Which European budget airlines charge the most for food and drink?

With nickle-and-dime fees running rampant among today's airline industry, an email with the headline above grabbed my attention.

"None of us are keen to fork out for snacks and drinks on budget airlines, but since we are forced to dispose of liquids before going through security, we are often left with no choice," the email started out.

It went on to note that, starting June 4, the German budget carrier Eurowings began charging its economy fare passengers for in-flight food and drink. While food and beverage is one area of à la carte charges that I generally don't have a problem with, I do take issue with exorbitant pricing that essentially holds travelers hostage.

The travel portal fromAtoB researched the prices charged by budget carriers across Europe and found just that, along with some significant differences from one airline to another.

 *Prices converted to € at the current exchange rate

German airlines offer cheapest beer

As is fitting for a country known for its beer, flights to and from Germany offer the best value, with a 330ml can costing just £2.67 with Eurowings and TUIfly. EasyJet makes passengers dig a little deeper into their pockets, charging £4.50, while Ryanair charges £4.90.

The biggest price difference was in soft drinks.

While a can of Coke costs between £2.22 and £2.67, portion sizes vary, meaning that with Ryanair it’s £8.90 a liter, compared with £5.35 per liter on TUIfly.

Food for thought

The cost of a sandwich also varies widely. The East European carrier WizzAir offers the cheapest options for just £3.56, while Eurowings passengers can expect to pay £4.45 for a chicken roll. Norwegian, meanwhile, charges £5.79 for a club sandwich.

TUIfly: best value overall

Almost all airlines offer a combined menu that often includes a sandwich, drink and snack. A WizzAir meal deal costs between £5.35 and £7.57, while a sandwich alone costs £5.79 with Norwegian. TUIfly offers the best overall value for money, with all items on the menu totaling £31.93, compared the Norwegian menu which totals £46.39.

My take

I don't like budget airlines and avoid them wherever possible, in large part because I view the low fares as a teaser. My research has shown that the all-in cost of a flight on a budget carrier is far closer to the all-in cost of a flight on a traditional carrier than those airlines would have us believe.

This survey supports that conclusion, though budget airlines can be expected to counter, "But eating is the passenger's choice." I disagree.

Certainly, alcohol is optional and, arguably, food may be considered optional depending on the length of the flight but water is a basic. Every travel expert I know advises people to drink more water in flight to counter the effects of the dry air inside the pressurized cabin. The survey does not say whether water is provided by the glass by any of these carriers, or whether the only choice is to buy (or not buy) a one-liter bottle, but charging up to €7.58 per liter is, to my thinking, unconscionable.

But the traveling public votes with its dollars or pounds or euros, and as long as people ignore the sham of "budget pricing," as long as they are willing to tolerate cramped cabins and substandard service, these carriers will continue lowering the bar when it comes to air travel.

And that's a shame.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photo by Carl Dombek; graphic provided by fromAtoB
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