Budget airlines

Although it’s hard to imagine today, not so very long ago, air travel was reserved for wealthy people with exotic tastes. At that time, people dressed up in their finest clothes to travel, airports were classy, and flight crews were there to look after your every need. Add to this, the fact that seats were normally made of leather, were comfortable and came with lots of space and leg-room and you start to see just how much times have changed.

The baby boom generation was the first generation in the UK to experience extensive air travel. Although the first trace of package holidays dates way back to the mid-1800’s when Thomas Cook chartered a train to take a group of temperance campaigners from Leicester to a rally in Loughborough, the man on the street started to really take advantage of this opportunity in the 1950s and 60s.

The introduction of package holidays meant that that the man on the street suddenly had the chance to travel to far flung places without having the knowledge, language skills and funds to put together a trip on their own. Package holidays made travel easy and accessible. From a price point of view, although the early days of foreign travel retained reasonably high prices, the growth in this industry soon saw prices tumble. As a result of all this, the man on the street became used to airports as well as foreign currencies, cultures and travel, mainly thanks to package holidays.

Then, in the mid-1990s, package holidays themselves came tumbling down when easyJet and Ryanair came on the scene. These were the first budget airlines in the UK and they have created what can only be described as a travel revolution. Offering no-frills services and budget basement prices, many regular fliers rejected their services at the start, preferring to pay a premium and enjoy the luxury afforded by the likes of British Airways. How things have changed. In 2014, even the most senior of executives happily queues up to take his cramped seat on Ryanair and easyJet, as well as paying an exorbitant amount of money to be able to have a cup of tea. This is now part of our modern day culture.

At certain times of the year, these budget airlines offer seats for next to nothing in order to fill up planes and fulfill the commitment they’ve made to travellers who have booked ahead and paid higher prices. They are able to achieve this through a myriad of tactics. First they stripped back the services on offer; then they packed in more seats by making the seats smaller and closer together. Next they negotiated reduced airport fees and managed fuel costs by clever forward buying, all of which meant they could bring their prices to rock bottom.

The budget airlines make additional money by selling you the services that other airlines offer as standard on top of your ticket price. Some would argue that this is dirty dealing; others would say it’s giving the consumer choice. How you view it is up to you; but it certainly looks like ‘de-bundled’ travel packages are here to stay.