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Flights From A Fiver
Airlines - Comments & Tips
Member Name: meah
Airlines - Comments & Tips
Date: 20/07/03, updated on 20/07/03 (4753 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, Flights from regional airports
Disadvantages: Not always cheap, Not much cover if things go wrong
As far as price is concerned, airline passengers in Europe have never had it so good. Every few months seems to bring a new no-frills operator offering flights to the continent for less than it would cost you to take the train between two English counties. Since Ryanair re-launched itself in 1991, copying a business model started by Southwest in the U.S.A. twenty years earlier, no-frills airlines have mushroomed in Europe, and have now spread to Australia, South America and Malaysia.
Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) really cashed in with the deregulation of the air business in the EU six years ago. They now carry 15,000,000 passengers every year between 85 destinations and have plans to add another 50 routes. They fly to some interesting destinations - Sicily, Sardinia and Oslo for example - but they are arguably the worst offenders when it comes to the distance of the airport from the city you've booked to go to. What's advertised as Barcelona, for example, is actually Girona, Brussels is really Charleroi, Paris Beauvais and Frankfurt Hahn. This is usually reflected in the price however. They tend to have better punctuality figures than easyjet - my last two flights with them landed fifteen minutes ahead of schedule - but they also seem to have attracted the most negative publicity over the years, not least when they took over buzz earlier this year.
Their main rivals are easyjet (www.easyjet.com), founded in 1995. I don't think there's that much to choose between the two, although easyjet seem to have a few more frills than ryanair. For instance, ryanair's check-in staff at Newcastle Airport are sub-contracted from Servisair while easyjet have their own uniformed personnel. Also, easyjet have an entertaining in-flight magazine while ryanair's just lists the tax free products that are available to buy. Easyjet's takeover of Go has bequeathed them some interesting routes such as Prague and Naples; in all they operate 105
routes between 38 airports. Prices are sometimes a little higher than ryanair but when you book a flight to Barcelona or Paris you land at the same airport as British Airways. Both airlines are currently eyeing up destinations like Warsaw, Tallinn, Krakow and Riga, which will be inside the EU from next year.
Now aims to revolutionize the no-frills business by offering every seat on each flight at exactly the same price. This will raise the cheapest fares but lower the most expensive ones, giving easyjet and ryanair something to think about. Flights start from October from Luton, though they do seem to be having a lot of teething troubles at the minute. Destinations are grouped in six zones, with flights in each zone costing exactly the same fare. The destinations are Manchester (Zone A; £35), Jersey (Zone B; £40), Dusseldorf and Hamburg (Zone C; £45), Ibiza, Rome and Valencia (Zone D; £55), Lisbon (Zone E; £65) and Tenerife (Zone F; £75).
British European (www.flybe.com)
Allow you to change tickets up to two hours before departure (minimum charge of £25) and fly from a number of UK airports including Bristol, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast, Heathrow, Exeter, Leeds-Bradford, Birmingham and Luton. Destinations include Paris, Bergerac, Milan, Alicante and the Channel Islands.
They only fly out of Leeds-Bradford at the moment with destinations including Faro, Malaga, Alicante, Geneva, Nice, Prague, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Virgin Express (www.virgin-express.com)
Took over the hub airport of Brussels when Sabena collapsed. Unlike other no-frills airlines they allow you to book a single journey between two European airports with a connection in Brussels (usually no-frills operators offer what they call a point-to-point service. You can't book an onward journey as part of the same transaction, and if you miss a connection be
cause your first plane was late they refuse all liability). Flying out of London City, onward destinations from Brussels include Lisbon, Athens, Stockholm, Madrid and Copenhagen.
The no-frills arm of British Midland flies from Teesside, Manchester, East Midlands, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh to Prague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Pisa, Nice, Ibiza, Salzburg and Geneva.
An Italian operator flying from Gatwick to Venice and Rimini. Prices start at 10 euros.
Sky Europe (www.skyeurope.com)
A Slovakian no-frills airline with flights from Stansted to Bratislava and Paris. Prices start at 25 euros.
Air Berlin (www.airberlin.de)
The best known of the German no-frills airlines. They fly from Stansted to Vienna and several destinations in Germany including Hamburg, Nuremburg, Berlin-Tagel, Dortmund and Hanover.
Air Scotland (www.air-scotland.com)
The new kids on the block currently fly from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Newcastle to mainland Spain and the Canaries. They have big expansion plans.
From Birmingham to Geneva, Rimini, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Paris.
These are just a few of the no-frills airlines operating in the EU at the moment. www.attitudetravel.com/lowcostairlines has details of them all.
Also worth looking at are www.whichbudget.com, www.skyscanner.net, www.airlinequality.com/Airlines/low_cost.html and the travel section of www.guardian.co.uk.
HOW TO GET THE BEST FARES
Book as far in advance as you possibly can. Around 10% of seats are sold at the lowest quoted fare. Prices begin to rise as soon as they are sold. If you book at the last minute you could find yourself sitting next to someone who's paid less than a tenth of your fare. When you see a fare that you like book it immediate
ly. The longer you wait, the more expensive it's going to be.
Sign up for the email announcements offered by each airline. They will let you know about the latest offers before they are available online.
Be flexible. Try to avoid mid-morning and late-afternoon flights if you can, as these are usually the most popular. The cheapest time to fly is midweek.
Book over the internet rather than by phone. Easyjet offer a £5 discount on each one-way flight for on-line bookings. Use a debit card like switch to pay for your flights as the charges are a couple of pounds less than for credit cards.
HOW NO-FRILLS WORKS
Most no-frills airlines are completely ticketless. If you book on-line, you'll be given a reference number. You quote this at check-in and are given your boarding card, which is sometimes handwritten.
Even the offices are paperless. Easyjet's operations are 100% IT based and the vast majority of bookings are taken on-line.
No-frills airlines negotiate much cheaper landing charges based on their quick turnaround times. A flight from Barcelona to Bristol will take off again for Prague half an hour later. Time is of the essence: the plane is tidied by the flight attendants before you land with rubbish deposited in black bin liners, in-flight magazines are handed out and collected in mid air and there is usually no seat allocation - the first sixty people to check in get to board the plane first, then it's a scramble for the remaining seats. There are no expensive air walk connections between the boarding gate and the aeroplane so you'll have to walk across the tarmac or get a bus out to a far corner of the runway. With a few exceptions, most of the airports served by no-frills operators are secondary ones which are smaller, cheaper and further away from the actual destinations than the main airports.
On-board catering is expensive. People are free to bring their own food and
drink but most people seem happy enough to pay £3 for a sandwich once they're on the plane. Not me though!
The airlines also make a lot of money from tie-ins with coach and bus operators, travel insurance, hire cars, hotels and just about everything else you can imagine.
Lots of no-frills airlines are cashing in on the post 9/11 recession by ordering new aeroplanes at greatly discounted prices. Ryanair have started selling advertising space on the exterior of their planes.
Don't expect compensation for delays, lost luggage or cancellations. You might get something but it'll usually be a lot less than you would get with bigger airlines like KLM and British Airways.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
No-frills airlines are often misleadingly called low-cost airlines. This doesn't mean that the prices are always going to be lower than the big airlines. Unless you're booking a long time in advance you might find that British Airways' fares are just as cheap.
Before you book your flights do a background check on the airport you'll be flying into. Your ticket might only cost £20 but you'll be paying a lot more in time and money if you're landing two hours from where you want to be.
Most airlines allow you to change your date of travel but you'll usually have to pay around £30 for this plus the difference between the fare you booked and the lowest price that is currently available. You probably won't get any refund on a cancellation unless there are very special circumstances.
Look carefully at all the terms and conditions before you book. Don't assume that you'll be covered if your flight is cancelled. Remember that those £1 fares exclude taxes, fees and charges.
If a route isn't making money it'll be axed very quickly. There are stories of people buying holiday villas only to find that flights to the local airport are scrapped shortly afte
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