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And the World's Cheapest Airline Is?

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 5/21/2018 Mia Taylor

Australia’s domestic carrier Tigerair is the world’s cheapest airline.

Southwest Boeing 737 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: A new report says Southwest's budget fares are more expensive than comparable budget carriers in Europe. (photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines) © Southwest Airlines A new report says Southwest's budget fares are more expensive than comparable budget carriers in Europe. (photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines)

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, the airline is the leader in the low-fare game with ticket prices that equate to about $0.06 per kilometer.

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 the new report from Rome2rio.

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 kilometer), Air India Express and Indonesia AirAsia (ticket prices for both are $0.08 per kilometer) 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 kilometer. 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 the Rome2rio ranking since the report was last issued in 2016 and 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.

The airline's downfall may be tied to the Tiger/Scoot merger in 2017 and the separation of the Tiger brand in Australia, which now exists under different ownership, according to the report.

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 kilometer.

“Since our 2016 report, we have seen some significant shifts in pricing and ranking,” said 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.”

For European travelers, Ryanair ranks high in the list, with a per kilometer 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 kilometer.

In the United States, Southwest, one of the country’s top budget carriers, is almost three times the cost per kilometer 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.

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