My last two posts, I wrote about tips on how to get cheaper fares for travel. I started writing about budget or low-cost airlines. For those not familiar with them, let me tell you more about it.
A budget airline, also called low-cost airlines, is a flight carrier that usually offers lower fares than traditional or major carriers. When we speak of major carriers, examples are Delta and US Airways in the US, or Lufthansa or KLM for international flights. Budget airlines meanwhile, are JetBlue and Southwest in the US, and Ryanair in Europe. Budget airlines came about because of the public’s desire for lower fares. These airlines usually provide up to 50% lower costs compared to the major airlines. They are less expensive to operate, and are presently responsible for keeping fares low by forcing the major carriers to match their fares.
Budget airlines, unlike major carriers, usually use the smaller, alternate airports, like Oakland Airport in San Francisco, or Midway airport in Chicago. This usually result in even more savings, since fares generally cost less if you fly from a smaller airport. Another plus is that these airports are often less and easier to navigate.
Budget airlines try to keep their costs at a minimum by adopting an all-economy seating format. Most low-cost airlines don’t serve meals on flights, although complimentary snacks and drinks are still available on some airlines. This isn’t such a big deal, however, since even some major airlines have scaled back on their food service as well, with some big airlines such as Northwest and US Airways even charging for meals on their flights. Some budget airlines also adopt a “first-come, first-served seating”, which means that passengers get to choose the seats they want, depending on who boards earliest.
The smaller airlines also try to have fewer restrictions on their sale fares than major airlines. Most low-cost carriers don’t have a minimum-stay requirement, and some even allow for one-way flights, something which is rarely observed in major airlines. Another advantage is the change fees, with budget airlines usually charging less than major airlines if you want to change your itinerary. For example, if you want to change your itinerary with JetBlue, the change fee is only $25, compared to the usual change fee of $100 with most major airlines.