Budget airlines and discount carries can offer geat deals. These LCCs (low cost carriers) are fantastic ways to travel the world at about half the price of major airlines. There are however a few hiccups when traveling with them so here are some tips on when and when not to book a flight on a discounter.
In recent years airlines around the world have been in fierce competition with one another and fighting a battle based on price. It started back in the 70s when Freddie Laker decided that he could accommodate people on a budget to travel transatlantic. British Airways and Pan-American soon put him out of business but along the way they dropped their prices and made it more appealing for passengers to travel. Freddie Laker was ahead of his time even if his airline didn’t survive.
There were domestic US carriers like the ill-fated People’s Express (which by the way is returning to service) but none really made an impact unless you count the US powerhouse Southwest Airlines which I feel is in a class all of its own.
Therefore the next major entrant to challenge the legacy carriers was Virgin Atlantic. Thanks to Richard Branson’s marketing skills and his mission to make luxury travel affordable, Virgin Atlantic made it very difficult for others to squeeze them out. He introduced their upper class product which was an affordable business class that was literally a party on board. He cracked it in the 80s.
Then in the 90s Ryanair and EasyJet popped up. With appealingly low fares such as London to Nice for just £30 they instantly took off. The discount air travel revolution started off great and then people realized the flaws.
And oh there are flaws.
Traveling on a LCC often meant departing and arriving to airports that were far outside of the city like Luton (an hour or more away from London), frequent delays because of tight turnaround times at airports to obstensibly avoid paying expensive airport fees, the horrible seat pitch and generally poor customer service throughout.
Then there were the extra hidden costs for baggage, seat assignments, food, arriving without a pre-printed boarding pass and maybe even using the lavatory (EasyJet has threatened this). And all of this is after the cost of getting to those far away airports that often aren’t served by public transport.
So with so many diffiulties, often a poor quality of service, tight and cramped seats and lots of hidden fees, you have to ask yourself when are you justified in booking with a budget airline versus a full service carrier?
For some it’s a matter of cost savings. Not earning frequent flier miles, not carrying about inflight comfort and dealing with the hidden costs and delays aren’t big enough issues to overcome the price differntial. For others it is a matter of being very selective. For instance the Asian LCCs tend to offer much better service than their US or European counterparts and because of the way the industry has grown there, the airports they service tend to be the same as the carriers. In fact Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and others have specific LCC terminals attached to or adjacent to the main terminals, so it is quite a bit more convenient.
In the end the decision to go budget or not is a personal one and I won’t judge you. In fact I’ll fly them once in a while but I do confess I miss the champagne.
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.