Thursday, May 13, 2010

The cost of “cheap flights”

IMG_6986Tiger Airways flight prices certainly support the “fly cheaper” tag on their promotional banner: we had paid just A$140 to get both of us from Melbourne to Brisbane—a two-hour flight.

How can they manage to provide such low-cost flights?

  • Online bookings. It may be possible to buy tickets at the counter, but we didn’t see anyone doing so—and there was no obvious counter.
  • An “extra” charge is levied for everything. Water in a 325ml bottle was S$6; weight surcharges for bags >15kg are steep; food is expensive (and pretty basic) on board—and they have signs imploring people not to bring food aboard (although there was no apparent reason other than people would then not buy food on board).
  • IMG_6987Use of minimalist airport services. The Singapore airport was not the new and fancy one; instead, it was a dingy hall with a McDonalds and minimal services. The Melbourne check in looked temporary, and the security check was about a slack as we’ve seen since the 1980s. Even the boarding was minimal: IMG_6990several passengers were very annoyed to have to walk down a long hall, and then out onto the tarmac to climb up stairs to board. (We rather appreciated the fresh air after the dingy terminal!) 
  • IMG_6991Crowd people into the plane. Just as well the seats didn’t recline on the Melbourne-Brisbane flight, because there was just barely enough room for my knees.
  • No on-board entertainment.
  • Weird flying hours. Our flight left at 6am, and the online ticket was pretty clear about being there at 4am to check in. We managed that, and were near the front of the line—but by 5am, the counters were closed so the staff could process passengers after security. If you arrived after 5am, too bad…

For a two-hour flight, none of the above were too onerous. The longer flights—like our Singapore-Perth flight—had seats that did recline, but none of the amenities common to more major carriers.

Are better amenities worth the extra cost? Fares for Melbourne-Brisbane flights later that same day were ~A$300 each, so for us, the A$460 saved meant quite a few nice meals…