24 October 2016
Hidden costs and add-ons could sometimes make travel by budget airlines more expensive than full-service carriers. Photo: CNSA
Hidden costs and add-ons could sometimes make travel by budget airlines more expensive than full-service carriers. Photo: CNSA

Low-cost carriers may not always be the best deal

With the summer travel season approaching, many of my friends are taking a fresh look at low-cost carriers (LCCs) in a bid to trim their holiday expenses.

Some have found really good bargains, such as HK$1,000 air tickets to Taiwan. Since air fares change all the time, and summer is a traditional high season, they’ve been lucky to find such deals.

But it’s not entirely surprising, given the fact that several LCCs have established a presence in Hong Kong.

The budget carriers have launched special offers for flights during some time slots. I bought a ticket to Singapore for just a few hundred Hong Kong dollars and also got a second ticket free.

Most of the special offers are coming online at midnight. I found that the carriers’ websites almost tend to crash soon after the special offers go online, especially if they involve tickets to popular tourist destinations.

The situation is quite similar to what happens after Apple launches new iPhone models.

It’s quite difficult to get hold of the good bargains if you use an iPad or average browsers. One needs a really high-speed and reliable internet connection and the user must also be quick with the fingers if he or she wants to land a good deal. 

That is because there will be a limited number of special offers available for each flight. And the price will increase according to different tiers.

If you plan travel with a big group of friends or family members, it will be almost impossible to find best offers for all of you.

In some cases, you might save a lot on outward journey, but will have to pay the full price when returning home.

Besides, most LCCs have baggage restrictions. Rules on hand-carry baggage are quite strict while check-in baggage could involve additional costs.

Some carriers would also require you to pay extra for meals or drinks on board.

In addition, buyers of the special offer tickets will be required to pay extra fees on top of the price difference if they decide to change the travel schedule.

Hong Kong people usually have very tight schedules, and it’s quite common to redraw holiday plans due to business or personal issues. 

Thus, one could eventually end up paying more that what was originally envisaged.

LCCs lay out all the ticket rules and conditions on their websites, so it’s difficult for a passenger to win a case in a court in the event of a dispute with an airline.

Before booking tickets, it might be a good idea for travelers to check out the offers on full-service airlines.

Many full-service carriers launch special offers from time to time due to the intense market competition. Sometimes, the fares on offer could match those offered by LCCs.

Travelers must make sure that they do enough research and compare prices from different carriers before zeroing on a particular option.

WY Jimmy is the writer of this article, a version of which appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 3.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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