It’s no secret that flying has been getting more affordable for more and more people. With the advent of an increasing number of low-cost airlines, this trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. But many people today, thrilled by the sight of cheap airfare, fall into traps that eat away at the savings they were so excited by initially. With that in mind, we bring you a quick guide to navigating budget airlines.
1. The Airlines
When it comes to budget airlines, Canada has not enjoyed the same coverage as some other parts of the world. Perhaps it is the vast distances between our major cities, but companies like Ryanair and easyJet that operate so prevalently in Europe have been reticent to expand flights to Canada.
Still, even in the past two years, the status quo has begun to change. Wow air began flights from Toronto and Montreal to Reykjavik back in 2016 and has only been expanding flight routes on offer. Norwegian Airlines now has flights out of Hamilton International Airport to Oslo, Dublin, Boston and New York. What’s more, with the emergence of airlines like Swoop, there now exist Canadian-based airlines that will cater to an even greater selection of Canadian cities.
The guide to navigating all of these airlines? Well, keep these names in your mind. But with such a quickly expanding market the best thing you can do is just to go online and do your research into the low-cost airlines flying in and out of airports near you before your next trip.
It’s easy to get excited about cheap plane tickets. In discovering them we may find that a destination we thought was beyond our budget actually isn’t; or, at the very least that we will have more money in our pocket to enjoy our original holiday plans. But ticket prices can be deceptive, and especially if you are flying with a budget airline you’ll realize all too soon that what’s included in your ticket price isn’t much.
Luggage is one of those things not included. Now, most budget airlines will allow you one personal item that you may carry on board with you. This personal item might be a small bag or backpack, laptop case, or camera bag; and, they say, it must fit under the seat in front of you. The maximum dimensions are usually 42x32x25cm, but do your research and confirm this baggage allowance with your airline before you make the trip to the airport. While an all-inclusive airline is usually a little more lenient about carry-on, budget airlines are generally stricter about it – and almost always check the size of your personal item if it looks too big. Which makes sense, because really this is the area where they are making their money up.
What does this mean? Well, unless you plan on travelling light, your plane ticket is not as cheap as you thought it was. But if you know you are going to want a checked bag, or another carry-on item, be sure to pay for it when you make the original purchase – because if you wait until later the price just goes up and up. With Wow air, for example, the price for a carry-on bag goes from 56.95 CAD during booking to 75.95 CAD at check-in. That is for each leg of the flight. With such fees, it is probably worth considering other airlines who do include a checked bag in the original ticket price. Even if the ticket is slightly more expensive, it might save you money in the end. Of course, if you can fit everything into one carry-on bag, your options go up and prices go down!
Seating is another area where you might get fooled into spending more money. After you’ve selected your flight dates, you will be taken through a series of pages offering a variety of add-ons and services before you reach the end where you pay for your ticket. One of these pages contains a seating plan of the airplane, where you are encouraged to select your seat. Don’t do it!
Let’s make one thing clear, your ticket guarantees you a seat, but it does not guarantee you which seat. Unless you really care about where you sit, just skip this page entirely, because as soon as you click on one of those seats the price of your ticket will go up. Besides, you can always ask at check-in if they have any seats available together. You might just get lucky!
There’s nothing worse than airline food, as the maxim goes, which might make this next point a blessing. But unless you’ve purchased a meal with your ticket, or don’t mind paying onboard, don’t expect any half-time repast; plain or otherwise. So what can you do? You decided to fly with a budget airline because you wanted to save money. Well, you could buy food at the airport. It’s no secret that there’s a mark-up on the price of things at airports. Textbook capitalism, after all: it is a captive audience. But while many establishments at airports tend to be more expensive, there are still some budget-friendly places to be found (Tim Horton’s for example!).
If you’re organized, you could even pack some food to bring from home, and save even more money! Although you can’t take liquids through airport security, there are generally no restrictions on food (provided they aren’t liquidy). Plus, once you’re through security, most airports will have a place for you to refill your water bottle. So if you’re travelling on a budget, think about bringing some filling snacks from home or make a stop at your local grocery store before the airport. It’ll save you some money and, hopefully, carry you over until you arrive at your destination. Besides, chances are that’s where you want to be eating anyway.
Stay informed. Stay Current.