Revealed: The Cheapest Airline in the World for Cost Per Mile

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by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, May 16, 2018

Four of the world’s top five cheapest airlines are Asian, according to a new study.

The Global Flight Pricing report compiled by travel planning website Rome2Rio also found that the average cost per kilometre for flights had increased from 17.75 US cents in 2016 to 18.8.

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Top 25 | The world's cheapest airlines

The research highlighted Virgin Atlantic as one of the few airlines to have reduced the cost of its flights since 2016, rising from 100th in the rankings to 42nd.

But it was Asian and Indian carriers to dominate the top 25, with Air Asia X taking top spot, followed by Air India Express and Indonesia AirAsia.

How did British airlines get on?

No British airline featured in the top 25, while Ryanair ranked eighth. Primera Air, which operates transatlantic flights from Stansted, came fourth. Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based airline, took a surprising sixth spot. Qatar Airways and Emirates also snuck into the top 25, at 15th and 25th respectively.

Rome2Rio analysed economy fares from 200 of the world’s airlines over a two-month period, racking up 1.5 million prices, to calculate cost per kilometres in US dollars.

Of British household names, Virgin Atlantic’s price per kilometre fell 4 cents to 13 cents, lifting it up the rankings, while Easyjet fell from 71st to 124th after its cost per kilometre rose from 14 cents to 19 cents. British Airways took 139th spot, down from 116th in 2016, with a kilometre cost of 20 cents, while low-cost, long-haul operation Norwegian came in 102nd.

Is flying more expensive than it was two years ago?

“Since our 2016 report, we have seen some significant shifts in pricing and ranking,” says Kirsteene Phelan, chief operating officer at Rome2Rio. “Airlines who have ventured into the budget scene - such as British Airways - as well as those such as Norwegian who have a reputation as budget stars - need to pass on higher fuel and operational costs to the customer.

“Sadly, the romance of air travel, whilst not dead, is certainly waning, with more airlines tipped to scale back their inflight offerings in favour of pay-to-play service to help boost profits. We anticipate those seeking to enjoy their journey will look for other options including rail to boost their travel experience.”

Which airlines fly with the most empty seats? 

What is going on in Asia?

Of the top 30, 24 were based in either Asia or the Middle East.

“The AirAsia Group is particularly dominant with three of its airlines in the top 20,” explains Phelan. “Although Qantas (eighth) ranks highly for value, we are often seeing travellers from the UK to Asia and Australia booking with carriers such as Etihad (sixth), Royal Brunei Airlines (19th), China Southern (20th) and Emirates (25th). “This suggests that whilst overall value may be high for one airline over another, specific route pricing can vary greatly and travellers need to be vigilant for deals to ensure the best price to their destination.”

Last year, Telegraph Travel reported on Lion Air, a budget airline in Indonesia set to quintuple the size of its fleet, with 443 aircraft on order. The purchase and Lion Air’s growth is indicative of the growing demand for air travel in the region.

What about flying across the Pond?

Last year, Telegraph Travel analysed capacities of the major transatlantic carriers and found that more and more airlines are making available more and more seats to ferry passengers back and forth between the UK and US.

This might go some way to explain why so many new budget airlines are attempting to muscle in on the market.

Top 20 | The biggest airlines for transatlantic travel

Rome2Rio found that Primera Air was offering the cheapest flights across the Atlantic, followed by WOW air. It found that Air Canada and United Airlines, ranking 84th and 90th respectively, were next best value, while Norwegian fell from 86th to 102nd.

“Travel between the US and UK has been one of the hot markets in the last two years, driven by the arrival of Norwegian Air,” says Phelan. “New kid on the block, Primera Air, seems to have snatched Norwegian’s crown, whilst the traditional flagship carriers of United Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways continue to struggle to keep pace with their newer competition.”

The world's best airlines - according to you 

Which is the cheapest airline in Europe?

Ryanair, by some distance. The Irish airline ranks in seventh overall, despite its cost per kilometre rising from nine cents to 10.

WOW air, which offers cheap flights to Iceland and beyond, ranks ninth, with a kilometre cost of 10 cents, while Wizz Air, in 53rd spot, has a cost per kilometre of 13 cents.

Which city has the most overpriced route?

Earlier this year Telegraph Travel analysed the cost per mile for flights to different cities around the world.

We discovered that British travellers in search of a bargain would do well to visit Singapore as the Asian city-state emerged as the most cost effective flight route from the UK, with each mile in the air costing, on average, less than 3p.

At a glance | The best and worst value destinations

It pipped Los Angeles, to which average fares equate to 3.4p per mile, and Chicago (4.5p per mile), as - statistically speaking - the best value flight option from London.

Unsurprisingly, we found that - in most cases - the further you fly, the more you get for your money.


This article was written by Hugh Morris from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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