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Why Budget Air Travel May Not Be As Cheap As You Think

why budget air travel is not as cheap

Joanne Poh

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The few times I’ve tried to fall asleep on the cold, hard floor of an airport praying that no one would step on my head, I’ve found myself seriously wondering whether I should have just spent that extra $50 to take an afternoon flight.

While budget air travel definitely looks cheaper on paper, if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself paying for it in other ways, which could result in your spending a ton of money to sit in cramped seats without TV screens. That being said, it is possible to hold on tight to your money—you’ll just have to be wise to the following:

1. Don’t Be Late For Your Flight

Everyone has -that- friend who just cannot be on time for a flight. The problem is that when it comes to budget airlines, this is not something to mess around with.

Pay for a full-priced non-budget air ticket and you might be able to reschedule a missed flight. Heck, they might even personally wipe the tears from your eyes if you’ve paid top dollar.

If you’re flying with a budget airline, however, tough luck, as they are usually very strict about the cut-off time for check-in.

If you’re even one minute late, you’ll have to do a lot of begging and perhaps shed some crocodile tears before they’ll let you through. And hey, “getting on the next flight” is not something that comes as a free gift.

Be sure to tell them that something beyond your control occurred, such as the taxi breaking down or your house going up in flames.

2. Bring Only Hand-carry Luggage

Most budget airlines charge extra if you want to check in luggage, which can mean paying $30 to $60 each way, almost the cost of another ticket if you’re flying to nearby destinations. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to charge you to use the toilet onboard.

Considering most budget airlines don’t exactly fly that far, the only time bringing along a big suitcase is justified is if you are going to ride inside it. At least you save on the cost of an air ticket that way.

Weed out unnecessary items like the teddy bear you are convinced you can’t sleep without and your entire shoe collection.

Bring only a backpack, a duffle bag or a roller suitcase that’s small enough to pass for hand-carry luggage to avoid paying additional fees.

3. Pack Something to Eat

Since you’re paying peanuts for your flight, don’t expect to be wined and dined on the plane. You will be charged for anything you consume.

In fact, one time someone I was travelling with got sick on the plane and asked for some water, only to be told by the air stewardess that he would have to pay $4 for a bottle of mineral water (true story).

They will also try to stop you from eating anything not purchased on the plane, but if you’re sneaky enough you can quite easily smuggle in your own food. If you could do it hiding behind your desk in primary school, you can do it now.

So long as you’re not overambitious and don’t try to eat cup noodles or something like that, you’ll be fine.

4. Calculate the Hidden Costs of Flying at Weird Hours

It’s an experience we’ve all had. The budget airline advertises $50 flights to Bangkok and you excitedly log on, only to discover that the only flights for $50 arrive at 3am.

Before booking such flights, add up all the extra costs and discomfort you’ll have to bear as a result of the inconvenience.

Departing from Singapore at 5am means you might have to take an expensive taxi ride with midnight surcharge to the airport, or arrive before midnight and wait 4 hours until you board the plane.

If you have a taste for pain and have already scared away any potential travel companions, sleeping at airports is always an option.

You’ll be cursing yourself for the entire duration, but think back to all those times at work you nipped off to the toilet for a nap, head against the cubicle wall, and you’ll realise you’ve been through worse.

5. Check if You’re Flying Into a Secondary Airport

Just as that distant cousin who failed his PSLE got excluded from the main table at family gatherings, flights from budget airlines are sometimes relegated to secondary or domestic airports.

Everyone knows living far away from the MRT station is quite a tragedy. The same principle applies here.

Depending on how unlucky you are, these airports might or might not be further from the city than the main airport, meaning you could waste more time and money trying to get to your destination.

If you are looking to get away, make sure you’re able to travel with peace of mind with a good travel insurance plan. You can check out all the best plans available on MoneySmart’s new Travel Insurance Comparison Page now!

Have you ever booked a cheap ticket on a budget airline only to end up paying more? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.