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Tips on Budget Airline travel

Updated on June 17, 2012

Make budget air travel a luxury !

Budget airlines used to be for short holidays, going to unknown destinations, booked way in advance, usually group bookings, with hardly any in-flight service and so on. All this is changing dramatically. Here are tips for your next flight on Airasia, Mango air ...and the likes

Tip 1 : Book at the right time & for the right time

Booking too much in advance does not mean the cheapest fare! Some very good, last minute deals are always available. Always look around the destination you are going. Try to connect via various options to get there as compared to just looking for point to point travel. Also look for entire schedule of the week, if you fly on Wednesday or Thursday, you save so much money on your holiday, vs looking for flights on Friday evening.

Tip 2 : Get on-line, on Apps, on Emails, on Groupon

Budget airlines live and breathe online. If you want to travel on budget airlines, please do not book flights through your travel agent.

Look at the budget airline options in region, subscribe to email updates, visit the respective websites, download iPhone apps like the one for Airasia and sign up for Groupon.

Tip 3 : Make use of the available options!

Traveling budget does not mean go for the lowest fair available, look for choices given. You will be able to select your seat, pay a few dollars for comfort of reading your book or seating next to your family member.

Always anticipate and book the meals in advance to get many more options and save money. Most of the budget airlines offer decent food options, and at times are much better than the two meal choices you get on regular airlines.

Even for luggage, selecting the right option in advance saves lot of money. You can usually anticipate how much you may shop on that trip.

Many airlines offer check-in online, and on mobile phone that too, much in advance. Use all these services, mobile check-in means no queues and saving lots of paper !

Select options like connecting bus service to town, mobile prepaid cards, etc. Since budget airlines strive on cost innovation, you can be assured you are getting the best deal.

Thing I miss the most on Budget Airlines is...

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Tip 4 : Luggage tips

  • Look for available sizes, weights allowed for your flight, and work within those limits.
  • Wear your bulkiest items (like jeans, jackets, heavy belts and shoes).
  • Carry as many fragile items in hand as possible. If asked, you may inform the airline staff that it is too fragile to check-in.
  • Call up you hotel and see if they provide toiletries, towels, etc, and avoid carrying these.
  • If you have a notebook, it is OK to have two carry-on bags. Keep your notebook in the handbag since it will definately not be weighed.
  • Always check-in online, to avoid long queues at airport check-in.

Tip 5 : Be on time!

Budget airlines try to optimize routes to have lean cost structure. And this means they have some of the best turn-around times (from landing to take off). Because of this, there is no allowance for being late. Confirm with the airlines in advance, how late you can be for check-in, and ensure you are within that time.

Tip 6 : In-flight entertainment

Everyone needs entertainment on flights, from your 4 year old to your parents traveling with you. And even if you travel for work, you do not want to sit next to your boss and have that conversation!

Even though budget airlines allow some options like tablets, portable devices, they are not going to match what you really need. Ensure you carry your iPads, books and so on. The important thing is to remember to carry these for your kids and parents, as everyone needs something different.

Some people feel like eating all the time when they are on holiday. In that case, ensure you carry enough of what you need in your carry-on luggage, as not many snacks will be available on these flights.

Remember, you may not get any blankets or pillows on budget airlines, so come prepared.

Tip 7 : What to do when the flight is delayed?

Be it holiday or work, you always need plan B when flights get delayed. And it is not different on budget airlines. If you have a really important meeting, take the earlier flight. When the flights get delayed, look around! You will most likely be allowed to take the next available flight, ahead of rest of the passengers if you remain calm, queue up and be smart. At the same time, if you are OK to be delayed a bit, allow others to take your seat, it will pay off.

Tip 8 : Pay by local bank ATM/debit cards

If you are flying from your destination country all the way on budget airline, always pay by debit/ATM cards from local country banks, vs paying by credit cards, which come with a FEE.

Tip 9 : Budget airlines land at budget terminals

This usually is a good thing. Budget airlines are good at cost innovation, and sleek business models. Typically you will find shorter queues for immigration at these budget terminals, cheaper and efficient transportation as against going for the popular airport terminals near your destination cities.

Tip 10 : Budget airline loyalty programs suck !

I have not come across a decent loyalty program yet from budget airlines, even though there are plenty. It is good to keep these to reputed airlines like Singapore Airlines, and not expect the same level of comfort from budget airlines. So do not waste time looking for these miles.

Tip 11 : Anticipate what you might miss

  • If you are used to that free copy of daily newspaper on regular airlines, ensure you buy that in the airport book store.
  • Instead of missing the specific magazine in your regular airline, buy that magazine online or in the book store.
  • If you need a special seat or leg room, always know there are options available.
  • If you forget to book your food and really need something fancy, buy it after immigration, and have a picnic in-flight. Same goes for your bottle of mineral water.

In summary

In summary, budget airlines are coming up with innovative options to make things simple by removing non-value added stuff, so they are going keep changing, and give us more options. So I would like to get over the "budget" aspect, and actually call them personalized luxury. You know what you are going to get depending on what you pay.

Do you have more tips to share ?

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