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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Does 'No Frills' Always Mean 'Low Cost ?

Taken in Golden loungeImage via Wikipedia

In modern 21st century air travel we have become used to terms 'no frills' or 'low cost' airlines and using their services for a simple reason. The idea is to remove the simple luxuries like free lunches, drinks, complimentary gifts or even business class seats to make the cost of air travel cheaper. Most of the low cost airlines have also reduced baggage allowance as this speeds up the ground handling procedures, facilitates quicker boarding and thus, maintains lower the overall prices. The airports have been equipped with self-service check-in and fast bag drop services, all helping to reduce the costs which would ultimately reflect in the price of air tickets. Is this always a case though? Is the low cost air travel always managing to keep its promise of cheap flights to their clientele?

When booking 'low cost' flights online, we often see the prices starting very low, sometimes even from 1 Pound! Thinking that we can actually obtain a flight let's say from London to Prague for a mere 1 Pound would be absolutely unrealistic. There are bound to be additional costs involved. First of all, the airport charges and taxes. Although these would be typically incorporated in the basic cost of ticket for transparency purposes. Let's say the 1 Pound fare then carries the obligatory charges, which means an automatic increase and the starting price being actually higher. We then need to decide if we want a one-way or return ticket. If the latter applies, we need to double it. So, let's say for illustration purposes, if our basic one-way fare is 30 Pounds, the cost of the return ticket will be 60 Pounds.

We also need to take into consideration the checked and hand luggage allowance. Ideally, if you are happy to take up to 10 kg of luggage in a small trolley case of regulated measurements, you will not be charged extra. However, if you carry an additional suitcase, the low cost carriers will in most cases add on a charge. And if your luggage happens to be over the weight restriction limits, you will also get charged for each extra kilo. Drinks and food are not included in the price of our low cost flight tickets. These can be purchased on board at rather high prices. Of course, we have also the other option of bringing our own! In most cases, our seats won't be assigned either and jumping the queue to get the best ones or priority boarding will also cost more. During weekends and peak times, the 'low cost' fares usually increase tremendously in line with the demand. And finally, it is important to think about the amount of time and money we need to spend getting to and from the 'low cost' airports which are in most cases located outside the main cities.

All the above considered, no wonder the final price of 'no frills' travel gets to the point when we are unable to call it 'low cost' anymore. The best way to obtain real bargains on the flight market these days is to shop around and compare prices of low cost, charter as well as scheduled flights. The overall value the airlines offer us for our pound and the cost of the 'hidden extras' will then be the indicator of whether we booked our ticket at a truly low cost.

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