Is low cost commercial flying viable and what is the alternative?

18 February 2019

Low cost commercial flights on what have been called ‘bucket shop’ airlines have been a feature of the travel market since Laker airways tried to pioneer the budget trans-Atlantic crossing. But in almost every case the idea has foundered because the numbers simply don’t add up, despite the apparent demand for such services.

The latest victim of this trend seems to be Norwegian Airways which has tried to use ultra-modern, more efficient aircraft to reduce the cost per passenger dramatically. Once again, despite plenty of takers, this model of commercial flight seems to have failed with Norwegian seeking significant re-financing from its shareholders because of large losses!

Are they truly low cost airlines or are the ‘real’ costs simply hidden?

Whilst on the surface the cost of flights seems to be significantly lower than they were, much of this reduction has been disguised in hidden charges for baggage, food on board and car parking etc. So when all is said and done, passengers actually rarely realise the true total cost of their travels.

security check sign hanging from airport terminal ceiling

Has this made air travel a commodity product?

Low cost flights are in some ways a good thing. They make the world more accessible to more people which is far more equitable. On the down side, however, it has turned flying into a commodity and as a result more often than not passengers feel ill-treated and unloved!

And extra security has certainly not added to our enjoyment of the experience!

It is certainly true that we live in a more dangerous era that ever before and as a result security at airports has had to be stepped up to reflect this growing reality! For those wanting a better, more comfortable travel experience there is always the option to upgrade to Business or First Class. But this is not only significantly more expensive but it does not mitigate the need to arrive at the airport hours before an international flight or the queues to get through security to get onto the plane!

Are there any alternative options?

Well contrary to popular perception, privately hiring an aircraft is not just the preserve of the rich and famous or the busy international businessman, it is in fact an option that is becoming open to all of us. Two factors have really helped in this regard:

– Firstly the ability to dry hire an aircraft can make it significantly cheaper. This means that you hire the plane without fuel or a pilot. This means that the owner of the aircraft doesn’t need an Air Operators Certificate allowing them to rent you the plane far more cheaply. This also allows you (and your pilot) to be in control of where you refuel which can make a significant difference to the cost.

– Since 2017 the use of single engine turboprop aircraft has been allowed in Europe. As these planes are smaller they can access smaller airfields which can reduce the travelling time to and from the airfield but often the landing fees and cost of refuelling are much lower.

So dry hiring a single engine turboprop aircraft is the way to go!

It would seem that we now have an alternative to commercial flying that is both growing in accessibility and popularity for ordinary travellers like you and me!

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