29 May 2011

Why I Like the Low Cost Airline Model

I can just imagine the comments my readers are thinking about writing just on reading the heading. Low Cost Airlines (LCC's) have a bad reputation, especially that Irish company which shall remain nameless, but as an independent traveller I have found LCC's to be the most cost efficient way to travel when I want to and how  I want to.  So here are 5 reasons why I like LCC's:

1. No Penalty on One Way Fares
As I write this, I am in the middle of 3 flights with 3 different airlines that has allowed me a) the cheapest fare and b) the most time at my destination.  I would not be able to do this without the single fare pricing structure of LCC's.  If I were to use a full fare airline for this route my time would be effectively shortened by one day (25%) and it would've cost me more.

2. Limited Sky Bridge Usage
Most budget terminals don't have skybridges which means that you get a breath of fresh air, freedom from frigid airconditioning and (sometimes) the ability to check out the surroundings before being hurried back into the terminal buildings. (Admittedly I don't usually fly  in sub-zero temperature conditions.) 
The other bonus about not using a skybridge is the time factor.  Sometimes technology does not result in an improvement and the use of a skybridge over the tractor staircase is a case in point, which leads onto my 3rd benefit for LCC's.

3. Quick Turnaround Times - (What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander)
To me the longest part of the flight feels like the time between landing and actually getting off the plane.  Because the LCC business model is predicated on getting maximum usage out of the aeroplanes and as they only earn money in the sky, turning around planes quickly is an important part of their strategy and that includes getting me (and other passengers) off the plane as quickly as possible.  It is my experience that where possible they will have passengers disembarking from both front and back exits - which is not possible with a skybridge.

4. You Pay for What You Want
LCC's are notorious for charging for every last item that you use, but these days this seems to be the case with full fare airlines as well.  If I want a specific seat I can pay for it and get it.  This can't be done on a full fare airline.  My 6'7" uncle always needs to get to the airport early to ensure that he gets the emergency row seats because they won't allow him to pre-book them.  I'm sure that he would pay a premium for that facility. If I have luggage I pay for it, if I don't, then I don't and even then when I have luggage I can purchase MORE luggage than is allowed on a full fare airline for less than the excess baggage charge.

5. They Have a Sense of Humour
The picture at the top of the article is the livery of a South African LCC.  The safety speech on the flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg goes something like "the largest body of water we'll pass is the Orange River which is about 100m wide, but regulations require us to tell you how to use the lifevest in the event of a ditching".  It is one of the few safety speeches I remember due to the humour, which seems to be fairly pervasive amongst LCC's where there is an attitude of "flying is fun".  I can't think of a full fare airline that does the same - if you know of one, please share it in the comments. You can check out the full livery of the Kulula's planes here

So there are my 5 reasons for flying LCC's.  I admit they're not perfect (I had an unfortunate incident on the flight), but I'm not sure that the full fare airlines are any better, even than that Irish co that gives all LCC's a bad name.  What are your thoughts?  Leave them in the comments below.

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