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29/06/2009 –What Is A Low Cost Carrier?
It is not often I set off to write a post on Flying With Fish where I ask a question that I not only don’t have an answer to, but haven’t the slightest idea how define an answer.
As the line between full-service airline and low cost carriers becomes blurred there is one question that is no longer easily defined…”What is a low cost carrier?”
Traditionally low cost carriers have been well… low cost and no frills. In contrast to low cost carriers a full-service carrier was…well…full service and offered its passengers additional amenities.
While many airlines are removing the basic ‘amenities’ of airlines travel, more commonly referred to as ‘unbundling‘ of airfares, it is becoming more common for these ‘bundled amenities’ to only be made available from airlines defined as ‘low cost carriers.’
An example of this can be directly found in airline checked baggage fees.
The top two ‘low cost carriers’ in the United States, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, offer passenger free checked baggage (Southwest allows passengers two pieces of checked baggage at no fee). The ‘big five’ legacy airlines in the United States all charge for all checked baggage with fees ranging between US$15-to-US$20.
Low cost carrier Southwest Airline allows passengers to book tickets on the phone with a live human for absolutely no fee, while all of the ‘big five’ carriers have fees ranging between US$15-to-US$30 to book a flight with a live human.
So while some airlines such as Ireland’s Ryanair claim to be low cost carriers, while actually not being low cost once all the fees are added up, as I detailed here: 18/05/2009 – Ryanair’s New Fee To ‘Check In’ & The Real Cost Of Some Low Cost Carriers, and other airlines claim to be a low cost carrier such as US Airways that maintains a full ‘legacy airline’ with none of the attributes of a low cost carrier…I am left with these questions…
Is a low cost carrier one that offers cost savings to passengers? Is a low cost carrier one simply with low base-cost airfares? Is a low cost carrier one that maintains a lower cost of operations?
“What is a low cost carrier?”