Frankly speaking, the best thing that the aviation industry has given us in the past few years is budget airlines or low cost carriers. We saw the likes of RyanAir offering single digit fares, and here in Asia, budget airlines like Jetstar, Airasia and Scoot (then Tiger Airways) have well and truly become the norm rather than the exception. Leisure travellers fly on these no-frills carriers because of their attractive prices and frequent sales. For the short trip to Bangkok over the weekend with your mates, no meals and no seat selection does not put you off like it used to when these airlines first came about.
That is a clear argument for the budget airline, and I myself am a fan of such carriers when taking short trips under 2 hours. I like the convenience and the availability of low fares, especially on routes normally dominated by expensive full-service carriers; full-service being a new term as not too long ago, all carriers were full-service.
One key way to make your budget airline experience worth your while and as painless as possible is to be prepared. Frequent travellers are more well prepared than the occasional leisure tourist, as they are more aware of the best seats, how to pack light and how best to take advantage of the service (or lack thereof) that these new industry disruptors provide. Budget carriers work by charging for extra services on top of your base fare which includes a seat and some form of hand baggage. As long as you stick to the basic, you save and win. Most of us, don't. Here are some handy tips to survive that long weekend trip on a shoestring air-ticket.
1. Only select the best seats
Don't pay for something you're going to get anyway. It is, from my experience, not advisable to pay for 'regular' seating on a budget flight. You will get assigned a seat anyway. Consider only reserving a seat in row 1 or 2, as those are the only real tangibles which will save you a great degree of pain. The key here is not to spend smaller sums of money for no benefit. You always get what you pay for.
2. Bring entertainment, not food
One of the gripes most people have when flying budget is the lack of food, and how tempting the over-priced in-flight menu becomes once you take off. We often tell ourselves that we can last 2 hours without a sandwich or in some cases a full hot meal. The best and most appropriate way to combat the hunger pangs is to be occupied either reading a book (which still exist) or listening to your favourite mix of songs. The more occupied you are, the less likely you'll be craving for a reheated meal for $20.
3. Be realistic about baggage
7kg offered on most budget carriers is not a lot. It wont be regardless of how you stuff your carry-on suitcase. Opt for canvas bags instead of that free suitcase you got while signing up for a credit card. Self-awareness is important, so if you can survive a weekend trip with just a toothbrush and a pair of socks, by all means, if not consider paying for baggage. It will make your trip a little less unpleasant if you already have pre-paid allowance.
4. The price of your ticket isn't everything
The modern day traveller jumps at low fares and books quickly. We often forget that the airfare often only makes up for 25% of the entire trip costs, but we seem to place so much emphasis on how cheap it is and how we 'must' go. Ultimately, when one goes on a vacation, it is to have a great time, so we shouldn't let our pursuit of saving $10 and getting that deal stand in the way of a great time. If budget works for you then that's great and you stand to save, but we need to stop convincing ourselves that it's just as good, because it will never be.
Have any thoughts or comments? Flew budget and regretted? Let us know in the comments below!