Low-Cost Showdown: Wizz Air vs Ryanair – What Airline Is Best?

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Europeans are spoiled for choice when it comes to flying for cheap, with the likes of Ryanair and Wizz Air offering incredibly low fares. In fact, one can fly across the European continent for under a hundred euros or jet off to a Mediterranian island for the change in their pocket. But of the two airlines, which is the better one to fly on? Let’s find out.

Simple Flying
Ryanair vs Wizz Air. Photo: Simple Flying – Ryanair Aircraft: BriYYZ via Flickr Wizz Air: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

How will we compare the two airlines?

The best way to compare the two airlines actually won’t be on price. As the two airlines duke it out over the battlefield of Europe, they regularly undercut each other to popular destinations resulting in a shifting tide of fares. You can’t say one airline is cheaper than another, when a month later the dynamic may have flipped.

Thus we need to compare each aircraft, onboard product and how much all those extras like baggage and food cost to find out which is best.

Aircraft fleet

Ryanair has a fleet of 356 Boeing 737-800s that can each carry 189 passengers, whilst Wizz Air operates a mixed fleet of 120 A320s, A321s, and A321neos with the smallest jet carrying 180 passengers. Wizz Air currently has the A321XLR and more neo aircraft on the way, whilst Ryanair is holding out for the Boeing 737 MAX.

In terms of current fleets, Ryanair has the most consistent product and you are guaranteed to always get the same plane type. As for Wizz Air, you might get a plane with a lot more passengers (up to 239) or a long-range aircraft. 

When it comes to the future, Ryanair is increasing its passenger count onboard its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet to 197 seats.

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Ryanair
Ryanair has fewer seats onboard and more legroom. Photo: Piqsel

Seats

Let us talk about seat pitches.

Ryanair offers two different seat types, a ‘premium’ economy section, and a regular economy section. The former has 32-34 inches of legroom, whilst the latter only has 30 inches of legroom. The fact that you can pay to upgrade to more legroom is a plus.

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Wizz Air offers only one seat type, economy, with 28-30 inches of legroom. You can pay to upgrade to an exit row seat.

Surprisingly, Ryanair has more legroom and thus would be preferred for those looking to ‘stretch out’.

Ryanair Cabin. Photo: Ryanair

Wizz Air is in the process of redesigning its seats and the new version has less give and is much harder than the older model. You can tell if the aircraft has the newer model or older model by the color of the aircraft ‘nose’ (Purple is older, and white is newer).

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onboard-wizz-air-airbus
Stewardess on board a Wizz Air jet. Photo: Wizz Air

Baggage

Both Ryanair and Wizz Air allow you to take onboard a free cabin bag, although Wizz Air allows you a slightly bigger and heavier bag than their competitor for free.

Ryanair charges €6 for a second onboard carry bag and €10 for a checked bag (up to 10kg, which is tiny) at the time of booking. They charge €25 to €35 per 20kg checked bag and up to €40 at the check-in desk (easily more than most flights!)

Wizz Air, on the other hand, charges you if you want to put your carry bag in the overhead bin. This will cost around €7 to €30 depending on the flight. Checked bags up to 20 kg range from €15 to €55 and a checked bag up to 30kg costs around €23 to €120 depending on the distance of the flight.

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Overall Ryanair seems to be cheaper, although if you have a lot of baggage it might be cheaper to fly on Wizz Air with a single 32 kg case.

Ryanair
Ryanair has cheaper bags if you are going a long distance. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

Food and beverages

Both airlines offer food and drinks on board. We won’t just look at prices but also range and ‘value’ (how big the potions are).

Ryanair offers a pretty impressive range of food, catering from healthy food to vegans to alcoholic beverages. The full menu can be found here.

Ryanair
Ryanair meal selection is very extensive, with loads of options. Photo: Ryanair

Wizz Air is disappointing. The range is tiny and they don’t seem to have many options, and not really any big meals. The full menu can be found here.

Wizz Air
Wizz Air’s ‘meal’ selection. Photo: Wizz Air

Wizz Air does look slightly cheaper, however.

Bottom line

So after looking at the seats, aircraft, food, baggage and more, which airline is best?

  • Aircraft – Wizz Air – We can’t deny that the A320neos are a nicer plane to fly on and easily take on the older Boeing 737-800. And with Ryanair doubling down on the Boeing 737 MAX for their future fleet, it does leave us wishing they had a bit more diversity.
  • Seats – Ryanair – Bigger legroom and more comfortable seats go a long way, especially if you are flying a long way too!
  • Baggage – Depends on how much baggage you have and how far the route is. Wizz Air might be cheaper if you have a lot of baggage or a short flight, and Ryanair offers the most consistent prices.
  • Food – Ryanair – Ryanair easily wins with their bigger range, although they are a bit more expensive.

What we didn’t touch on was the route network between the two carriers. Ryanair offers more flights with its much bigger fleet, and Wizz Air focuses on cheap flights across Europe east to west. If you are flying with the prevailing winds of the airline (pun intended) you might find a better deal with one or the other. With longer range A321XLR aircraft on the way, Wizz Air will be able to offer routes to many further destinations.

What do you think? Which airline is the best? Let us know in the comments. 

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