Characteristics of Cheap Airlines
Companies claiming that they are following the cheap airlines business model have several things in common. The following are a few of their distinguishing characteristics:
An uncomplicated fare scheme - there are no complex percentages to compute; usually they'll give a straight fare that's half of what regular carriers cost, or a similar-sounding offer.
Unreserved seating - not all cheap airlines practice this, but it's the general theme for most. This scheme motivates passengers to board early to avoid getting the least desirable seats on the plane.
Single passenger class - No first, business, or economy; it's economy all the way for cheap airlines.
Single airplane types - unlike regular carriers, cheap airlines make use of just one or two airplane types to cut down on maintenance and training costs - perhaps just Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s for all flights.
Different routes and times - to further save on costs, cheap airlines land and take off on secondary airports rather than the major international ones. Moreover, their schedules mostly involve late-evening or early-morning flights, when there is lighter air traffic. This translates to lower landing fees for the cheap airlines company.
Aggressive marketing for direct sales - rather than lose money on commissions for travel agents or spend additional cash on computer reservations systems, cheap airlines encourage customers to book their flights directly on their websites. This way, savings are further passed on to the end-user - the traveler.
Rampant utilization of fuel hedging programs - this is the practice of many cheap airlines of buying fuel in bulk and in advance to take advantage of fixed prices and protect against fluctuations in oil prices.
Multi-tasking employees - this is expected of cheap airlines, but it can't be said that the employees are less efficient. For instance, their flight attendants can double as ground stewardesses assigned to check boarding passes at the gate and may also be the ones cleaning the cabins when the last passengers alight.
Simpler airline food - a huge chunk of the air fare goes to food, and this is one of the first aspects of the industry to get the axe when cheap airlines plan their operation budget. Passengers don't mind the downgrade, however, as airline food was never really something to look forward to.
Cheap airlines remain to be a grim threat to full-service airlines around the world, because they're the first ones to be sacrificed in the midst of terrorism or health concerns, such as the SARS scare. Between 2001 and 2003, for instance, large carriers reeled from heavy losses while cheap airlines stayed afloat.
This is why for their own protection, major airlines launch their own cheap airlines subsidiaries or operate side by side with them in order to get a piece of the pie, so to speak, regardless of global issues that may rock the travel industry. For instance, United Airlines has its "Ted," British Airways has its "Go," Air India has its "Air India Express," Qantas has its "Jetstar," and KLM has its "Buzz."