I am a budget airline champion. I use them for most of my short trips, and gloat later for all the money I save (which then goes to the shoe shopping budget, but no one needs to know that).
Many people are afraid of booking a budget airline for the fear of unknown. How bad would the airplane be? Will I be cramped in the sky? Will the hostesses be unduly mean? Are all passengers shamelessly cranky?
Well, yes and no. It can be a nightmare sometimes, but it is mostly a pleasant experience. I have used Fly Dubai many times for trips between Dubai and Karachi, and Ryan Air for trips within Europe. Let me share the uncensored experience, and things you’d be glad to know if you are planning to travel with a budget airline in near future.
Most low-cost carriers are subsidiaries of fancy airlines – like Fly Dubai is for Emirates and German Wings is for Lufthansa. So, the baby will go mostly where its mother lands.
I hate being in a cramped middle seat in a plane. It’s one of the my biggest pet peeves, and what makes me ALWAYS check-in beforehand. While most budget airlines are pinched for space, there are some like Ryan Air that are actually quite spacious as far as seating is concerned.
Also, space for hand luggage is precious. Your overhead luggage compartment might be filled to the brim before you even arrive at your seat. Thankfully, I prefer to check-in luggage, and am happy to keep my laptop and handbag on my lap or under the seat.
Note – Aisles are one way only. If you see someone coming in from the opposite direction, scoot back in. And no bathroom breaks during food service (unless the food cart has passed you).
You can purchase In-flight entertainment when you travel via the likes of Fly Dubai. The basic option, which screens news, routes and music, are free; for movies and TV shows, you need to pay approximately AED35 (US$ 9.5). Others, like Ryan Air, have zero entertainment facilities – no screens or magazines. It’s a BYO-Entertainment party.
Most budget airlines do not serve food for short flights; however, you can buy reasonably-priced snacks, beverages and hot food from the hostess that periodically walk down the aisle with food carts. Alternatively, you can bring your own sandwich and coffee, and enjoy it aboard.
You save a major $$$:
There are no two ways about it. I can save roughly AED1000 ($272) if I opt for Fly Dubai instead of Emirates Airline for the same route. However, beware of sneaky ‘extras’. Priority seat reservations, meals and extra luggage provision are some of the red flags to look out for.
When do Budget Airlines NOT work:
Long distances. Dubai-Karachi-Dubai or Cologne-London-Cologne are routes apt for budget airlines but I wouldn’t opt for it if I were travelling long distance. Anything beyond two and a half hours is long distance for me.
Another instance when you would be better off with a normal airline is when you have luggage. Most budget airlines only allow a hand carry per person. There is an option to add on luggage, but the cost would almost equal to what you would pay for a normal airline. Hence, extra paperwork and formalities, and very little savings – unless you can hijack your Mister’s luggage, using doe eyes and biryani.
For long distance, you can go for business or first class in a budget airline. They cost a tad bit more than economy would in a normal airline, with much better service, plenty of leg room and an overall superior experience.
Picture courtesy Sepia Comic – they are actually funny! Check them out here – https://www.pinterest.com/tim_bro1/sepia-comic-funny/