News & Buzz

Dispatches’ review of European airlines for 2024, Pt. 2: Which airlines to avoid

Since we’ve already covered which airlines you’re best opting for European flights this year in Pt. 1 of this review, here are the one’s I’d suggest avoiding if you can. So buckle up – this trip through the worst air travel the continent has to offer isn’t going to be comfortable or pleasant, with plenty of turbulence forecast.

And be prepared to overpay for long waits and service beyond the pale, without so much as a “sorry” in return.


It’s difficult to put KLM in this list, as it shares a lot of good things with its sister carrier and fellow flagship airline Air France. KLM and Air France offer a similar in-flight experience, yes. But the Dutch airline is now unfortunately far, far less reliable. You’ll often find your plane sitting for some time on the tarmac while the pilot waits for a take-off window to open.

It was the worst European airline for delays in 2022’s summer of chaos, cancelled 5.8 percent of its flights altogether, and had to shell out 70 million euros in compensation.

These problems are at least in part to the absolute mess of an airport that is Amsterdam’s Schipol, which has become one of the most disorganised, overwhelmed places on earth since the pandemic.

The stats speak for themselves, but I’m also speaking from personal experience.

I stood for five hours in a single security queue for the whole airport – a queue that wound its way round the entire main terminal via a tent in the car park – before having to escalate matters to reach the gate of my delayed flight on time.

The airport was already badly laid out, but labour shortages have since made its security waiting times unbearable, its flight connections shambolic, and its boarding processes haphazard to say the least.

(Editor’s note: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of Europe’s oldest airports, with the original facility dating back to 1916.)

TAP Air Portugal

Portugal’s main carrier is another that has suffered badly since the pandemic. TAP has gone from a favourite airline for European travellers Europe to one synonymous with huge flight delays. According to Air Advisor, just 61 percent of its flights were on-time in 2022, down further to 58 percent in 2023.

The TAP in-flight experience has also been downgraded. Free sandwiches and snacks on short and medium-haul flights have been scrapped, and luggage and other additional charges are being ramped up.

The airline sacked one third of their staff in 2021 as part of a rationalisation process to avoid the total collapse that has befallen Alitalia, and all of its services have nosedived ever since. On the other hand, despite staffing issues Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport – TAP’s hub – has regained its stellar pre-pandemic reputation for comfort, and efficient check-in and security processes.


There was a time when EasyJet rightly earned the reputation of being a “budget plus” airline. It provided a service which was a step up in comfort and reliability from the likes of Ryanair and Wizzair, for the same or similar prices. This was until the Covid-19 pandemic, which has sent the airline into a downward spiral from which it doesn’t look like recovering any time soon.

Now, while the air industry as a whole has been on an upward trajectory since the worst of the pandemic, EasyJet has spent two successive summers of cancelling thousands of flights due to staff shortages and airspace congestion. Twenty twenty-three’s summer 1,700 flight cancellations affected 180,000 passengers.

As their services have declined, EasyJet prices have actually gone up as they attempt to claw back some of their losses. Compared to some of their low-budget competitors, luggage fees in particular are now prohibitively expensive.

Air Europa

The third largest Spanish airline has attracted poor professional reviews over the past two years, with low scores for reliability and poor value for money. It’s excluded from Skytrax’s customer-based Top 100 airlines worldwide ranking altogether.

What’s more, it’s quite an easy airline to avoid.

For every one of its destinations (especially Palma de Mallorca and the Canary Islands) there are likely to be cheaper and/or more reliable and comfortable flight options available for you.

Special mentions: Ryanair and Wizz Air

Wizz Air’s three-wheel bag drop service (Photo by Alex Beaton)

As much as I’d like to, it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend avoiding either of these two airlines altogether. I’ve tried it myself, believe me. And every time, I end up getting roped back in by the gulf in price between them and the next cheapest flight option available, as well as by the sheer number of destinations they serve.

This year Ryanair has been averaging more than 3,000 European flights per day, almost double the number of the next busiest airline. And Wizz Air is expanding its flight paths all the time.

After opening up routes between Italy and North Africa in 2020, they’re now offering flights to Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv among other destinations further afield.

If only we could all steer clear of these law-dodging, safety-flouting, hygiene-defying, comfort-crushing, holiday-ruining, luggage-breaking, refund-stealing, fee-sneaking, apartheid-invoking, racist-exonerating, passenger-herding, price-distorting, cash-extorting, staff-abusing, union-busting and all-round misery-inducing airlines.

But, like the extra charges they gleefully tack onto your flight ticket, wherever you choose to go, sooner or later you’re going to have to put up with them.


Read more about travel here in Dispatches’ archives.

Alex Beaton
+ posts

Alex Beaton is a writer from London, UK. His published works include a guide to starting a business in Warsaw, a fictionalised account of his time living in Egypt, and a 2013 report of the political situation in Bulgaria. He has also written extensively about his travels in France, Portugal, Italy and Malta.

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week.

You have Successfully Subscribed!