We might all be well aware to look for bargain flight tickets with Jetstar or Tiger, while the likes of Air Asia, Ryanair, Easyjet and Southwest Airlines are well-known further afield. But there are also some very handy low cost carriers that link less obvious parts of the world – and this little lot are worth knowing about.
Flying between North, Central and South America can be annoyingly expensive, so Mexico City-based Interjet does an admirable job of connecting the Americas up on the relative cheap. Most of its locations are in Mexico, but it also services a lot of US cities – including Las Vegas, Dallas, Miami and New York.
Elsewhere, Interjet flies to Bogota in Colombia, San Jose in Costa Rica, Guatemala City in Guatemala and – most usefully – Havana and Varadero in Cuba. A route to Lima in Peru starts up soon. See interjet.com.mx
With three main bases in Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro and Porto Alegre, Gol has become Brazil's second largest airline. Most flights, again, are domestic – but there are also some key connections with other South American countries, including Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina. Perhaps more interestingly, some routes head further north to the Caribbean – Barbados, Tobago and the Dominican Republic are served. See voegol.com.br
Emirates may seemingly fly everywhere, but there's another airline that also uses Dubai as a hub, focusing on destinations not quite big enough for its better known sister. So if you want to connect through to the likes of Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Ukraine or Bulgaria, FlyDubai might be worth getting to know. There are plenty of other Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Eastern European and North African destinations too. See flydubai.com.
Based in Johannesburg, Mango is owned by South African Airways, but offers budget hops to elsewhere in South Africa. That includes George, Durban and Cape Town. The most useful route, however, is to Zanzibar in Tanzania.
Plenty of airlines have tried and failed to provide budget flights across the Atlantic, but Wow has the advantage of a mid-Atlantic hub that you might want to check out anyway. It currently flies to six North American destinations from Iceland's Keflavik airport – Montreal, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Toronto and Boston. But it has a whole host of flights to European destinations. These range from usual suspects such as London, Berlin and Paris to the less well-connected Salzburg, Vilnius and Edinburgh. See wowair.com.
Also dipping its toes into the trans-Atlantic market is Westjet, a well-established Canadian low cost Canada that has recently launched routes to Dublin, Glasgow and London. Westjet's route map also has a complicated spider's web over Canada, calling in at plenty of small cities and some out-of-the-way but spectacular northern destinations. It also has a lot of connections to US cities – including four in Hawaii and less obvious options such as Sarasota in Florida and Palm Springs in California. And, as a bonus, it connects Canada to umpteen Caribbean and Central American destinations. See westjet.com.
Within Europe itself, Ryanair and Easyjet are the main players, but Wizz Air has carved out a niche connecting Eastern and Western Europe, with the focus very much in the east. It flies from multiple cities in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, while major hubs include Vilnius in Lithuania, Skopje in Macedonia and Budapest in Hungary. See wizzair.com.
There are big ambitions for Fastjet to become the first pan-African budget airline, but for now it is starting off small, with an initial base in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and a recently launched one in Harare, Zimbabwe. The latter offers flights to Victoria Falls and Johannesburg at present, but there's more choice from Dar Es Salaam, with flights to four other Tanzanian destinations (including Kilimanjaro) plus Uganda, Kenya and Zambia. See fastjet.com.
Americans have little love for Spirit – moans about add-on fees and titchy seats are widespread. But it does have an extensive route map and good deals. Multiple routes are flown from most big US cities, while the less sexy likes of Pittsburgh, Myrtle Beach, Kansas City and Minneapolis are also well linked to the grid. There are plenty of overseas destinations too – including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia. Seespirit.com.
An honorary mention must go to the badly-named Alaska Airlines, even though it's technically not a low cost carrier. Alaska isn't in one of the major alliances, and falls off the radar – largely because people assume it is based in Alaska. It's not – its main hubs are Seattle and Portland, and it's often the best bet for cutting out long drives in the American west.
As the name would suggest, numerous destinations in Alaska are served, but Australians may be more interested in the links from four Hawaiian islands. To all intents and purposes, Horizon Air flights are also Alaska Airlines flights (it's like Qantas and Qantaslink) – which means multiple destinations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington state and western Canada.
The crew at Alaska Airlines.
See also: The 10 best ways to score a cheap flight