How Do Budget Airlines Make Money?

As I am gearing up for a bit of a trip, I started to think about how in the world all these budget airlines made money. I mean, seriously how can an airline like Ryanair fly me from London to Slovenia or what have you for $10, or even free?!! Many others have asked these questions as well and of course there are the easy answers such as:
– Flying in to smaller airports with little or no taxes
– Getting paid by smaller towns to fly there and bring tourists
– No inflight services, like meals or drinks
– Leaner organizations that aren’t as bloated as the big carriers
– Carrying cargo in addition to people (although I have only rumor to back this one up)
– Quantity and very, very full flights to very, very popular places.

One thing that I never thought about and was never that obvious to me was: baggage. Every previous trip I’ve taken, I’ve only had a backpack that fits as carry on. I’m pretty proud of that fact considering the last trip was for nearly a month and I managed to have everything I needed in there. But for this trip I want more space, not so much because I want to bring more, but because I want to bring more back. Since US fashion currently looks like someone had fashion poisoning and vomited up with 80’s again, I am forced to buy my clothes overseas. This being the case, I want to bring a proper suitcase that I’ll check. Naturally, I started to look in to the airlines’ regulations on how much weight you can bring.
Overall, it’s not too bad with Virgin (whom I’m flying to London on) where they allow 23kg (about 50 pounds) as you can see on their regulations page (very similar with United.) The catch comes in connecting with these budget airlines though. Airlines like Easyjet and this new one Clickair allow 20kg as you can see here and here respectively. Ryanair is a real stinker and only allows 15kg.
So, how do you make up this difference in allowance from a bigger carrier like Virgin to one of these smaller budget guys? Simple, you pay for it. The fees run from six to eight euro a kilogram. It’s not too bad if you’re just making up a couple of kilo difference, but still an extra $25 or $30 makes that $10 flight a bit more expensive and really, for them to carry an extra ten or twenty pounds per person makes little difference.
There is one little itch in all of this, which is that Virgin (and other large carriers) allows two pieces at 23kg each, while budget airlines only allow one! So if you’re traveling with a bit of luggage, then the cost you’re going to pay goes up dramatically. Ryanair even has a separate page on their site for extra baggage charges. I’d really recommend taking a look at all of this if you’re traveling soon and be prepared for it. Or go the student traveler way that I used to and just bring one piece of carry on, although with the new bastard liquid restrictions that are undoubtedly a conspiracy by the cosmetics and toiletries corporations, even that won’t work these days.

In other traveling news, I have to say that the ability to do online check-in with so many airlines is a fantastic thing. Being able to pick a spot on a flight to avoid being squished between people and maintain a slight air of civility makes the flying process all that much better. Of course, trying to know what seat you’re sitting in for what flight and what plane can be a real bugger. Naturally, someone with far too much time on his hands created Seat Guru so that you can pick the exact right seat you want to have when doing the check-in. Pretty awesome and I can’t believe that I hadn’t found this before, but now I know and knowing is half the battle.