These days, budget airlines are beginning to dominate short flights. Which is not surprising, because most of us don’t want to waste a year of mortgage repayments to top up our flight with cold buns and freezer-burned chicken. Before you diss big airlines though, make sure you know all the pros and cons:
The Upside of Budget Airlines
Once you’ve flown budget, you would have tested the very limits of human endurance and patience. Yes, flying budget changes you. Just like prison. Some other benefits of flying budget include:
1. YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE
Try to buy even an economy class ticket on a week’s notice. Go ahead and look up the prices. I bet you can smuggle three illegal immigrants to wherever you’re going for the same price.
If you’re going to use a big commercial airline, one of the only ways to save money is to plan in advance. Book your holiday at least a month in advance, if not two months, and the cost can drop drastically.
With budget airlines however, even the priciest tickets are in a comfortable three digit range. There is significantly less sting if you are forced to abandon your vacation plans, and the tickets already bought (it still sucks, but less so compared to losing S$1,000+ tickets).
That means it’s easier to take off on short notice, and you can be less worried about drastic schedule changes. It’s ideal for the overworked and the impulsive.
2. YOU HAVE MORE TO SPEND ON THE ACTUAL TRIP
The less you spend on plane tickets, the more you’ll have to go shopping. You might also want to divert funds from the air ticket to the hotel, considering you’ll be sleeping there much longer (and have you ever tried a budget hotel in Bali? Every one of the five stars it’s missing represents seven communicable diseases you’re likely to get from staying there).
Until you crunch the numbers, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes. A commercial airline ticket is about S$1,500 for a short hop, and budget airline tickets are about $300 (sometimes lower). Assuming you want to eat a candlelit S$100 dinner every night, that’s enough for luxury dining for 12 days straight.
Or you can trade that for tiny coke cans and hospital quality food tucked into a plastic tray (and probably just one of those.)
3. PROMOTION PERIODS
Budget flights hold promotions when they need to fill seats. Sometimes prices drop so low, you’re practically paying the price of a bus ticket – amounts like S$50 are not unheard of. You do need to keep track of these last minute deals though, so maybe sign up for updates.
The Downside of Budget Airlines
Pick the wrong budget airline, and you’ll realise why the seatbelt lights are kept on more often. They’re trying to restrain you from leaping out the emergency exit first chance you get. Problems with budget airlines include:
1. NO OBLIGATION TO HELP IN SOME EMERGENCIES
The most recent example of this was Scoot’s 22 hour delay, in which some people were left sleeping at the airport. When something like this happens, a big commercial airline might step in and provide hotel accommodation, and even transport. For budget airlines, forget it – you’re on your own.
The fine print almost always stipulates that the carrier has no obligations in the event of massive delays and rescheduled flights. It’s up to you to prepare for such possibilities.
(We suggest buying travel insurance, which is even free with some credit cards anyway. Check out our comparison tools to find such deals. Your travel insurance can provide a payout for unintended hotel stays, or cancelled trips).
2. OFF-PEAK TIMINGS
Budget airlines save money by flying at off-peak hours. This is when airport taxes are low, and the sun isn’t even sure if its up or down (conversely, it’s at a bizarre timing like lunchtime on a work day, so you need to take an extra day off to make the flight).
These days budget airlines are improving on their time schedules, but you should still expect to get dragged out of bed at midnight to pack for your flight.
3. THE AIRLINE CAN BE FLEXIBLE TOO (FOR ITSELF)
Most budget airlines reserve the right to change flight timings at the last minute, or even to change the placement of your seat. While it is becoming more infrequent (budget airlines are becoming more professional all the time), it is still something you need to expect.
You should always set your e-mail or phone to receive constant updates, in the event that this happens.
4. THEY CHARGE FOR EVERY LITTLE THING
Don’t be surprised to find a lot of extra charges – some budget airlines may even impose a fee to print your ticket for you (if you didn’t handle the check-in yourself). Likewise, be prepared for extra costs due to airport taxes (may not be figured into the ticket costs), for your hand carry, and for overpriced snacks if you must eat on the plane.
These costs do add up. S$80 for airport taxes, S$30 for a ticket, S$40 for a carry on, S$ 5 for a sandwich, etc. and suddenly your ticket is S$155 more. Still though, it remains cheaper than a big commercial airline.