While I like to remain somewhat spontaneous within the countries I travel to, some planning and research does need to be done. Of course the airfares there and back have to be booked to begin with.
Do I use budget airlines? Yes! When the flight is at the shorter end of the scale, budget airlines are fine for me. I don’t need the (often awful) food included in many airline fares; an energy bar or two is usually enough for me to nibble on when I get peckish. I’m talking flights that are around 9 hours long, or less. Some Budget Airlines are anal about taking your own food on board, and forbid it (Airasia is one such airline) but I’ve so far never had a problem slipping a few energy bars into my hand luggage.
Apart from turning my nose up at the often-dried-up version of whatever they list on their menus, I prefer to sleep for a few hours on a flight, especially a night flight. I don’t want to be woken constantly by the airline stewards, whether budget airline or not, with offers of food or drinks. I’ll usually wait a couple of hours, at least until the first “drinks trolley” comes by, then curl up and sleep.
Sleeping on a flight
Why do I want to sleep? Because during the days and sometimes weeks leading up to my anticipated holiday overseas, I’ve been racking up the hours getting up-to-date with essential business; making sure all my tasks and obligations, bills and invoices are in order and will be easily manageable while I’m away. For me there’s nothing like having a ‘plane to catch to kick me into getting all sorts of work done and everything up to speed! By the time I board the flight, I’m ready to switch off and relax (and catch up on sleep)!
Sleeping on long flights helps to prevent jet lag. I talk more about jet lag and the dangers of sleeping for long periods, in another post, but meanwhile, let’s chat about Budget Airlines.
Are Budget Airlines Cost-Effective?
Be Aware of Extra Costs
The cost of the actual flight on any of the Budget Airlines is usually cheaper than other carriers, to lure the passengers. But do your research; read the fine print. Budget Airlines don’t make a large profit on the flight itself and rely on the “extras” to take up the slack. Often it’s “sell, sell, sell” not only at the time of booking, but also afterwards when they’ll flood your inbox with emails trying to entice you to book hotels, hire cars, etc through their site.
Apart from booking your actual flight, you’ll have to pay extra for luggage in almost every instance with any of the “no-frills” Budget Airlines. Make sure you check their weight allowances and dimensions for luggage; they’re often less than other airlines and if you’re overweight, you’ll get stung.
Ryanair is one of the largest budget airlines in Europe and famous for their “specials” and low-cost fares. However, they have a very complicated fee structure for their luggage (which is extra of course) and their schedule varies depending on how many bags you have, what time of the year you are flying, the weight of your bags, and whether or not you book and pay online.
Booking your Seats
If you want to ensure that you and your travel buddy will be sitting together (and of course you will) you’ll need to pay extra to choose your seats. And that won’t guarantee that you’ll be sitting together either, let me warn you!!! Make sure you’ve been allocated the seats you’ve paid for at the time you check in. If you’re checking in at the airport counter (more expensive than doing it online) don’t budge from that counter until your boarding passes show the seats for which you’ve booked and paid. The same applies if you check in online. In this case write or call the airline if they haven’t allocated you the correct seats. Once on board there won’t be a darn thing you can do about it if you’ve each been seated at opposite ends of the ‘plane. Believe me! I’ve learnt the hard way!
Oh, and I should also mention that they wedge you into tight places. No doubt they try to fill the ‘plane with as many seats as possible. If you’re on the larger side of petite it would pay to check the size of the seats.
Here’s a friend of mine who booked an exit row seat (paying an extra $42) with Airasia. He thought he’d have enough room for his long frame. What he hadn’t considered was the width of the seat itself. (He didn’t really need a seat belt – he couldn’t move anyway..). Needless to say, he’ll never fly Airasia again.
Food and Drinks
Once on board you’ll be offered “refreshments” which are over priced. Food, drinks, and snacks are expensive and there will be no option to pay cash. If you use your credit card to pay they’ll gouge another fee from you for the privilege.
Book, Pay and Check In Online
Remember these airlines are Budget Airlines, which mean “no frills”. That applies also to service in many instances. The more you can do online the cheaper it will be for you. Book and pay for your luggage online at the time of booking. The closer the time comes for your actual flight, the more your checked luggage will cost you. Leave it till you get to the counter and you’ll pay through the nose.
Check the Location of the Airport at your Destination
Many of the Budget Airlines use hubs that are some distance from the main airport at your destination. Ryanair will drop you at Hahn, when you thought you were going to Frankfurt. That’s 75 miles from where you thought you were going (if you hadn’t checked). The cost and time to travel to your final destination may be a nasty shock unless you do your homework!
Yes. I use Budget Airlines. But I research and compare. Most times Budget Airlines can be very cost-effective and save a bunch of money but occasionally a better deal can be found by using a mainstream airline into a major airport.