A low cost airline is the cheapest means of transportation to take whether you’re planning on going around the world in eighty days (they do fly transatlantic), or just taking a trip down south to visit your parents. It’s called a no-frills carrier because it offers low fares to passengers whilst doing away with several traditional passenger services, some of which you may have taken for granted, like free food and drinks. Most airlines have only a single passenger class, and usually feature the Airbus 320’s or Boeing 737’s in their fleet of aircraft.
Another element of a low cost airline is that you usually can’t reserve a seat for yourself prior to boarding the plane (for free, at least). If you’re a fan of taking in aerial views and want the window seat, or are claustrophobic and prefer the aisle, we suggest you board the plane much in advance to avoid disappointment.
Many discount airlines tend to increase their fare as the plane fills up and early reservations are usually rewarded with the lowest fares, demonstrative of the price mechanism that operates in accordance to the forces of demand and supply (the basis of the study of economics). Additionally, these carriers bend towards flying to cheaper and less congested secondary airports either early in the morning or late in the evening. This way they succeed in preventing traffic delays while also taking advantage of lower landing fees. Most flights are short, and turnaround times are fast; allowing low cost carrier companies to make maximum utilization of their air crafts.
Low cost airlines also prefer their customers to buy tickets directly from them through the Internet. Not only does this save them money and time; it saves you some too, making the process of obtaining a ticket as hassle-free as possible. Moreover, once you have boarded one of their planes, don’t be surprised to see their gate agent or aircraft cleaner working as a flight attendant. Such is their method of limiting personnel costs, allowing them to render you the cheapest possible traveling solutions.
Please don’t expect your discount carrier to provide complimentary toys for the kids or a great choice of newspapers and magazines on the house. You have to pay for most of everything that you may have received gratis on traditional carriers. This is how low cost airlines make their profit, so unless you want the low-cost transport trend to die down, we suggest you stop complaining and start looking at the bright side (it’s blinding, really!). If you’re as stingy as we think you are, prior to boarding the plane, please remember to fill your hand luggage with goodies, toys, books, and anything else you think you might need, and were sure you wont have a problem.
Another piece of advice for you is to think before you leap (how very cliched of us!), because a number of discount airlines love playing a not-so-innocent marketing game when displaying their advertised fare separate to the the airport fees and taxes. Another fact to consider is that at times, traditional carriers offer cheaper fares than low cost airlines do. This may be due to special promotions, or to combat the truth that low cost carriers pose a serious threat to the business of traditional airlines. Therefore, do not be fixated on a single airline, whether it’s traditional or low cost; because it helps to prepare yourself to be open to all options.
Another market fact is that discount airlines tend to work best in deregulated markets. An economic feature of these cost-efficient carriers is that they have, so as to say, built-in shock absorbers. In other words, these airlines remain (or become) profitable whenever the world is plagued by suffering. This happened between the years 2001 and 2003 when the aviation industry was shaken by terrorism, war, and SARS, and the traditional airlines were losing big time. Moreover, discount airlines with low operating cost structures are also competing with seat-only charter sales, but are currently leading the race mainly because charters are known for their inflexibility with regards to length of stay. Hence, aside from the fact that they’re unbelievably cheap, low cost airlines are becoming quite popular for holiday destinations based on many of the reasons mentioned above.
The aviation market has also recently taken a turn (for better or for worse) after various traditional airlines, green with envy (yet another cliche!), launched their own low cost airlines. KLM’s Buzz, British Airways’ Go, and United Airlines’ Ted are finding it hard to maximize profit with both their traditional and discount carriers operating together; whereas bmi’s bmibaby, Scandinavian Airlines System’s Snowflake, Qantas’ Jetstar, and Lufthansa’s 49% share in germanwings have all learned the secrets of operating successfully alongside their full-service partners.
As in any economic industry, low cost airlines do compete with each other. While some of these airlines may offer airport lounges, others may advertise satellite television. However, it’s important to understand that these airlines are constantly vying for cost reduction. They may choose to get rid of reclining seats, or decide to altogether remove the window blinds, seat headrest covers or seat pockets. Aside from those drawbacks, what you do get as a passenger is good quality and service otherwise, and more money to spare for shopping at your chosen destination (and isn’t that what’s most important?!). These airlines are also constantly working on improving their services just for you, and as a torch to their cause, they meet at an annual World Low Cost Airlines Congress, where the discussion is aimed at championing the cause of affordable travel, while also maximizing their own profits.
Still cranky about why low-cost airlines don’t serve food? Don’t worry. If you’re willing to dish out some cash (and you must be if you’re cranky), you can always buy great food and beverages on the flight; buy being the key-word.