People who regularly travel by air are well aware of the strategies adopted by low-cost airlines (we shall refer to these airlines as ‘CheapAir’ in this article). Some things that they already do, allegedly to compensate for their cheap base tickets are:
- Charging for food/ drinks in the flight
- Express check-in queues where you pay extra for faster check-in (last time I managed to complete the check-in faster than those who paid the extra amount – I smirked a ‘bye, take your time’ to the folks in the express queue 😉 ).
- Special, variable charges for many of the seats – seats in front, aisle seats, window seats, emergency row, etc.
- Lowering the limits of free baggage and being strict about charging for excess baggage
- Reducing the weight carried by the aircraft to reduce the fuel consumption by:
- Getting rid of ovens from the aircraft (no warm meals)
- Making seats lighter (and making them thinner to accommodate 1-2 rows more)
- Hiring crew with small build (I have also noticed on one of the CheapAirs in India that all cabin crew members are always of one gender – I am not sure whether this is discrimination)
More than a strategy to recover some money, I think it is a strategy to project themselves as really cheap (low-cost or budget), so that the travelers do not critically look at the ticket prices (which are sometimes higher than the ticket prices on ‘full-service’ airlines).
More to Come?
Here is what else you can expect from CheapAirs in the not so distant future:
Free weight limit will be based on the total weight (weight of the traveler + check-in baggage + hand baggage) and the free total weight limit will be really low (maybe 50Kgs?). There will be weigh-in and payment facility at the boarding gates, and special charges for ‘express weigh in’. As this may make people serious about losing weight, the CheapAirs will be partnering with weight-loss industry and getting a commission from them.
Eventually, after everyone shrinks and carries little baggage, the CheapAirs can add more seats and use the baggage hold area better too.
Use of toilets on the aircraft will be charged. The charges will have to be paid before you enter the toilet. The charges will be based on the time that you plan to use the toilet. At the end of the paid time, the toilet door will open and the honored guest (passenger) will be ejected. There will be no refunds for non-usage or reduced usage. All toilet material (water, tissues, loo-paper) will have to be purchased on a non-returnable basis. Used toilet material will have to be carried back by the guest to reduce the cleaning cost/ garbage disposal cost for the CheapAirs.
Eventually, as people get used to not using the toilets, the toilets space will be used to accommodate more passengers (I don’t think that they will make the passengers sit in the toilets, but will modify the aircraft to replace the toilet cubicles with seats 🙂 ).
Garbage clearing and cabin cleaning charges. Every passenger will charged for the amount of mess he/ she leaves behind. A refundable charge will be levied on the ticket and the balance amount will be refunded as a credit for the passenger, to be used towards future travel.
Passengers acting as part-time cabin crew. For a fee, travelers will be able to role-play cabin crew members for a flight. The fee entitles them to a cabin crew uniform and free meal and the privilege of experiencing the glamorous profession of airline crew. Breakages and complaints from other passengers will mean additional fines for the part-time cabin crew.
So, one passenger seat saved and one less cabin crew member. And fees collected from part-time cabin crew.
The CheapAirs are also contemplating disposing rubbish from the mid-air. I think a pilot study is already on, going by the reports here and here.
Eventually, there will be less load to carry, less cleaning cost and faster aircraft turnaround.
A leader in innovative pricing in the ultra-low-cost segment is Ryanair. Here is a video highlighting their ‘ultra cheapness’.
If the video does not load, click here (you will be charged a viewing fee that is computed based on the dynamic market demand-supply situation) :-).
Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature.