Affordable Travel Guide to No-Frills Flights

For those who care about the cost not the accouterments

No-Frills Flights

Thanks to the economic times, many airlines have cut back on extras, like complimentary meals and drinks, but there are still bare-bones basic airlines that never did offer luxury, just low price airfares without the bells and whistles. Known in the industry as “low-cost carriers”, no-frills airlines use a mixture of criteria that enable them to charge less for airline tickets. Occasionally, because these airlines work so close to the financial bottom line, they don’t survive, and you want to ensure they are well established so that your return flight doesn’t get canceled as the result of a bankruptcy.

The tendency is to regard no-frills flights as ones that lack the niceties, but the fact is they can be much more stringent, effectively eliminating all but essential services, or charging fees for everything you can think of. Most no-frills airlines have fleets in the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 classes of aircraft, with no section for business class and not a lot of legroom; these types of aircraft are often inconvenient or unsuitable for special-needs travelers.

Some of the “frills” removed by no-frills airlines include:

  • seat recliners, window blinds, headrest covers
  • food and drink
  • on-board entertainment such as music and movies
  • refunds or the ability to transfer to a later flight if you missed the one you were booked on
  • priority boarding and pre-boarding seat selection
  • free baggage check-in

A number of no-frills airlines, where it is legal, operate with a non-union staff. How does this affect you, the traveler? It shouldn’t because laws in the nations of the world dictate training standards for employees who operate and maintain aircraft.

Most no-frills flights are direct (stop-overs cost more money in airport landing fees for the airline), land at smaller, less congested airports, and some use mobile stair units instead of jetways for boarding and disembarking because airports charge less for those. Many fly so that they take off and land at non-peak times, such as very early morning or late evening, to avoid higher airport landing fees. A few, such as Australia’s Jetstar (a subsidiary of Qantas), have limited routes; in their case, they only fly to places within 10 hours of Australia.

America’s Southwest Airlines remains the largest no-frills carrier in the world, but it has lots of smaller competition from the likes of Ireland’s RyanAir, and other American no-frills airlines such as Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines, some of which service select segments of the United States and do not fly internationally.

Ultimately, if you book a no-frills flight, pack light, pack a lunch or snack, take a book to read, and if there is something about your flight that doesn’t live up to your standards of travel, count the money you saved!

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