When I was on the peak of my travel, I used to use major cities as hubs to get great tickets and avoid carrying baggage. I 

Do not miss any updates

Signup now

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

I have already written a post about – are low-cost really as low-cost as they say they are?

Types of low-cost Airlines

World of low cost differs at various destinations. There is Indigo in India which is exactly how full fare carriers should be. Their prices are usually similar to Full-Fare operators, except they operate like a low-cost and are charging you at every node. Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Tiger Air are one of the largest low-cost in Asia.  

The rules are different when it comes to Go Air and SpiceJet. The same applies when you are traveling around Asia with Scoot, Nok Air, Lion, Malindo, Thai Lion, Firefly, Maswings, Sabah Air, K-mile, Air Seoul, Air Busan and many other likes this fall into another category.

What differentiate the two categories? 

The size of the fleet and daily routes they fly to a particular destination. Usually, Air Asia, Indigo and other airlines from category 1 have multiple flights flying to the same destination and have access to a larger fleet.  However, category 2 is usually flying 1 flight a day or maximum 2 a day. If it is an International destination, then it is usually only one flight.

Difference in Check in Vs Legacy Airlines

Legacy Elite

People with super-elite status have fast turnaround time. We are never standing in longest airport queue which we see in the economy of a low-cost airline. Normally we get our seats in advance. We go to an airport, drop our bags at the check-in counter. We collect our boarding pass (some places baggage tags) and head straight for the security.

After clearing the security, we head straight to lounge if have time. We would go to a lounge, grab a snack or two and wait there. When boarding is announced, we would straight head to priority boarding queue and straight into aircraft. If we don’t have time for a lounge, we would straight head to the gate. Usually, Airline staff is nicer to us and we don’t really have to haggle for that extra baggage.

Low-Cost Check-IN

On the flip side, with the low-cost airlines, you arrive early at the airport (big hubs and not micro towns) by atleast an hour as compared to the full carrier, we get in the long line.

There usually someone fighting at the counter for some sort of price for something. Either it is check-in or seat assignment or baggage fees and they usually eat up more time for everyone. The staff is usually parroting as per airline policy we have to do this.  They usually have less counters for low-cost as they are saving money on counter space and computer stations.  

So after half an hour in the queue, and all haggling later, we head to security. Normally, the low-cost crowd avoids buying any food at the airport because it is usually expensive than outside. So most bring their own food.  So you would see people heading to their gate and having meals there. Some places, there is a place for people to sit at the gate whereas other places, you just settle on the floor. Usually, people are either happy about how they didn’t end up paying something or cussing that they had to pay more than they planned.

Location of Low-Cost Airports

A lot of major cities have 2 Airports such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur where low-cost fly out of one terminal while full out of another. Usually, the airport is shittier airport is for low-cost airlines.  People don’t remember that low-cost airport doesn’t have infrastructure plan.  In Delhi, Singapore, Bangkok and many other places, there is airport railway line connected to the full carrier whereas you might get a bus out of low-cost airport. So, normally at the destination, you would end up paying more to get to your place. Funny though, because people flying low-cost are more likely to use public transport. This is even worse in Europe where you might not even get a bus in many cities out of low-cost terminal as they are located in an isolated part of the town. There can be an hourly shuttle that would drop you to city central and then you move from there.

Irregular operations such as flight delays and cancellations are a daily occurrence on pretty much every airline.

Some carriers may have a better or worse record than others, but if you fly enough, you’ll eventually find yourself waiting at the gate for a delayed flight no matter who you fly.

Delays are bound to happen no matter who you fly — the real difference is in how airlines recover from them. In my experience, legacy carriers are simply far better equipped to deal with delays than low cost carriers, for two main reasons.

The size of the network

Category A can handle delays pretty well as they are running flights every few hours between two destinations. However, the story with Category B completely different. 

Say you are flying from Mumbai to Delhi. Go Air, SpiceJet and Indigo all fly that route non-stop.  Go Air and SpiceJet have 2 flights a day. One really early morning whereas one late in the evening. Whereas Indigo and Jet Airways about eight to twelve. If you are flying Jet Airways and something happens to your flight, they can easily move you to the next flight. That’s true of Indigo as well, but to a lesser extent.

 

It’s not just about the number of daily frequencies

Now imagine that your Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Indore or Jaipur cancels, but there are alternate routes that are operational, they can route you via Mumbai. You might not prefer the added connection and the longer travel time, but they’ll get you to your destination on the same day. 

 

In short, flying is like routing packets of information through the internet — the shortest route may not always be the fastest route given the congestion or equipment currently operating.

The most reliable networks are those that offer a significant degree of redundancy and can adapt on the fly to changing conditions. Low cost generally don’t have alternative routing options to get you to your destination since they tend to operate point-to-point routes which were specifically selected to pick off the most lucrative routes of network carriers.

Most low cost carriers lack interline agreements

This one factor changed my life like completely. I was stranded in Kuala Lumpur as I was flying Bangkok to Mumbai via Kuala Lumpur on Malindo Airways. 

The low-cost carriers tend not to play with each other or the network carriers — they tend to operate in their own little world as though they are the only airline that exists. That’s just part of their business model, and helps them keep costs low. 

Please SKIP to next heading if you don’t want to read the TERRIBLE EVENT that changed the way I fly completely.

 

I was supposed to fly KUL2 (Kuala Lumpur Low-cost terminal) to Mumbai that was supposed to depart at 7 15 PM Malaysian time. I reached Airport in time and finished my check-in procedure and cleared the immigrations and went to priority pass lounge. There was no sign that the flight would be canceled. I stayed in the lounge for a while till clock striked 6 30 PM which was supposed to be boarding time for my flight. I went to my gate and didn’t find any agent. I looked around and found that my flight has been canceled. As this country was not my home network, I didn’t receive any text message from Airline that my flight has been canceled. I was flying from Bangkok and hence I didn’t have a local sim or currency. I had to come out of Passport controlled area and cancel my immigration status.

I stood in line with all passengers to get our tickets re-ticketed for next day. I was given 2 options by airlines. They would refund me Rs 2000 as my ticket was non-refundable and I can go to any airline of my choice. I didn’t have any idea about award tickets at that time. Rs 2000 was like nothing as buying last second ticket was 10x expensive.  Like all other people, I chose to stay with the airline hoping that they would find a connection for me next day. After those passengers were given an option that they could collect the bags from the airline or they could leave the bags with the Airline. I thought it was a just overnight thing and hence didn’t need my bags. I had a backpack with all the clothes I wanted. We were told that they had booked a hotel for us in Nilai, instead of Kuala Lumpur.  They made us stay in Aston Hotel Putra Nilai which is considered one of the worst hotels in the region. The hotel didn’t have any vegetarian food. I come from Jain family and didn’t have anything to consume at the hotel.

I was out of local currency as I was supposed to be on my last leg to my homeland. There was nothing around the hotel where we could find vegetarian food.  They didn’t give us any coupons to consume anything at the airport or any allowance near the hotel.

This is email I received from the Airline:–

Dear Sir/Madam/Mr/Miss,

 

Malindo OD215 KLIA2-MUMBAI on 12OCT14 has been merged with OD215 on 13OCT14 depart at 1915Hrs. For enquiries call +603-78415388 (9am-9pm)daily

We would appreciate it if you would contact Malindo Air Call Center for further assistance.

Malaysia: +603- 7841 5388

(Operating Hours Mon -Sunday 9am-9pm)

India: +91 18605008866    

(Operating Hours Mon -Saturday 8am-8pm)

We apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Regards

Reservation Control Team

There were few more emails from airlines about further delays. It had already been 2 days without any food. They collected us from the hotel and put us back in the airport. At Airport we got to know that flight has been delayed few more hours and chances are they would send us back the to hotel again. There was overcrowding. Money they were willing to refund was not full money but partial money after cancellation charges.

I reached airport and confirmed check in. I checked if they had my baggage for check in. The staff at counter confirmed that they did have my bags and I would receive it in India. After that I again cleared immigration and forgot about it. I expected to receive my bags in India.

Flight finally departed at 4 :50 AM and landed in India at about 10 45 AM Indian time. When we arrived we were put in holding pattern as an incoming flight was really late. When I arrived at baggage belt, I realized to my horror that my bag hadn’t arrived. All my stuff including house keys were present in the bag. I was asked by Airport staff to file a form and I would be delivered my bags within next 72 hours.

After constantly calling them, writing to them, going to their social media to get response from them and trying to reach someone to give me some answers for my baggage. My bag had lot of invaluable stuff. I would get their standard operating times.  Then I had to call them in Malaysia and talk to their call center there who had zero power over the situation. 

I went to their local office in Mumbai a few days later and got a number of a person who I could talk to in Malaysia. They provided me a number of representative. The representative promised me $500 for all my troubles that would be released to my account 4 months later. (That money never came) I had lost all my pen drives, memories worth 6 months of travel in them. They had my Singapore reverse bungee jump, Ferrari and Lamborghini F1 racing footage and what not.  All gifts I bought for my family was gone too.  The bag was stolen by the airline representatives as none of the people who stayed in the hotel got their bag ever. 

Hence, I realized that I don’t want to be stuck in the situation like this again. I have heard more stories like that. I had lost my bag once with the legacy carrier and they delivered the bag where I was living in a city/country where they had no flights flying. 

Legacy Carrier agreements

The legacy carriers, on the other hand, generally have some form of interline agreements between themselves. That means, for example, that if you are flying Mumbai to Newark via Heathrow on British Airways and your first segment is delayed, it’s pretty easy for the counter agent to move you over to American, Virgin Atlantic or Qatar Airways. As happened in my case, my flight at Mumbai got delayed by 4 hours and I was notified in advance and I would be missing my connection at Heathrow. The next flight was about 12 hours later to Newark. That changed my plans by a day. I contacted the airline and told them that it was unacceptable for me for so much delay. They transferred me to Virgin Atlantic with an upgrade as the Virgin Atlantic flight was full. I caught the same British Airways flight I was supposed to catch from Heathrow. However, I have seen that people get on much better flights than they actually paid for as currently happening with British Airways passengers due the strike. They are either getting Qatar or Oman Air which is far superior. 

Bottom line

I still don’t see any problem flying Category A low-cost because they are just low cost by the model. Sometimes the airfare difference is indeed massive. Especially, when you are flying around South East Asia, the airfare difference between Air Asia and flying Malaysian or Singapore or Thai Airways might be massive. 

Low cost makes sense in few scenarios. I would always prefer Indigo over Air India. However, being elite on 

Why do you like or dislike Low-Cost Airlines?

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here