Low-cost airlines: Still a bargain?

Low-cost airlines: Still a bargain?

At the beginning, I was a great fan of low-cost airlines. They disrupted the air travel market, broke the monopoly of traditional airlines on specific routes, introduced a stronger competition resulting in lower airfares. For the ones who, like me, are wild about travel, the introduction of low-cost carriers had been welcomed as a fabulous opportunity.

Indeed low-cost (or no-frills) airlines hold the merit of having made travelling more accessible and the world smaller even for people having limited financial resources.


Sydney Harbour Plane View. Photo by Keith Jenkins

However, I believe that in the long run the disruption driven by low-cost airlines has affected the overall air travel market, including no-frills new comers. Since the Twin Towers attack, carriers experienced increasing difficulties in sustaining the costs. Several airlines went bankrupt, a few merged, many of the smaller ones disappeared.

Low-cost airlines, unable to sustain the increasing costs, started to introduce additional optional charges for almost anything: chose a seat, board first, baggage, credit card fee and so on.  The result? More and more frequently a flight with a low-cost carrier costs as much – when not even more – than taking a traditional airline.

While I do not mind getting a random seat nor do I miss the usual bad food, there are a few things that I find irritating.

@ Baggage restrictions: I can accept the 1 bag rule (for those who doesn’t now, the 1 bag rule has banned bags, whatever small they are), I respect the weight limits but what really annoys me is low-costs airlines doing tricks with hand luggage dimensions.

You trot to the airport, go to check-in and get the surprise!  The hand luggage you’ve been using for years does no more comply for a single centimetre. Thus you have to get it in the hold, obviously paying additional costs. True that the information is displayed on the website, but how many people do really care if they have a hand luggage that never gave them problems?

@ Credit card charges: I could understand a small amount but a 9,50 euro charge (as required by Easyjet) for the payment by Visa credit card, which I guess is the most commonly used, is something similar to armed robbery… And by the way, shouldn’t online purchase mean lower commissions since companies sustain lower costs?

@ The ‘low-cost’  illusion: booking a flight with a low-cost airlines has become somehow a frustrating experience. At the beginning you’re thrilled and already savouring the future journey thanks to a cheap flight. But then, little by little while you proceed your enthusiasm fades and more than once when you reach the end you feel disappointed. Because the expected ‘low-cost’ has become a ‘normal cost‘.

I must say that I look at low-cost airlines more often than I buy a ticket from them. For just a few Euro difference, I go straight to a traditional airline with whom I do not need to bother if I add a few books in my luggage and which protects me better from possible flight delays or disruption…

Personally, I lost confidence in low-cost airlines and I am far less fond of them than I was in the past.

Is that just me? Would love to read your thoughts.

Travel addict and passionate about photography, Simon Falvo started Wild About Travel back in 2009. Leveraging her strong PR background, she developed an extensive knowledge of Digital Communications and Social Media Marketing. Besides travel writing SImon holds workshops and trainings, she collaborated with tourism boards for digital marketing campaigns and participated as a speaker at several events.

  • John
    Posted at 11:00h, 19 August Reply

    I post these facts to add another dimension to this post. What you do with them is up to you.
    1. The bargains have been for our generation and have been possible due to the availability of cheap oil. Future generations will not have cheap fossil fuels as they are in finite supply.
    2. £1 spent on a budget flight will generate over 10kg Carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases. – From “How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything” by Mike Berners-Lee.

  • Jeremy B
    Posted at 09:40h, 19 August Reply

    Interesting perspective on this. Most people would easily say budget airlines are a good thing. And I have to agree with that. Fortunately for those of us in the US, we get the best of both worlds with airlines like Southwest and JetBlue – cheap airfares AND no fees.

    It’s interesting to see the changes that have happened in Europe. I took some low cost airlines in Spain and thought it was great. Hopefully, the budget airlines aren’t ruined over there.

  • airport blogger
    Posted at 14:11h, 20 July Reply

    Yes, low-cost airlines aren’t always low-cost anymore.

    For short-haul trips, when you can manage with just hand luggage, and don’t care where you sit they’re worth using, but for longer flights, especially when travelling with children, it’s worth comparing their flight prices with the more traditional airlines. When you factor in food, baggage charges, booking seats and priority boarding, low-cost airlines are often anything but low-cost.

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 06:49h, 21 July Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad to read that you share my views on low-cost carriers. Cheers!

  • Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
    Posted at 17:52h, 09 July Reply

    Totally agree. I’ve successfully avoided Air Asia for all my time in Asia so far. For all of my flights in Malaysia, it was the same price to fly with Malaysia Airlines which was much more flexible when it came to check-in, baggage, and super friendly staff.

    The Air Asia site in comparison was a nightmare of fee after fee. I even read on their website that if their plane is late and makes me miss my connection with Air Asia, it’s my fault!

    We’re at a good time where the ‘old’ carriers can step up their game and show us that air travel doesn’t need to be headache inducing.

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 21:35h, 09 July Reply

      Hi Dustin,

      I always enjoy when people comment – and possibly also disagree – and I particularly liked yours. I’m glad to read that other people are seriously questioning themselves about ‘low-cost’ airlines and ready to admit that in many cases the ‘old’ carriers can be even more competitive. In Italy, this has become very clear with the creation of Lufthansa Italia. I understood that the company bought part (or all…) of the BMI slots and is now offering direct flights from Milan to many European cities (London, Paris, Barcelona, etc) at a very competitive price.
      The results? I traveled to London 5 times in the last 6 months: 7 times with Lufthansa, 2 times with Alitalia and 1 time with Easyjet. Why? Lufthansa and Alitalia were cheaper and far less restrictive. ‘To all low-cost airlines… this is food for thoughts’…

  • marco
    Posted at 23:51h, 06 July Reply

    I was used to travel low cost for business within EU up to one year ago, my expectation on service level was very low so no complain at all. I just stick to the rules to avoid unexpected costs. What is annoying me is the power low cost carriers have to change small unknown town life stile just because thousand and thousand of people use that gateway for different destinations.

    Somebody could argue that it’s up to the town to use this chance to expand further or not. Nevertheless from the general point of view I do not like single actors making good and bad time for local people.

  • ciki
    Posted at 13:17h, 04 July Reply

    i really like it! it gets me to where I wanna go for less. I get more money to spend on food, getting around the city and hotel! Anyway, i guess I have been really lucky so far. my worst delay has only been around 2 hours. that’s nothing compared to canceled flights!

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