Budget Airlines: Is Saving Money Worth Losing Out Everywhere Else?
We all like a holiday. A lot of the time, we’re not too picky about where it is. If we’ve got a little bit of spare time and not much spare cash, a weekend in a nearby hotel will do. Perhaps drive to the next state across for a change. A little bit more money, we’ll go further. Whatever the circumstances allow, we’re happy to get the chance to spread our wings.
Budget airlines have made it possible to go further for less. Once upon a time, it was the case that only those with a lot of money could fly away for a holiday that often. Or you’d need to save all year for a vacation that lasted a week. Either way, now that things have changed it’s possible for more of us to decide to fly off somewhere. But, well… is a flight on a budget airline the way you want to travel?
Pro: It’s Cheap
There’s no doubt; budget airlines give you a lot of bang for your buck. It means, for the first time, people can wake up at the beginning of time off and think “I want to go somewhere completely different today”. As long as they didn’t need a visa for that destination, they can just pop their passport in their bag and call a cab.
Con: You Really Need To Do Your Homework
Non-domestic flights feel pretty glamorous whoever you’re flying with. But there is a tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. “Wow! A trip to Cancun for about a tenth of what it normally costs!” might be your reaction. Then it turns out that the actual airport you’ll be landing at … well, it’s in Mexico. Is that close enough?
Though that’s a random example, and not always the experience, it is worth checking things out. Your destination city and your destination airport are not always that close together.
Pro: It Gets Cheaper Close To Take-Off
Airlines with a budget option sell tickets in a certain way. Book early, and it’s cheaper. Book really close to take-off, and it’s cheaper. Book a couple of weeks out, and you’ll pay full price. So if you decide on a whim that you want to go to Helsinki, check online for cheap flights. It’s better for an airline to sell a seat cheap than leave it unfilled. This works particularly well if you just want to go somewhere. Look at where is cheap, and take yourself on an adventure.
Con: Well, It’s Budget Flight, So…
Let’s be honest. We know there is a saying that goes “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive”. But Robert Louis Stevenson was around long before budget airlines existed. He never flew in a packed cabin for eleven hours to find out that his luggage hadn’t been put on the plane. Budget travel is cheaper for a reason. It’s a trade-off.
If instead you can find cheaper, but still quality, flights, it’s a lot better. Checking providers such as firstclass.flights will give you a chance to sit in First Class and have a better flight. Better food, more legroom, less chance that a toddler will spend the flight hitting you with a stuffed Minion. You can have the non-budget experience for a budget price if you know where to look.
Pro: The Level Of Choice Is Increasing
Budget airlines have existed for some time now. If you were an early adopter, you may have noticed at the beginning that choice wasn’t optimal. “It’s great that you can fly somewhere for a tiny outlay”, you noted, “but does it have to be THAT somewhere?”. But budget travel increased competition and led to more options being put on the table. You can’t go everywhere, but there’s a lot more somewhere available.
Con: There Are Hidden Costs, And Some Are Very Well Hidden
If you were in any way used to flying before, or had spoken to enough people who were, there were things you took for granted about flying. With budget travel, these things are no longer guaranteed.
“Oh, you wanted to check in early? That’s going to cost a bit more.”
“Sorry, you wanted to actually bring luggage with you? Well, la-di-dah, Mrs. Millionaire. That’ll be extra!”
“You didn’t read the incredibly small print that said you needed to print off your own boarding card? The ATM is over there. I’ll be waiting here!”
Economics works on the basis of hooks and traps; the hidden costs are the traps. The low airfare is not a lie, as budget operators will tell you if you threaten to sue them. You can fly from A to B for $x. That’s entirely true. But unless you’re ready to pay hidden costs W, Y, and Z, read all of the small print. Twice. And then once more for luck. You can all too easily get stung for more money.
Flying with a budget carrier is not a heavenly experience. It’s also not the Hell that some people paint it as. But you do need to be very assiduous in your planning to get the best deals. And due to the levels of competition, non-budget carriers are looking for a way to increase their occupancy. As a result better flights, often in first class, are available for a lower cost.
And what does that mean for you, the traveler? Quite a few things, really. It means that the luxury experience, which once upon a time we imagined was the reality for all those flights the super-rich took, can be yours. It means that those destinations that your local budget carriers stubbornly refuse to reach can be reached. And it means that kid with the stuffed Minion is someone else’s problem now.
Don’t lose hope that the holiday you want can be yours at short notice. Do your homework in advance, and you can go to your dream destination in style. It doesn’t even need to take as much forward planning as flying with budget airlines takes. Because when you fly first class, your luggage can come for free. Allowing for the usual banned items and excess baggage restrictions, of course, but how much stuff do you need?