A Guide to Low Cost Flights
Low cost airlines and their fares deeply changed the flight sector. A low cost (or no frills, or low fares) is an airline company that offers flights at very competitive prices by not offering or by selling most of passenger services (like on-board meals, seats bookings, etc.). Low cost flights were born in USA in 1971 with Southwest Airlines, and started spreading in Europe at the beginning of the '90s with Ireland's Ryanair. Statistics and history in brief To point out the strong growth of low cost flights we will show a few stats: in 1994 about 3 million passengers flew low cost, most of them with Ryanair, and in 1995 they reached 17,5 million. In 1995 British Airways founded their low cost division named Go, operating from London Stanstead airport in 1998. The same year Go started operating form London Luton as well. In the year 2000, Go was sold to EasyJet.com with an operational loss of over 21 million Pounds. In 2000 KLM also entered the low cost world with Buzz, which was bought over by Ryanair in 2003 with very high losses. Currently EasyJet.com and Ryanair are among the most successful European low cost airlines, and operate over several hundred routes. Today's market situation sees a strong and constant growth of the low cost flights sector, new routes being opened every day by all main airlines, In the future a strong growth of low cost companies it is foreseen also in the long range flights segments. Why low cost flights are such Low cost airlines are very flexible and efficient organizations with a cost structure that is very different from the one of traditional airlines. Cutting any costs allows them to offer very competitive prices. Costs are optimized mainly in the following areas: - Tickets sales are direct, Internet being the main channel. By shortening the intermediation chain, costs can be deeply reduced. - Smaller and cheaper airports are used, that are also less jammed by traffic. On-board services and crews. No meals are served. Fewer crew members are used, and airplanes need less cleaning. - Full usage of aircraft capacity. Airplanes always fly full charge and fly more often to amortize costs. They have faster load/download times (25/35 minutes vs. 2 hours of traditional companies). - Newer and all equal aircraft. Low cost companies fleets are made all of the same make of planes, all new ones and easy to service, in order to have them all at maximum efficiency. Characteristics of low cost companies To operate low cost flights, airlines must have specific characteristics to allow them to keep prices as low as possible. The basic ones are: - A single passenger class, with free choice of the seating place. - A single airplane make (in order to optimize service costs), such as Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s (for instance: Ryanair uses Boeing 737 series, EasyJet favors both Boeing 737s and Airbus A319s). - Airplanes have more seats (for instance, Lufthansa's Boeing 737s carry 132 passengers, EasyJet's ones carry 148). - Lower weight allowance for both hand carried and stored luggage. - No free meals or beverages are served on board, but they are available to buy. - Crew members fulfill multiple tasks (mainly stewardesses and stewards). - Intensive use of airfleets. For instance,
EasyJet flies an average of 10.7 hours a day, while British Airways flies 7.1 hours. Airport stops are shorter (with a faster turnover, usually 25 minutes between flights), and flights are shorter too. - Connections are made using convenient secondary airfields, often far away from town centers, without slot restrictions, little air traffic and lower airstrip fares. - Straight peer-to-peer connections without luggage transfers to other coincident flights (separate checkin and check-out), no coordinate flight plans with other airlines. - Expenditure savings trough direct ticket sales, especially trough the Internet and outsourced call centers, automated check-ins and, occasionally service fees. - Certain offers (as low as 0.99€) are only valid for in-advance bookings or are limited offers, for a relatively low number of seats. - Lean management (savings on staff). For instance, Germanwings in Cologne employs no more than 50 people.
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