It is the Golden Age of Travel. 2018 saw Australia witness 42 million movements across its international border, of which 99% were by air; almost an 80% increase over a 10 year period…and that’s just one nation. To accommodate for the growing number of travellers, budget carriers have really been able to capitalise on price conscious individuals. But does flying low cost really work out to be a cheaper option than paying for a full-service price? Here are 5 things you should consider before deciding if a cheap airfare is really worth its price.
1. Check the duration of the flight
Saving on airfares is never win-win. Flight times take the first hit. Low cost airfares or budget carriers will typically make up for their low-cost by increasing travel time. If you don’t mind extended birds-eye views and/or are travelling domestic, this is probably not much of an issue. But if you’re flying international, longer flight times usually mean longer lay overs. While many of us don’t mind the occasional pit-stop for a quick duty-free trip or to indulge in some local ale, a long international lay over may result in having to book overnight accommodation; and staying close to the airport is not cheap! That itself may blow your budget right out of the water. Full-fare carriers will usually get you from A to B direct or with one-stop.
2. In-flight meals
Budget carriers do not offer complimentary in-flight meals. These come at a considerable cost and are typically priced in the carriers home city currency. For example, Jetstar prices are in Australian dollars, AirAsia prices are in Malaysian ringgit, and so forth. Consult with the carrier beforehand for a full menu list. Full fare carriers will provide at least 2 complete meals (depending on flight duration), on-call snacks and an assortment of drinks; all complimentary with your air-ticket.
3. In-flight entertainment
Having recently travelled between US States, as well as over borders (Hawaii to Sydney), I noticed that it was not only in-flight meals that came at a cost, but also entertainment. This didn’t just stop at movies and television shows, it extended to games (like Tetris and hangman) and music! So If you are on the long-haul, this is a major consideration to make. Consult with your airline before or stock up on Netflix downloads! Full-service carriers that have entertainment available on flights will provide it cost-free with your ticket.
4. Commissions and taxes with third parties
Booking your travel ticket with a third party provider (not directly with the airline) may result in agent fees, commissions and taxes. Ensure you double check your final bill for these injected costs. It could make your “budget” option, not very budget at all. One way to get around this is to jump onto the airline website and check ticket prices for the same flight. I’ve found that buying direct from the airline removes some of the unnecessary extra costs listed above.
This is a real killer! And I’m prepared to admit that I’ve been bit by this low-cost bug a few times. Baggage will cost you! Budget carriers rely on making money from other avenues like food, drinks, upgrades and of course baggage! Especially for those long international flights, travelling to major destinations, budget carriers know many travellers will be flying with checked-in baggage, so they will charge you a price for each bag, with the cost per bag rising for every additional bag. Every airline has its own baggage policy. Variables include, number of items, type of item and the weight of the item. Review this before you decide to book budget. Full-fare prices typically include checked-in and carry-on bags as part of your ticket. I’ve found that the weight limits are also higher with the full-fare carriers.
Travel is an essential part of the modern world. The advent of low-cost flights have made exploration and experience more accessible than ever before. But it’s prudent to remind yourself that these players are also in the game to make money. Therefore, it’s important to compare and contrast your options to know you’re getting the most value out of your travel expenses.