Without question, low cost airlines have slowly become the key players in the aviation industry in many countries, as there are steadily increase in numbers of budget minded travelers opting for low airfares against comfort. Furthermore, budget airlines nowadays are offering more comfort with the same low price to passengers, including better seats and more legroom which was once their disadvantage. Avid travelers can now afford to travel to their dream holiday destinations without burning holes in their pockets. It was also extreme low fares offered by budget airlines that realised my dreams to visit to Europe and Japan as well as making me into a travel blogger!
Having said that, with intense competition in the volatile and cyclical airline business that forced other full service 5-star airlines to drop their 5-star prices to 3-star’s, will low fares from budget airlines still suffice to keep us flying with them? Let’s see…
Take Malaysian commercial aviation industry for instance.
Budget airline AirAsia reported recently that its net profit for the first quarter ending March 31, 2012 was 167.97 million ringgit (USD53.4 million), compared with 161.9 million a year earlier. It posted a record quarter revenue of 1.17 billion ringgit, up 11 percent, from 1.05 billion in the same quarter last year. If compared with Airasia, rival carrier Malaysia Airlines reported its fifth consecutive loss amounting to 171.8 million ringgit, compared with a loss of 242.3 million a year earlier. This clearly proved that budget airlines has dominated the local commercial flights sector in the past years.
Having said that, if we notice the figure closely, we saw some reverse trend that MAS has recovered some losses since last year. Could this due to its improved management, business model change, increase in overall demand, or budget travelers are becoming more demanding in comfort and lee concern in mere saving of low fares?
Despite the current stubborn high oil prices, MAS has reduced its airfares to many of its destinations, while Airasia has silently increased its petrol surcharge and other miscellaneous charges. This has had closed the price gap between the 2 airlines. And we now have an option. With fares differences of less than 30% between MAS and Airasia flights for some destinations, travelers could now choose in between comfort, convenience and prices.
While newcomers in young budget travelers will still prefer no-frills low fare service of budget airlines, seasoned and FIT minded flashpackers will find spending some extra in exchange with comfort and convenience sounds more reasonable. I have this experience before when I decided to fly with MAS to Beijing instead of Airasia because of the same reasons.
Before rushing in to book a seemed to be low air ticket to your destination, we need to understand those low fares of budget carrier do come with an expense, such as:
- Well in advance booking needed. We are talking about 6 to 12 months in advance of your departure date. Once confirmed, you can’t change your flight, or with a hefty change. The airlines gain some interest of your money!
- You need to pay for anything extra, such as checked in baggage, seat selection, food and beverage on board, sleeping kit on board, on board entertainment, counter check in fees, insurance and etc;
- Low cost carrier airports are normally located in a further distance away from cities where you need to pay more to get to the city centre;
- The departure time is normally during off peak, either very early in the morning or arriving very late at night. This may cause extra hassle in connecting flights or trains, and
- overall comfort and hassle free experience during your flights.
All the above disadvantages of budget flights are otherwise the advantages of full fare service airlines. At the end of the story, we need to assess whether the low air fares offered by budget airlines are low enough to justify the above shortcomings. Of course, many of them are, but some are not. Even they are, flashpackers who have some extra budget to spare, may still find booking MAS with everything inclusive and extra comfort and conveniences seems more worth it, in order to have a great start and end of our holidays!
For me, I will book low fare flights if the saving is more than 50% as compared with full fare flights. Otherwise, being a FIT (Free and Independent Travel) flashpacker myself, I would rather spend extra initially for more comforts and conveniences and further save back some money on time saving, transfer costs to city and larger shopping complex in the terminal. – Travel Feeder, your ultimate travel photo blog