|Subject: European Airlines (A rather long ramble.. sorry)|
First i should apologise for the delay in responding. I have been away from my email and just caught up.
Certainly Ryanair does seem to have it's problems as others here have mentioned. Baggage problems, delays and bad customer service are just a few i have heard about. They have just purchased the former KLM low cost airline 'Buzz' and grounded the whole fleet.
Easyjet have had better reports, but again are not perfect. Certainly the better of the two.
If your travelling on either then remember that you get what you pay for and all you can really expect is a seat from A to B. Not always on the planned schedule. There are no seat assignments at check-in. Consider them more as 'bus services' than airlines. Also worth looking at are FlyBE (www.flybe.com) the new name for the former British European airline.
Since the growth of low cost airlines here in the UK, British Airways have had to compete and now offer a new fare structure within europe. This means that, for example, the 'saturday night stay' restriction has been done away with on many routes. Fares can be on a par with the low cost carriers so they are always worth checking.
British Midland are a full service airline that have responded with their own low cost carrier. BMIBaby who don't fly from London, but from their northen base, certainly give the others a run for their money. If you need to fly from London then like BA the main British Midland airline from Heathrow does have some bargain fares. Along with the 'full service' you expect from traditional airlines.
Don't forget that both BA and BD (British Midland) have alliance connections and frequent flyer points can be collected, even on most of the cheapest fares.
Expedia and Travelocity both have UK websites, just replace .com with .co .uk and i have found that this is often the the way to go for my short hops onto the European mainland. We also have 'opodo.co.uk' which is similar to the american 'Orbitz'. That is a web site set up by the airlines themselves.
Finally, since you mentioned the trains don't forget the Eurostar from London to Paris and connections on the TGV down south. If your not in a hurry then it is another option that you may want to consider. Since your not a european resident it might be worth checking out the railpasses that allow unlimited travel, over a specific period for a single cost.
I hope this might spark some more ideas and help you investigate the best options for your trip. I'll be happy to give any more localised advice if you have any questions