Awaken Holidays are in the business of travel, and as such we deal with all aspects of traveling, not only the selling holidays side of things.
Finding a flight
Recently I was asked to try and find a cheap flight from Alicante, Spain, to an airport in London, preferably Gatwick (LGW), but Heathrow would also suffice. The request was simple: a return flight, one person, hand luggage only from 16th September 2013 for one week.
That’s an easy task I thought. The UK have a great choice of budget airlines to choose from, including airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet, and flybe. Once I got started however the results surprised me.
The dates that I was searching for were in the middle of September 2013, a good three to four months away. To begin with flybe (www.flybe.com) don’t appear to offer flights from Alicante on these dates, so they were immediately out of the equation. It looked as though they stop flying from Alicante at the end of May. No problem I thought… I had always found them to be quite expensive anyway.
The next logical choice was Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) so I headed to their website. Recently there has been a lot of trouble between Ryanair and Alicante Airport so I wasn’t even sure if Ryanair flew from there anymore, but I was in luck, until I saw their prices that was. As many of you know Ryanair are the masters of advertising cheap prices and adding extras on to the price at checkout. For a single person with small carry on baggage and no extras the best price I found was approx. €140 return. This however was a flight to London Stanstead, an airport which, for me at least, was the wrong side of London for my needs.
For an extra €14 I could have priority boarding, to save me from suffering the mad rush upon boarding, but in my experience this does not work. You can read more about that here https://awakenholidays.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/should-you-buy-priority-boarding-with-ryanair/. For an extra €10 each way I could purchase reserved seating, and for an extra €1.70 I could buy the option to have Ryanair send me a text message to remind me that I am going on a flight with them. How much? €1.70! Wow… my text messages only cost 10 cents each. I think Ryanair need to change mobile service providers!
Not only was the Ryanair website ugly and poor to use, it also made choices for me that I did not want, and worst of all it loaded other browser windows in the background. As a website designer (amongst other things) I know that this is big no-no and it should NEVER be done. It is equivalent to spamming your browsing experience. Bad work, Ryanair. Very bad work.
easyJet was next on the list. Their website (www.easyjet.com) is better looking but still not very transparent in its pricing policies. easyJet also forced open a new browser window in the background. STOP IT! IT IS WRONG. GO AWAY.
As annoyed as I was with these spamming browser windows, I battled on! easyJet was about €26 more expensive coming in at €166 return, but at least they did have flights to London Gatwick. They also offered seat reservation and faster boarding at a cheaper rate than Ryan Air.
Monarch was next on my list of airlines to research (www.monarch.co.uk). In the past I wouldn’t have described them as budget airline, but I think that they are trying to promote themselves as one nowadays. The prices quoted were more than the others with a initial return flight cost of €175 return from Alicante to Gatwick.
I say ‘initial cost’ because as I ventured deeper into the booking process I was bombarded with attempts to make me purchase extras. It was confusing and annoying, and the services offered were things that I did not need or ask for. If I wanted car hire or hotel prices I would have searched for them at the start, not half way during the booking procedure. Again I was offered a text message with my details sent to me, this time for £1.75! How stupid must one be to fall for that? Print it out. Write it on a bit on paper. Put it in your phone yourself. It’s not difficult.
I gave up with Monarch after that. I was tired of reading of all the ‘extras’ that I could buy to make my travel ‘experience’ so much better… I just wanted to find a flight, not get a massage from some dodgy back street in Soho!
By now I was running out of ideas. Budget airlines weren’t cheap like they used to be. The days of return flights for a total price of €60 including hold baggage are all but gone. Perhaps I should try and see how much a quality airline would cost. I prepared myself for the worse, expecting to laugh at the extortionate costs… off to the British Airways website I headed.
How wrong I was! How surprised I was! How impressed I was!
Here we have a good looking, uncluttered website that is easy to navigate and use. I input the dates and sat back to wait for the price and time results.
The results genuinely shocked me. They had return flights from Alicante to Gatwick for €142 (just €2 more than Ryan Air’s flight to Stanstead). What’s even more impressive is that you can carry more hand baggage with BA, their planes are cleaner, their staff are friendlier, and the price includes complimentary drinks and snacks (even breakfast if you’re on an early morning flight)!
There were no pop up browser windows, the prices were obvious with clear indications of what was included and not included in the price, and I was not forced to un-check boxes for services that I did not need. I was sold!
I promptly passed on my findings to the person who had requested my help and they were as pleasantly surprised as me with the findings. I hope that they book their flights quickly because I am sure that seats on flights with prices this affordable on a quality carrier will soon sell out.
What have I learned?
So, returning to the title of this article… Do ‘Budget Airlines’ really offer budget prices anymore? I think that the answer is a clear ‘No’. I have flown with budget airlines a lot and it is not a nice experience. I would rather pay a little more to fly with a quality airline such as British Airways, but it would appear that now days I don’t have to pay more. In fact, I quite often might pay less!
From now, when I am looking for flights I will head to www.britishairways.com first, closely followed by skyscanner.net (which has always been useful in the past, but I find is a lot harder to navigate nowadays).
And a quick word to easyJet and Ryanair… forcing browser windows to open in the background whilst a visitor is on your website is wrong. Quit it!
This article was written by Paul of Awaken Holidays and his views and experiences are his own. He is not affiliated to any of the airlines mentioned above and does not profit in any way from the above findings.