If you think that travelling with budget carriers comes with plenty of restraints, the reality may surprise you quite a bit. Here are the facts behind flying cheap
Be assured — you will not be considered a scrooge for clamouring after cheap airfares. After all, who can resist the draw of flight prices that can run as cheap as $2?
But these insanely attractive prices often come with caveats, as you may have realised.
Recently, flyers on budget carriers have experienced unwanted disruptions, like 24-hour delays, causing some to think that budget prices beget budget service.
So what should you actually expect when you pounce on that cheap flight deal? Here are some hacks and tips for the next time you fly low cost.
Expectation: You’re stuck with random seats and no leg space on budget flights
Reality: There’s a way you can get your preferred seat — for free
If you’re a picky seater — cannot sit in the middle, cannot sit in front of the toilet, must sit with your travel partner — it’s no secret that you’ll have to pay extra if you want to confirm where you’ll be sitting.
And prices vary, depending on how “good” the seats are. For example, standard seats at Scoot go for under $10, and those with extra legroom can go up to $99*.
But there is a way to get your choice seat without paying extra, if you’re willing to take a gamble. Simply make a request at check-in for the seat that you want, for example, exit row seats, which have more leg room.
I was once given an exit row seat at check-in simply because the seat was available —so check in early to up your chances.
Expectation: You’ll be left high and dry if your flight is delayed or cancelled
Reality: Most airlines will place you in the next available flight for free
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, rest assured that you will be rescheduled to the next flight for free. Just remember to check your email and phone for any latest updates from the airline.
As stated on its website, Tigerair may even give you a full refund if your flight “departs more than four hours before or after the original departure time,” and if the new flight time clashes with your schedule. Simply notify Tigerair more than four hours in advance.
Expectation: If you cancel your own flight, you won’t get a refund
Reality: You may get a refund if you can’t make your flight
While it’s true that budget airlines have no-cancellation and no-refund policies, there is a way you could get a partial refund if you have unused tickets.
This compensation, offered by Scoot, Jetstar and Tigerair, typically comes in the form of a travel voucher through www.changeyourflight.com.
However, multi-segment and interline trips, and tickets booked through third-party agents, are not eligible for this service.
Expectation: You can’t transfer tickets to other people
Reality: You can amend your passenger details, sometimes for free
Ever had your $10 ticket balloon into $250 just because you needed to correct one small typo in your name?
For most budget flights, expect to pay a change fee — at least $60 for Tigerair and from $50 for Jetstar — plus the fare difference at the time of change if you have to make any tweaks to your name or flight times.
That’s right. You have to top up the extra amount if the fare for your flight has increased. But no refunds will be made if the airfares are lower than prevailing prices.
Tigerair’s website explains its reasoning for this rule: To prevent “resellers from hoarding promotional seats and reselling them at higher prices.”
And you can’t escape this charge even if you’re booking with a travel agency. Though the agency can help co-ordinate the flight changes, you’ll still have to pay the change fees to the airlines, explained a spokesperson from online travel agent Ctrip.
But here’s some good news: Scoot will let you change your passenger details for free within 12 hours of your booking. However, you’ll still have to top up any fare difference.
At AirAsia, names can be edited but tickets are not allowed to be transferred to another passenger. Passengers can change flight timings and dates — but not destinations — for a fee.
The lesson here: Be meticulous, check your flight information closely, and if you need to amend any details, do it quickly before the fares shoot up!
3 infamous air rage incidents
The men who tried to leave mid-flight
It’s worrying what some people are thinking (or not)! Last year, a Chinese man reportedly yanked the exit door open just before take-off “to get some fresh air”.
And in March this year, another man opened the emergency exit of an aircraft as the plane was taking off, claiming he thought the door handle was a handrail.
His actions mimicked that of another traveller at Nanjing Lukou International Airport who did exactly the same thing in February. The traveller’s priceless response? “This door is not important.”
Apparently, neither was his safety!
Poking fellow passengers with a pen
In April, a passenger was removed from a domestic American Southwest Airlines flight for jabbing another passenger with a pen to stop him from snoring. The latter was left with bruises and ink marks on his sleeve. What a rude awakening indeed.
Alec Baldwin kicked off a flight
American actor Alec Baldwin (TV’s “30 Rock”) was booted off an American Airlines flight in 2011 after he refused to turn off his phone before take-off. He was playing an “addicting (sic)” word game, and locked himself in the lavatory after the crew told him off.
“The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language,” said the company in a statement.
By Pamela Chow
*Information as acquired from airline website