The airplane industry is at the forefront of making world travel possible for the average person. It is incredible that you can jump on a flying vehicle and be transported to another country, sometimes for just a few dollars. A Ryanair flight in Europe will regularly set you back no more than $25, taking you as far as London to Warsaw and back again. In the United States, there is speculation that new JetBlue routes from New York to London are pulling down the fares of other airlines by up to 12%. There is a race to the bottom, with every passenger going for the cheapest deals and airlines competing for your business. But at what cost?!
How a Bad Seat Saves MoneyThe seats in a budget airline are quite ingenious. Have you ever noticed how they never quite line up with the window? This is because the aircraft is bought as an empty shell and then the airline crams as many seats into the space as possible. Ryanair seats are extraordinarily simple, meaning they are cheap both to buy and maintain. They do not recline, so there are no moving parts. There are no screens in the backs with entertainment or information. They don’t even have a storage pocket, which reduces the cleanup time between flights and speeds up turnaround time.
When making a Ryanair booking, they don’t even let you choose where you sit. If you want to avoid the middle, you have to pay extra for that. If you are over 5 foot 6 and want some space to stretch your legs, then you have to pay extra for that as well, as you do if you’d rather sit nearer to the exit. All luxury is stripped to allow for more seats. The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, even announced plans to reduce the number of toilets on board to just one, so that more seats can be added. That would mean more than 200 passengers and crew sharing one bathroom for the duration of a three-hour flight. You might risk a burst bladder, but hey, it’ll knock $3 off the price of a regular ticket!
If the quality of the seating wasn’t bad enough, plans have been announced for standing only areas at the backs of planes. Passengers will cram in like it’s the New York Subway and forced to endure a stranger’s sweaty armpit for the duration of the flight. Given that it is a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt during take-off and landing, it isn’t clear how this will meet safety standards. However, with estimated airfare ticket prices of between $6 and $13, maybe it’s worth the risk?
You Get What You Pay For and Nothing More
Budget airlines can keep their prices low by charging you for every tiny little extra beyond the cheap ticket. On a regularly priced flight, you’ll expect certain things to be included; baggage allowance, some basic food, a choice of seat, etc. With a cheap airfare, you get none of this. Wizz air last minute deals can be tempting until you realize everything you have to pay for on top.
No budget airline flight will be complete without the cabin crew wandering up and down the aisle for the whole trip trying to flog you stuff. Sometimes a scratch card, some perfume, and mini bottle of whiskey are the only ways to make the flight bearable anyway. They are hoping you’ll remember how your water was seized as you passed through security and you’ll be forced to buy some more or face extreme dehydration.
The airlines also hope that you won’t be able to pack all of your stuff into a single carry-on bag that can be stowed beneath the seat in front. In which case, you could pay up to 25% more for the privilege of using the overhead lockers for your second bag. Ryanair, in addition to removing bathrooms, is also planning to charge a Euro for using the one that does remain. They really have it in for your bladder!
Is it Worth it?
Sometimes, you have to laugh and appreciate what you can get. There may be an element of masochism involved, but budget airlines have revolutionized the world of travel. Sure, they are uncomfortable, but they offer the chance to escape to a brand new country and experience a brand new adventure. Travel was never meant to be easy, especially if you are doing it so cheaply. They are like the budget hostels of the sky. You could fork out for a luxury hotel suite, but where’s the fun in that?
It’s time for travelers to embrace the absurdity of budget airlines and be thankful that there are plenty of safety regulations in place. Who knows what they’d do if there weren’t? These cheap airfares encourage a minimalist one-bag travel, which is no bad thing. They allow you to keep going if cash flow is low. The fact is, they add an extra option that you can either choose to take or not. If it ever gets too difficult, more luxury alternatives exist, but until then, enjoy the ridiculous, but charming, world of budget air travel.
Written by Thom Brown