With the launch of multiple budget airlines in North America in recent years, consumers are getting excited about travelling for cheap and finding ridiculous deals. At Social Travel, we believe in #TravelFair, and have helped many travellers save money on their hotels and flights. We include many budget airlines such as JetBlue and Frontier in our offerings, unlike many other travel agencies. That being said, names can be deceiving: in the case of “budget airlines”, they may not be the best for your budget under many circumstances. Keep the following items in mind when you consider flying with budget airlines:
1. Baggage Fees:
Comparing to full-service carriers, budget airlines almost always have lower free baggage allowance, with very few exceptions such as Southwest. For example, Iceland’s WOW Air only allows one small carry-on bag under 5 kilograms per passenger free of charge, and an additional 7 kilograms of allowance in the same carry-on could cost you a whopping $48 USD at check-in.
2. Food & Drinks:
It is the norm for budget airlines to offer food or drinks to passengers in flight at high cost, or only offer complimentary food and drinks to premium class passengers. While JetBlue and WestJet offer complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snack items, they do not serve meals or alcoholic drinks for free even if you are flying international. Think twice when the friendly flight attendants ask you if you would like something to eat or drink, and consider bringing a sandwich.
3. Remote Airports:
To lower operational costs, budget airlines often choose to use under-utilized airports. U.S.-based budget airlines Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air advertise Niagara Falls International Airport (Airport Code: IAG) as the airport serving Toronto, Canada. It is 140 kilometres / 86 miles away from downtown Toronto, a one and a half hour drive without factoring in the time you wait near and at the border crossing. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, do not forget to add the costs of driving and parking, when you compare their flights to those departing from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) or Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ).
4. Seat Selection:
Although it is common practices for all airlines to charge for premium seats, many budget airlines do not assign seats or charge extra for selecting regular seats in advance. Spirit Airlines is known for so-called “Bare Fare”, where selecting a regular seat you prefer in advance costs at least $5 USD.
5. Limited Service Recovery Option During Disruptions:
Budget airlines pride themselves in efficiency, which means they achieve higher utilization of fleet and crew by having longer flying hours and less back-up resources available. When aircrafts experience mechanical issues or other problems, the airlines may have limited service recovery options. Although some budget airlines make arrangement with other airlines and issue tickets on other airlines to distressed passengers, many budget airlines ask their passengers to wait for their own next flights. This means you may suffer from lower reliability. Make sure you know your legal rights when you encounter service disruptions. If you have booked your flights through us, feel free to contact us for help.
6. Seat Comfort:
Budget carriers are known for reducing legroom and seat width to pack more passengers per plane. Many budget airlines offer passengers the option to purchase additional legroom. For example, the seat pitch on Air Canada rouge is as low as 29 in (73.6 cm), while the seat pitch on the same aircraft models operating on Air Canada’s mainline is at least 31 in (79 cm). You will be given the options to get more legroom by purchasing rouge Plus or Premium rouge at extra cost. Seats on Ireland-based Ryanair do not recline.
7. In-Flight Entertainment (IFE):
Don’t be surprised if you find no IFE system on board when you fly budget airlines! No IFE means lower maintenance and operating costs for the airlines. Bring your own smartphone or tablet, or ask your flight attendants if you can rent a tablet loaded with IFE at a small cost.
On certain dates and routes, budget airlines may charge a higher fare than full-service carriers. There is no point to pay more and get less service. In the past, we have also noticed that some full-service carriers would publish lower fares to price-match budget airlines in many instances. When there is competition between airlines, travellers win.
In summary, budget airlines rely on ancillary services to generate revenue, and they often nickel-and-dime you for optional services. After adding all the additional costs associated with the services you use, you may pay more overall than what you would pay to a full-service airline. If you pack light and prepare well for your flight, they can help you save more money.
Have you taken any flights on budget airlines? How was your experience? Comment below to ask us how you can save money on your next flights.