Posted by: cgratton | March 17, 2009

“No-Frills” Flights Still Going Strong in Global Recession

With everyone’s pockets as dry as the Sahara Desert these days, thinking about taking an exotic vacation seems like a far away, hazy mirage.  But not necessarily for Londoners.

Last Wednesday, AirAsia X, the long-haul, low-budget airline subsidiary of AirAsia, launched its first direct flight from London Standsted to Kuala Lumpur to the sweet tune of 99 pounds one-way.

Although only about a fifth of the passengers received the promotional offer, the average cost of the flight was 175 pounds (about $250)—mere pocket change when compared to the competition’s average 500 pound fare (a little over $700).

Most of these low-cost, long flight companies end up fizzling fast, many tanking soon after they launch (Oasis Hong Kong and airline mogul Freddie Lakar’s Skytrain, for example). And even more than 30 major airlines have gone bankrupt within the past year.  But AirAsia X is keeping faith in the midst of the gloom.  More than 50,000 seats have sold since the service went on sale, and its owner, Tony Fernandes, believes it will continue to prosper even through the muck of the global recession.

“We’ve been through a fuel crisis, bird flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), the tsunami, the Bali bombings – you name it, we’ve had it,” he said to London’s The Independent. “Nothing scares me with the credit crunch.”

He may be onto something though. People still want to travel even if doom and gloom haunt their bank statements. So now, more than ever, people are willing to give up comfort for the opportunity to see the world, the chance to escape.

These people were up for the no-frills challenge

These people were up for the no-frills challenge

And giving up comfort is indeed the sacrifice: the seats are smaller and don’t recline, the rows are tighter and the in-flight movies cost money.

But, to me (and many, many others), a cheap flight across the world outweighs any possible discomfort during a flight.  A veteran of short-term budget flights with Ryanair and easy Jet when living in London, I have flown at the crack of dawn in tiny, rickety airplanes a dozen times to score a deal.  Yes, you land in a city 20 minutes from where you’re trying to get (i.e- “Barcelona” means Girona, Spain). Yes, it’s not a good idea to check a bag, as it costs extra. And yes, you sometimes have to run across the actual tarmac and push through other passangers in a cutthroat battle to get a good seat. But in the end, the financial benefits and the lasting memories gained on your trip are what matter, not what you were served for dinner on the flight.

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Responses

  1. Who can you talk to?

  2. […] I Just Read About That… added an interesting post today on "No-Frills" Flights Still Going Strong in Global RecessionHere’s a small reading50,000 seats have sold since the service went on sale, and its owner … I have flown at the crack of dawn in tiny, rickety airplanes a dozen times […]


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