Low Cost Airlines
By Chris Klinker, Director, Eton Travel Group
Low cost airlines have changed the dynamics of European travel and have been pivotal in driving down flight costs. For consumers, carriers such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Norwegian are now a staple of everyday life, however, corporate sectors, like the events industry, have sometimes been a little cautious in approach.
Unfortunately, “budget” carriers don’t often get the credit they deserve. They have long been stigmatised and rather than being celebrated for being cost effective, they are unfairly deemed to offer a cheaper service.
While I’m not saying low cost carriers (LCCs) are any better than full-service scheduled carriers, they are certainly not worse. They offer a great value service that is competitively priced and have a wide reach of destinations.
Even decades on, LCCs continue to lead the way in travel, with some major international airlines following suit.
For example, from 11 January, British Airways will start charging for meals on flights that last less than five hours. The airline has signed a deal with Marks and Spencer’s to provide sandwiches, snacks and drinks – similarly to the refreshments offered by LCCs. This is just one way that low-cost airlines are championing modern day travel, but this is the tip of the iceberg.
Wide European Reach
The network reach of low cost carriers is extensive and the MICE industry benefits significantly from airlines such as EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet 2 and Norwegian to name but a few that service the whole of Europe.
They take advantage of main hub and alternative airports and they pay attention to the details that matter. Rather than providing free cups of tea, they charge for those details but make sure flights are on time and costs are kept low. These are the elements of travel that consumers are looking for.
One way low cost airlines have revolutionised the travel industry is by not penalising travellers when they do not stay a Saturday night. A decade or so ago, this was not the case, and scheduled carriers would financially penalised travellers when their bookings did not include a weekend or were for shorter stays.
Companies were once forced to book months in advance and pay over the odds for short stays. The difference could be hundreds of pounds and there was never any valid reason for it.
For instance, if you wanted to travel last minute and stay on a Tuesday night to return on a Wednesday, then you could pay £300 or £400.
Now you can pay as little as £40 and go for one night midweek. The changes have transformed air travel and the competition means there are much more reasonable fares available.
We speak to real people and we use our good rapport to negotiate great rates on group bookings.
Many companies are put off dealing with LCCs, mistakenly believing customer service is managed online and makes it near-impossible to negotiate a good rate or make changes to a booking.
We have a direct relationship with group teams at LCCs and are no longer restricted to just “rack rates”. These are prices that regular corporate or commercial buyers just don’t have access to.
On time travel
Low cost carriers pride themselves on having fewer delays than scheduled flights. Punctuality and reliability is tantamount to their existence, it’s their USP, their reputation is based on it, and their figures reflect this.
Casing point, almost a quarter of flights to or from the UK for the year up to August 2016 were delayed by 15 minutes or more, which affected around 43 million passengers, according to data by consumer body Which?
Meanwhile, carriers like Ryanair boast that they beat every other airline in Europe in terms of punctuality, and EasyJet has an 86% on time record* which surpasses the likes of British Airways at 83%.
While every airline should be considered for its pros and cons, we are finally reaching a stage that LCCs are a phenomenala force in aviation and a true competitor in the industry.
*Figures from FlightStats Airline On-Time Performance Statistics (November)