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18 Sep 2006

Talkback Msn Money Low Cost Airlines Part 2

Part one of this post prompted me to look further into some of the lesser known low cost carriers out making in roads into the cheap long haul sector and factors affecting future air travel but first let's find out your opinion in our poll:

[poll=9]

Low cost long haul now an option
Zoom Airlines offers low-cost flights between UK hubs London, Glasgow and Manchester and the main cities in Canada and plans to pioneer cheap flights from the UK to the US, Mexico and the Caribbean from early next year. Scottish airline Flyglobespan offers a great variety of destinations both short and long haul from Tenerife, Ibiza and Heraklion but also to (one-way £99) and Boston (commencing May 2007). 
flygib.com
Final agreement between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar's airport operations has paved the way for a crop of new flights to Gibraltar planned to begin next year, a new low-cost airline, Fly Gibraltar, is hoping to launch a number of flights between Gibraltar and the UK and Ireland early next year, once again widening the travel options to Spain's popular Costa del Sol. Finally, you have Sahara Airlines which proved slightly difficult to find on the net given its Indian sister company is called Air Sahara and who apparently offers one-way tickets from London to New Delhi for £115 unfortunately I couldn’t actually test this price claim as I was unable to select London as outgoing or destination airport – some website fine-tuning required I feel! 

The plethora of low cost flight options should lead you to believe there is a huge market opportunity surely meaning the exact opposite; low cost airlines are well on their way to world domination. Well think again according to the Msn Money Special Correspondent Nic Cicutti

The luggage issue
Those who’ve travelled 'budget' are all too familiar with scenes of passengers ripping open suitcases, pants flying humiliatingly in front of the unfazed check-in lady and the grumbling queue behind, in a desperate bid to fit excess baggage in your hand-luggage and even classier carrier bags because you were 200g over the weight limit.  This is further sweetened by news that Ryanair recently implemented a new system of charging for luggage, regardless of the weight.  One must now pay roughly £3.50 per leg as baggage charges, not to mention extra for golf club handling charges roughly £15 each way.

The Security Dilemma
It's quite fair to say the Ryanair's and Easyjet's of this world are making a healthy profit to say the least from excess baggage charges alone but could this be a thing of the past in light of the heightened security and restrictions in UK airports?  The limited allowance of hand luggage means that airlines will find it harder and harder to justify charging customers outrageous amounts of money when they are obliged to put luggage into the hold for security reasons. The dilemma is lowering excess baggage charges (and thus profits) or risk losing many a disgruntled customer to the likes of British Airways, who doesn’t charge just to accept luggage, is pretty lenient on the excess baggage, will happily take your golf clubs for you included in the price of your ticket and don't shut the check-in desk 1 minute before the 40 minute deadline and have the gall to say you were late!

Air Travel Cartoon

The Hassle Factor
Another far more dangerous threat is the travel repercussions of the security restrictions. Whilst business travellers are resigned to the 1 ½ / 2 hour wait (more because they don’t have to wait in the main terminal with the noisy parents and screaming children), leisure travellers could easily be turned off that romantic weekend away by the mere contemplation of all those queues, new parking restrictions and hassle, opting for something closer to home or the Eurostar/ferry option (early Christmas for French property agents then!).

The Climate Problem
Last but certainly not least, the environmental question of aviation pollution (the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases) is being talked about a lot more and the impact of frequent air travel is starting to worry more than just the environmentalists. A media 'hotcake', the ominous 'C' word has prompted European politicians concerned about climate change to get involved and voted for in favour of the “immediate introduction” of a tax on jet fuel for flights within the 25 member states of the EU. Despite jet fuel being the only major fuel that doesn’t carry any duty, consumers of course will still be burdened with the increased end cost. For those of you with guilt issues, you can redeem yourself by offsetting the carbon dioxide emitted from your flights by using a number of new ‘helpful’ websites where you alleviate those carbon worries and pay to plant a tree. Treeflights, whose motto is "You fly we plant", will plant one tree in a Welsh forest for each flight taken, at a cost of 10 (or $19/15). Why Wales gets all the trees is beyond me? Climatecare.org is another site which calculates the carbon offsets of all your gaz guzzling activities and prices them accordingly, you donate and it goes into a variety of climate care projects.

The Money Pit
UK passportAdd into the mix the 29 percent increase in the price of a UK passport from £51 to £66 effective October 5th 2006. It's all getting a bit expensive this travel malarkey. The prospect of aviation fuel hikes added to rising airport taxes and the new poverty tax (an initiative set up by the French government to adding just a few tax dollars to our airline ticket prices to finance action to combat 3rd world poverty and accepted by the UK, Norway, Cyprus, Chile etc) means the inevitable; the cost of air travel is going nowhere but up for the regular air traveller. In the future, consumers will therefore have to make a personal choice on the basis of a variety of aspects – the very real contribution to environmental damage (especially true for short-hauls over long-hauls), the increased taxes and the increased hassle. If you look at low cost travel from this perspective, the days of low-cost short-haul flights may indeed be in for a spot of turbulence.

Why not have your say? Do think low cost airlines are in trouble? Click on Make a Comment or Ask a Question link below and let us know. Alternatively spend 5 minutes and vote in our poll above.
Category: Property Polls

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