Travelling has become much more affordable and possible in today’s world, thanks to budget airlines that provide cost savings with optional in-flight services.
But the exclusion of these frills has made flying a much less fancy business than it used to be, and at the end of the day, you can’t help but miss the perks that full-service airlines have to offer:
1. One price that covers everything
Budget airline fare offers may seem cheap, but keep an eye on the ++ costs when you complete your booking because you may overlook the many optional service fees that turn your super-cheap deal into a fare just below that of a full-service offering.
Some common things to look out for:
Checked Baggage – if you plan to carry-on only, make sure this is $0. If you need check-in though, plan for and pre-purchase it together with your booking because it’s usually cheaper.
Seat selection – if you’re not picky about where you end up sitting, make sure this is $0.
Travel Insurance – if you have your own policy in place, make sure you uncheck this. While the airline may offer you cheap insurance as an add-on, it might be better to get your own plan as the payout is often not as comprehensive.
On-board meals – you can pre-order meals but if you are not planning to eat, make sure this is $0.
Booking fees – credit card fees are charged per pax, so each ticket usually incurs an extra $16-$20 per person if you use credit card for online payment, though you can save a little by going through AXS or direct debit ($4-$5) – there’s a more comprehensive table here.
2. Free meals and snacks
Want some water on a budget flight? Fork out $3 or more for a tiny bottle that you can finish in two large gulps. Getting served a little plastic cup of orange juice as a welcome drink on a full-service flight is like striking the lottery when you’ve forgotten to fill up your empty bottle at the departure gate.
And I will never get used to paying around $15 for dinner in a tray on a budget airline — the idea of paying restaurant prices for something that looks like a microwave TV dinner doesn’t make the experience any better. Who hasn’t quietly smuggled in their snack of choice rather than pay for an overpriced sad stack of bread and condiments?
3. In-flight entertainment
One surefire way to pass the time when you’re stuck on a long flight is to channel-surf and browse the inflight entertainment system. On budget airlines, these little seat-back screens are nowhere to be found… unless you pay anywhere from $10-$20 to rent a device with preloaded shows on it.
Sure, many people have their own tablets and smartphones to entertain themselves these days, but without any power outlets in sight, you better have enough battery juice to watch your Korean dramas for the whole flight — and then some, so you can log on to Facebook to check in when you land.
4. Blankets and cushions
That skinny little cushion on your full-service airline seat may not offer much in terms of lumbar support, but you’re sure to miss it when the alternative is not having a cushion at all. Airplane seats have been engineered somehow to be universally uncomfortable when in the upright position, so that little pillow does provide some comfort for your back or your neck, especially with the scant amount of reclining the seat offers.
Also, be sure to always wear long pants or carry a scarf on a budget flight if you get cold easily, because there are no blankets available to keep you warm unless you’re willing to fork out more cash. Many do carry their own gear for hygiene reasons, but if you are trying to pack light, not having to carry your own pillow and blanket frees up that much more carry-on space.
5. The expectation of good service
Yes, you may have chosen to sacrifice little luxuries when you fly budget airlines over full-service ones, but does that mean you have chosen to sacrifice good service as well?
The common thinking seems to be “pay budget get budget,”, but surely, having flights that arrive and depart in a timely and safe manner, with good service recovery, is the very base level of flying that all airlines should strive for, budget or not.
So if you are disgruntled from a 22-hour delay, sans any form of compensation apart from a $50 next-flight voucher, and missing the perks of full-service airlines, in the words of the recently-aggrieved Scoot stewardess, “Take SQ plane lor”.
This post was inspired because most of my trips these days involve budget flights, especially for those quick weekend getaways around the region with a short flight time. Why pay more when you’re barely in the air for a few hours? I’m a pretty low maintenance traveller who doesn’t need extensive space and am happy enough as long as I have a window seat and nobody invading my personal space.
But before The Occasional Traveller, the funny thing perhaps is that I had rarely flown any other airline besides Singapore Airlines in the first 2 decades of my life. Mostly because I travelled with my family and with a pilot Dad working in the airline, I think the first time I took a budget airline flight was on a trip with some friends in my university days! (Which makes me sound really privileged and some type of airline snob, but when you get staff family perks, and your Dad has a ton of airline safety horror stories from other airlines… you stick with what you know best!)
The no-frills approach by budget airlines after you’re accustomed to service from a top-notch full-service airline honestly takes some adjustment, but I’ve rationalized it as savings so that I can do more awesome things on my trips, so I’m ok not having the perks of flying full service.
But that said, I do believe that timeliness and good service are basic needs from an airline, which is reiterated on top. This piece was published after the Scoot-delay saga which drew quite a lot of attention online because of the poor service recovery, which is why it was edited to sound a little irate about that particular incident, but I can imagine the frustration that the passengers must have faced. Remember folks – always have travel insurance because things like these just might happen to you!