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Discount Airline Tickets

Discount airlines, also known as no-frills carriers or low cost carriers (LCC), are airlines that offer cheap flights. In this article we will tell you all you need to know to book a discount airplane ticket, but also about the shortcomings and the specificity of the no-frills airlines' service.

Note that most discount airlines do not offer intercontinental flights. Here are some that do offer such flights: Condor, Air Arabia, Aer Lingus, AirBerlin, Jetstar, Atlas Blue. The advice bellow will mostly apply to shorter flights.

Why discount airlines exist?

In theory, scheduled airlines can now be divided into two categories: traditional (‘full-service’) and no-frills – often called low-cost – airlines.

A more accurate label for the latter would be ‘low-costs’ airlines. No-frills carriers studied traditional airlines and realised that there were many ways to reduce outgoings substantially. By not serving free meals, fewer crew are required and the cost of food is saved. Also, less cleaning is necessary, so planes need less time on the ground. Aircraft can operate more flights per day and thus be used more efficiently.

Taking advantage of the internet, no-frills airlines avoid paying for high-rent, high-street agents and call centres. Other outgoings that are reduced or totally eliminated include advertising, travel agents’ commissions, and the printing and distribution of tickets.

Many of the things once included in the cost of a ticket are now charged for as extras. One analyst has commented: "The only thing Ryanair does not charge for yet is using the lavatory." Most of these specifics are covered in the third part of this article.

How to Get The Cheapest of Cheap Flights

A rule of thumb is to book online. Most discount airlines issue all of their tickets online and phoning them will result in a surcharge or higher fare or they may only offer web sales.

Book well in advance if you can. The cheapest fares are the first few seats on an aircraft, so book 3-4 months ahead. If there is nothing particularly cheap when you first look, and there is a long time before your trip, you might be better off waiting for a seat sale.

Go for it - do not wait forever! If you see a brilliant deal, just go ahead and book it, even if you're not sure if you will be able to use the flight. Go places you've never heard of, just because you can. Enjoy the low-cost airline boom while it lasts, and have fun.

Fly off-peak (if possible). Discount airlines (and the others, for that matter)take advantage of increased demand on tickets during holidays to increase ticket prices. Some flight fares may go up two - three fold during official holidays, school holidays, etc. Winter is generally a low-season. Friday and Sunday evening flights tend to be more expensive. Early Sunday morning and and late night flights are usually cheaper.

Book during sales is another good advice you could follow. Most low cost airlines offer seat sales at regular intervals. This happens particularly during off-peak times of year (winter for example). There can be incredibly good deals on offer during such sales like a zero cost ticket (you pay only taxes and charges).

Hidden Costs, Possible Complications and Other Specifics of Discount Airlines

Check In Baggage has strict limits in all the low-cost airlines. 15-20 kilos and just one check in bag is usual, some even charge additionally for any check-in baggage at all. Those that have just lower size and weight limits usually charge high fees for any baggage above those. As a side-effect of charging for check-in baggage, low-cost carriers are also more strict on the weight and size of carry-on baggage (1 bag 55x40x20 cantimeters, 10 kilos max is usual).

The Airports to which discount airlines fly are usually older ones or ones that are well away from the advertised destination. Make sure you factor the cost of transportation to your actual destination, and the additional time it may take. Of course, there are exceptions and in some cases the obscure airport might even be closer to where you want to get to. In another example - most no-frills flying to Rome used to use Fiumicino Airport - the old small Rome airport but now land at Leonardo Da Vinci - the airport used by most airlines.

In-flight food and drink is something you will almost always have to pay extra for on a discount airline. Count on paying upwards of €5 (£3.50, US$6) for a sandwich, or €3 (£2, US$3.50) for tea/coffee. You can try and bring your own food and drink but some airlines make an announcement pre take off to say that you are not permitted to consume your own food and drink. Be aware that the crew earn commission on in-flight sales so they may ask you not to eat your own food. On a side note - most fluids are banned from passing through security in airports, so you will have to buy any drinks to take on flights after the x-ray machines.

Connecting flights is another area where low-cost carriers are regulated differently. Most discount arilines do offer only Point To Point flights. If you are making a journey that involves a change of plane, even on the same carrier, you will have to check your luggage in for each leg of the journey. In addition, with some airlines (including Ryanair), if your first leg is late you will not be transferred onto another plane if you miss the second. Factors such as the distance between terminals, the reliability of the airline into the airport, the length of time needed to clear security and customs, and the required advance check-in time should be considered when calculating how much connection time you need. Being risk averse may mean allowing up to 3 hours for a connection.

Changing flight dates is something that doesn't work so well with low-cost carriers. There will usually be restrictions or costs on making changes to your booking. A fee is usually charged in addition to any fare difference between the flight you have chose. There are often restrictions on how close to the departure date and time you can make changes.

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