operates several short haul flights from Terminal 3, and that the new Cathay Pacific and Qantas lounges there were excellent, after reading Ben’s reviews, so I’d been thinking about taking a flight out of Terminal 3 on BA to try them out.

I had some free days this week in London, so started looking at flight options.

Early February is a very quiet time for European travel, so there was plenty of British Airways availability using 4,000 Avios for several European routes that depart from Terminal 3, which remains my favourite use of Avios.

But then I had to get back to London after that, so looked at where was cheap to fly back from.

I could have used Avios both ways, but for a 4,000 Avios cost that’s a value of at least £40, so I was interested to see if I could find a revenue fare cheaper than that.

And then I saw a flight so cheap I barely believed it was possible.

Ryanair had flights from Luxembourg to London Stansted for just €8 ($9) one way, bookable a few days in advance of the flight.

I’ve booked some cheap low cost flights before, but this was by far the cheapest flight I had ever booked.

I spent most of the day in Heathrow Terminal 3 in both the Cathay Pacific and Qantas lounges.

Read Ben’s reviews, but for what it’s worth I was pretty underwhelmed by the Qantas lounge outside of the two Qantas flight times, while the Cathay Pacific lounge was fantastic the entire day.

The CX lounge has a wonderful view over the tarmac, and sitting back in an almost deserted lounge watching all the different types of airlines and aircraft taking off with a glass of champagne was my idea of heaven.

I’ve been to Luxembourg before (and loved it) so didn’t have any real need to go again, especially in February where it’s very cold.

So I could have booked British Airways both ways and done a direct turn, but I wanted to give myself a bit of a buffer in case of any delays, and I’m honestly not that confident at explaining to both security and cabin crew why I want to get back on the same plane I’ve just arrived on.

So I booked the Ryanair flight return for only €8, giving myself about a 2.5 hour turnaround time.

I’m curious at to what price point there’s no longer any point selling tickets on a flight. I understand they hope to make money on ancillaries, but for someone like me, I imagine they were losing money. I don’t weigh that much but my butt on the seat burns fuel.

ITA Matrix doesn’t display Ryanair prices, but says that for a BA flight from Luxembourg to London there is a Luxembourg airport tax of €3.79. So assuming Ryanair is subject to the same airport tax half the fare goes in airport taxes.

So that leaves only about €4 left to pay for everything else it costs the airline to get me from A to B.

As I was only going for the day I didn’t have any checked luggage, and I printed my boarding pass in advance. The flight time is only 50 minutes and I ate in the Priority Pass lounge in Luxembourg before boarding, so did not purchase anything on board.

So Ryanair was able to extract a grand total of €8 ($9) from me for the entire experience.

The flight was… fine. It’s a short flight and both Luxembourg and Stansted airports were really quiet on a Tuesday evening in February, so there were no queues for anything.

For all their faults, one thing Ryanair is really good at is filling their planes, and this was by far the emptiest Ryanair flight I have ever been on. Both seats next to me were free and the load was only around 50%.

The airport train from Stansted, given I booked the flight just a few days in advance, was twice the price of the entire flight, to give you an ideal of just how cheap the fare was!

Bottom line

Many years ago Ryanair was famous for selling flights for absurdly low prices (like £1), but these aren’t nearly as common as they used to be.

I’m surprised they bother to sell tickets on the route I flew for as low as they did — I didn’t come across this fare because of some promotional email or news article about it — I saw it through a normal search because I was looking to fly that route anyway. I suppose they expect people will buy enough add-ons so that it makes sense to sell seats at those prices.

For what it is worth, while Wizz Air has similarly cheap flights, I have never seen an easyJet or Norwegian short haul flight below £29.99 — I believe that’s the cheapest they go, even for sale fares and during travel periods of low demand.

There has to be some point at which it’s more economical to have the seat empty for the flight than collect just a few dollars from a passenger and have their weight burning fuel on the flight. I understand they try to sell extras, but I do wonder how much more people buy on such short flights.

Some of you who work for airline may have a better understanding of this than me — at what low price is there no longer any point selling a seat on a one hour flight?

What is the cheapest flight you have ever taken?

Comments
  1. Ryanair flies some domestic routes here in Portugal and I’ve bought a flight from LIS to OPO for a friend for 9,90€. That’s the cheapest flight I have ever bought.

  2. Flying in paid First on a weekly basis, the cheapest I had to pay this year was around $4K between Hong-Kong and Bangkok.
    In other words this is probably 6-8 times more expensive than what my frustrated haters had to pay over the past 10 years. Haters gonna hate…

  3. Hope you’ll take one of the legendary Ryanair 1.99 Euro flights between Paphos and Amman

    I bought one last year but could not go

  4. While I have had one-way flights within Europe for less than €10 on Ryanair and in the US on Frontier for less than $20, I still think my best deal was a very limited promo BA had in 2004. I got a return flight from LHR-LAX for £100 including all taxes and fees. That was still the days when seat selection and a checked bag or two were included, so it was a phenomenal deal for a return flight of that distance.

  5. I landed in Europe the day the volcano in Iceland closed all the airports. When they reopened, Ryanair ran a sale from €3 each way. We paid €3 each way from Berlin to London, Oslo, Stockholm (ended up throwing this one away), Bremen (and then a bit more from Bremen to Sardinia), and then €12 each way to Kaunus, Lithuania. It was a glorious day when I saw that sale.

  6. From what I have observed, Ryanair only focuses on filling their planes no matter how low they have to go on ticket prices. The only goal is a high cabin factor. If the cannot fill the flights at high enough prices, they will quickly close the route, they really do not hesitate to do that. I would be surprised if they really cared whether a particular price is high enough to cover the variable passenger cost. Sometimes their tickets are cheaper than airport tax , so they in fact subsidize the ticket 🙂

  7. @ Sarah – that’s a good topic for another post! Should you take your shoes off in airport and hotel lounges when using foot rests?!?

  8. I flew from Shannon to Stansted in 2009 on Ryanair for $22 roundtrip, just to visit for the day. And like you, our Stansted Express tickets were more than double the price of the flight. It was worth it!

    I’m an economy flyer, so keep that in mind. My cheapest flight in the US was probably a BOI-SLC trip for $60 roundtrip, and my cheapest international flight in December on IcelandAir…SEA-KEF-LGW, LGW-KEF, then KEF-SEA for $392 total. (I did have to book an award ticket from BOI-SEA for 18k Skymiles to get there though.) The best international deal from home was August 2017 on Delta from BOI-AMS for $395 roundtrip over Labor Day.

  9. The cheapest flies I have seen on Ryanair was from the early 2000s when they were selling some tickets for free or 99 cents (I forgot if it was in euro or pounds). I was on a flight on Ryanair from London to Dublin, also in the early 2000s where there was less than 5 passengers.

  10. @James (no, you should not take them off). The only acceptable places in public to take your shoes off are (a) the beach; (b) a water park or pool; (c) if you have a rock in it, only to put it back on immediately.

    No one wants to smell feet.

  11. I was once compensated for voluntary denied boarding and then told I could get back on the flight. They paid me to fly!

  12. I have seen flights from Paris or Amsterdam to Tel Aviv few months in advance for departures at January/ February for 20€

  13. I’ve been enjoying reading your posts but in htis one the one that stood out was you never departing from LHR terminal 3! That means you have yet to check out the VS LHR Clubhouse! Hope you visit it someday!

  14. Ryanair had 0.036€ costs per available seat kilometer in 2015. Luxembourg to Stansted is 489 km. Rough calculation says that your seat costs Ryanair about 17€. Majority(60%+) of that is non fuel related that will be paid whether the seat is empty or not. Maybe even more than normal because of the short flight.

    So it makes sense to them try to get something back for the seat. Take a smaller loss. And like you said nonzero share of the people who paid the 8€ will spend more money on board.

  15. Nice boots Ryanair seem to absorb the taxes since it would be impossible to buy a ticket ex UK for £1 otherwise

  16. I flew from Bristol to Barcelona/Girona for 2p return on Ryanair once. Ryanair don’t seem to do the 1p flights anymore unfortunately , as I went to Ireland heaps of times for 1p each way too. When I lived in Bristol I got to see lots of Europe on the cheap thanks to Ryanair!

  17. The reality is that most of their costs are fixed once they decide to fly the route. I don’t know the math, but I doubt your bum in the seat actually cost more fuel than what they got from you. Obviously if they routinely had to charge so little to fill the flight they’d cancel the route. Cancelling a single lightly-sold flight would cost more than flying it with $10 tickets.

    US flights would never get that cheap because of the taxes and fees. I’ve flown on plenty of flights with $1 base fare that were decidedly more expensive (looking at you, BA).

  18. I’ve taken Vueling flights from Ibiza to Barcelona advertised for 11€, and all island residents get 50% of this subsidised by the government, so its only €5.5.

  19. I’ve taken Vueling flights from Ibiza to Barcelona advertised for 11€, and all island residents get 50% of this subsidised by the government, so its only €5.5.

  20. During day-after-Christmas glitch of 2013, I was able to book several Delta tickets insanely cheap. I flew PIT-PDX for $42 RT, PIT-LAS for $31 OW, PIT-SFO RT for $45, and PIT-JFK OW for $19.

  21. Vistara ,a full service airline from Pune to New Delhi for rupees 2500 which is equal to $36

  22. Not unusual in Europe. Based in DUS there are often 4€ or 8€ fares to PMI. Some weeks ago I booked a FRA – PMI flight for 4€ just to try most of the Priority Pass Lounges in FRA.

    But I mostly like the 99€ DUS-LHR BA fare to spend the whole day in OW lounges in LHR.

  23. My cheapest is a $15 one way on Southwest from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale per person (I paid a total of $72 with taxes and fees for 4 people)

  24. By CPM rate my cheapest flight ever was an Air Canada error fare, HKG-YVR-YYZ-IAD//IAD-YYZ-YVR-HKG for 153 USD. In September 2018

  25. It’s been a while since i’ve flown European ULCC but once flew Stansted to Stockholm r/t on RyanAir for $40.

    Domestically i flew NYC to Miami for $110.

    Internationally I flew NYC to Singapore for $450.

  26. I believe you can get even cheaper flights from Manila to Hong Kong with Philippine Pesos during a certain promotion/s with Cebu Pacific or one of the Philippine carriers

  27. I have a question. You live in the UK. I know you are Australian. You discuss flights mainly from a UK perspective and yet here for example you only provide the price in € (Luxembourg) and $. I find that weird. Why don’t you include £s as well? Who do you think your audience is?

  28. My cheapest fare is by VietJet from Ho Chi Minh city (SGN) to Da Lat (DLI) for $2.12. But including taxes is $18.44.

  29. 18 years ago this weekend my wife and I flew Melbourne to Adelaide and back on Virgin for a romantic Valentine’s day getaway!
    Got special sale fare of just $5 each for Melbourne to Adelaide leg! Yep FIVE DOLLARS!
    Virgin hadn’t been flying long then and were using old international terminal in Adelaide.
    Flew on an all white 737 – think it was leased from Ansett. Sure we were even given some food on flight
    Return leg cost around $50 each, so trip was a real bargain!

  30. In the early days of Ryanair. Stansted to Prestwick, then Prestwick to Brussels and finally Brussels back to Stansted. Each flight was 1 pound so 3 quid all up.

  31. @ Jonah – I’ll usually list the price of something for the departure city so a flight leaving from Luxembourg is listed in Euro as that is their local currency.

    As the majority of OMAAT audience is US I’ll list a US conversion price so they can quickly understand the equivalent price.

  32. Cheapest tkt ever with Skyline air a Czech company based for 0,01 cent each way from Naples to Prague, onward good on brand new plane, while return on very old full color white plane without any company name on that inside was in really bad condition, company after some month bankrupted and is not easy guess why:)

    Last october bought an Airasia flight from Bkk/ Phuket for just 1,99 return

    Cant imagine les than this

  33. When I attended college in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s, I regularly visited my family in L.A. by taking the “Midnight Flyer”, a daily midnight flight from SFO to LAX on PSA, the rough equivalent of the early days of Southwest’s operations in California. It was first come first served at a flat $10. PSA’s entire fleet at the time were Boeing 727s. PSA had a contract with the Postal Service and it was known as a daily mail run. Upon arrival in LAX, it returned about half hour later at 1 30AM back to SFO. It was cheap and it was fun…passengers composed primarily of long haired hippie students….of which I was (and still am) proud to think of myself…..

  34. Pretty cheap. I think the cheapest flights I ever paid for were $25 MIA-MCO and return, each way. That was on PanAm, so it was one or two years ago. Surprisingly, they used 747s on the route, usually, as continuations from South American flights.

  35. Flew OSL-STN last June. While my afternoon flight was ~€25, the morning flight actually showed up for €6.

  36. Could it be possible that the airline gets paid by ad agencies so they still make enough profit as long as the cabin is filled? These LCCs have ad all over from overhead lockers to back tables.

  37. found last minute stansted to Madrid flights on ryanair for 5 pounds the other day… was super tempted

  38. One of my absolute fav lounges. Empty when flying in morning back to the USA. Great finishes. Dumplings. Moet. Cool view of tarmac. Love it.

    Flew BA back to Chicago in Jan and didn’t realize I’d be in terminal 5 🙁 doh. Silly mistake. Ba lounge not horrible just not amazing

  39. A couple years ago I snagged £6 one way from London to Inverness on BA. It was insanely economical and I couldn’t pass it up, so I surprised my mate there with a visit.

  40. Jonathan,

    I recall reading about those “overnight” SFO-LAX flights.

    All there is now is an overnight bus or train.

  41. It’s pretty arrogant to dismiss BA lounges as if it’s a Pizza Express in Croydon! I for one have thoroughly enjoyed all of BA’s lounges, from CW to Concorde room. Do a real review, and stop pandering to the BA haters!

  42. €35 on EasyJet last May from Nice to Naples – actually this was the RT fare but I only flew the outbound flight because it was cheaper than the one way which was €129!

  43. Cheapest I can recall was DFW-TPA on Spirit back in 2015 for $34 total – $20 base fare and $14 in taxes and fees. I’ve also flown several segments on IndiGo and Spicejet from HYD to DEL and MAA for $50-75 each way about 10 years ago.

  44. I flew Viet Jet Air a couple of years ago for 9 USD taxes included. It was a 2 hour flight from BKK to Phuket in their new A321. Fare was 4.5 USD + 4.5 USD taxes. I checked today and prices are incredible still the same as 2 years ago

  45. In 2004 I took a flight from Berlin to Nice for 0 on the outbound and 4.99 GBP on the inbound. Yes, the first leg was 0. EasyJet. I assume I got the first leg at that price only if I bought a return ticket. Which wasn’t so painful.

    That’s livin’.

  46. When I was at uni I took my whole flat from East Midlands to Dublin for the day. It cost 16p total. We actually got ripped off, it turns out Ryanair had been paying some people to fly the route as they were just short of meeting an annual passenger target that would get them a big discount on their charges from the airport or something like that.

  47. @ Endre
    Love a great story and you sure are the storyteller… alas it is impossible to pay USD$4000 for a first class flight on CX. Firstly, they rarely operate a 777-300ER 4 class configuration aircraft on the route: it is mostly A330, 772, 773 and A359 and A351. If you were lucky to snag a first class fare (well done you!) then you would only pay AT MOST HKD$11,000 one-way (that’s USD$1400 for those less sophisticated than our fellow forum contributor Endre…), so please allow me to edit:

    “Flying in paid First on a weekly basis, the cheapest I had to pay this year was around $1.4K between Hong-Kong and Bangkok.
    In other words this is probably 1-3 times more expensive than what my frustrated haters had to pay over the past 10 years. Haters gonna hate…

    Haters gonna hate, but embellishing is just a fancy word for lying!!!!!!

    @James: thanks for sharing!

  48. … and if I wasn’t clear enough above, a full fare HKG-BKK First Class fare available on CX751 (on a Monday) is HKD$10,853 which is about USD$1400.

    I do love the era of the Fact Check!

  49. I bought 3 tickets RT tickets LGW-VIE last year on Level. Flew on two of them. 0.02 euro per ticket 🙂

  50. @ James. We’re planning a trip this September departing from Mexico City using miles To fly on Turkish Airlines to some point within the EU. Problem is what city should we fly in to so we can buy one of these “cheap tickets” to ultimately get to our final destination of Rhodes Greece? Would appreciate any suggestions!

  51. I’ve flown for €0.00 with Easyjet when they first started flying to Poland. I only paid the tax – €4.00 I believe.

    And in 2017, we booked flights with Easyjet again from Berlin to Manchester for €12.00 one-way in October! Our son paid €5.00!

  52. Jonah – If you are British yet don’t understand US dollars or Euros then you probably never leave the country, making the price irrelevant!

    Ryanair constantly have flights available for less than £5. I’ve had 1p, £/€3 and £/€5 flights on many occasions. I’m looking at a Stansted to Oslo flight for £4.99 right now too.

  53. @ James – they did get more than a couple of dollars out of you buying their ticket! Look at all the free press/exposure you have created here!

  54. Not so uncommon, Ryanair is selling every year 4.99 euros TLV-PFO & PFO-TLV tickets with the airport tax in TLV is 10 USD (flew it myself). Distance wise, FR is selling every year tickets that can be as low as 4.99 Euros (but usually 7-10 euros) from Eilat (VDA airport) in the south of Israel to some destinations in Eastern Europe, so more than 4 hours of flight.

  55. Once I paid $25 dollars for a flight from Shannon to the Isle of Man, but I busked in the aisle for the entire flight, which ultimately meant that I earned money by flying the route. I’ve never had that much success before, but I can usually make at least a little money back with in-flight busking…vacationers love my Celine Dion covers.*

    *This isnt true, but I thought I’d try to spice up this vanilla post about flying an unremarkable fare.

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