Who doesn’t like low prices? I know I do. But I also know with low prices, there is probably a “catch,” or I might not get the same experience as if I paid more elsewhere. This concept seems to be pretty simple to understand (the whole “you get what you paid for”), but many it all goes out the window when you start flying.
There are many passengers out there who are not fans of super cheap airlines (and ala cart) airlines, like Spirit and Allegiant. These are probably two of the most aggressive ultra low cost carriers and I think this post speaks to why these airlines can be so successful. These are the airlines who provide rock bottom prices and the ability to pay more for the services you want/need. A few years back (first published in April 2011), my creative side decided to make a little comic strip showing the five stages of flying an ultra low cost carrier. It has been of my all time favorite stories, because it rings true so often. I am guessing that these five stages might seem pretty familiar to many of you!
Stage One: The Search
There are many out there who could care less about what airline they fly on — all they care about is price. They remember flying from Los Angeles to Topeka in 1996 for $79.00 round trip and refuse to pay more than that ever again. They will check every airline site possible, spending hours, maybe even days trying to find the best deal possible. Then, amazingly they find one airline with prices way less than their competitors. Why is it so much cheaper? Who the heck cares… for that price, you are willing to fly in a cardboard box! After getting your ticket, you gloat to as many as you can on how much you saved. You title yourself the “Airline Fare Master.” Oh… just wait my friend.
Stage Two: Checking In and Getting Shocked
While basking in your great deal, you were blind to the fact that the airline’s website clearly states there are bag and other fees. When getting to the airport, you feel you have been tricked, “How dare they charge me for my bag!” You feel it appropriate to blame the gate agent for your mistake. That makes sense right?
Then you feel relieved a bit when you start to do the math in your head. You are okay. Even with these bag fees, your amazing deal is still beating the next cheapest priced airline. But you start second guessing your choice.
Stage Three: I have to pay for what?
Once on board, you realize your legroom isn’t too great. Your seat might not recline and there is no in-flight entertainment. And what is this? You have to pay for food and drinks? The outrage! While you are certain you have reached the fifth level of hell, you continue to tell yourself about your amazing deal you got. I mean, the flight is only a few hours, right? It is easy to forget you told yourself you were willing to fly in a cardboard box for that price.
BONUS: Flying on an Allegiant MD-83
Stage Four: Swearing the airline off forever
Once arriving, you make it clear to everyone that you did not have a good flight. “Well, I have never been treated so poorly in my life, they are the worst airline ever.” You state you would have been better taking a covered wagon in the middle of winter (who cares it would have taken you six months and you probably would have died). You swear up and down that you will never, ever (and omg I mean EVER) fly that horrid airline again.
Stage Five: And repeat
The next time you fly, you are back to searching for the best deal. You remember only paying $79.00 this one time and you have it in your mind you aren’t going to pay a penny more. “Why the heck are airline tickets so expensive?” Then you find it. That gem among the rough. Tickets for $79.00. Boo ya! Now time to repeat the cycle.
Ultra low cost carriers can be a great option. They can provide you fast transportation, the cheapest way possible. If you only care about getting your body from one place to another, without frills or high expectation of service, you cannot beat an ultra low-cost carrier. If you need a few more options, you can likely get them, it will just cost you a bit more. It is about being an informed customer and doing the math to make sure you are choosing the right airline.
I don’t walk into McDonald’s expecting a delicious meal. I expect to get a cheap meal and mediocre service. Why would a passenger pay for an ultra low cost airline and expect an Etihad Airways level of service? I am not sure, but as long as people keep demanding the lowest fares possible with no regard to service, more airlines will step up and accommodate. In the end, you do have some control with the level of service you receive while flying — using your pocket book.