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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Flying

The European low-cost airline market - how can they be so cheap to fly?
• Nick Millman

to the airport

There has been an upsurge in the low-cost airline market in the last 20 years. (Up until Covid-19)

Notable Airlines include EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and in the USA, Southwest Airlines who have been running since the 1960s.

The principle behind it, is that these airlines can offer much cheaper airfares then the traditional national airlines such as BA (British Airways), Lufthansa, and SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and so on. This is because they don’t have the high-cost features that these traditional national carriers have. These may include separate of economy, business class and first-class seating.  

What are some of the reasons that people can fly so cheap on these low-cost airlines?

Firstly, EasyJet for example only use the A320 (Airbus) aircraft meaning they benefit from all their staff including Pilots, Stewardesses, Engineers, and Ground Crew, only training on one specific type of aircraft, thus saving costs and time. This is in stark contrast to national airlines where they may have up to 10-15 different variants of aircraft, thus pilots for example would need training and retraining for 1 or more specific aircraft. 

Secondly, Ryanair mostly fly to smaller airports that are normally a long way from their intended destinations. For example, they fly to Milan-Bergamo Airport, which is near the town of Bergamo, 1 hour from Milan. The point is that the take-off fees, landing-fees and airport slots a lot cheaper for the airline. In addition, it attracts a lot of much needed investment for the smaller airports.

Thirdly, EasyJet, Air Berlin and Wizz Air for example offer food and drink on the flights, but the passengers must pay for these as extra. Furthermore, the low-cost airlines encourage passengers to book through their websites or 3rd parties such as Opodo ( rather than call dedicated call centre within their own airline company.

Low cost airlines also reduce the legroom in economy class (30") and the customer has to pay for food or drink onboard. Additionally, everything is done online. Customers book their tickets online and submit complaints online too. (Often ignoring requests for refunds for months at a time).  Passengers must also pay for priority booking, seat choices and luggage, fast-tracking through security and credit card fees, which can make flying as a family very expensive and this is where the low-cost airlines make the bulk of their money.  They actually fly the passengers below cost and make their profits from the ancillaries.

It can be ascertained that these are some of the reasons as to how low-cost airlines can fly so cheaply and there has been a ‘boom’ in this industry since the late 1990s, with airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair taking a huge market share of the European Air industry.

However, since the advent of the Covid crisis, there has been a sharp decline in this industry with massive decreasing ticket sales and destinations and impending closures of airline companies.  Until rapid airport testing is introduced no one sees ‘flying’ coming back soon. Turkey for example, a major holiday destination, just got put on the red list. Few countries in Europe remain one can fly to this October without having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival back in the UK. If you intend to fly, check the list before flying

© Nick Millman October 6th 2020

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