Their own game

I have seen a lot of debate around annoying practices no-frills airlines put in place to beef up their ARPU, like charging for going to the bathroom or the privilege of airborne yapping (Ryanair) or to check in (all); more example of creative ideas will appear soon.

I have long wondered how an airline can survive on EUR 19.99 tickets, but I am no expert and as I travel a lot without being the sultan of Brunei, the reduction of my travel costs are an important factor. Like everyone, I do not particularly enjoy being abused or treated like cattle, so I’d like to offer my five readers some tips to avoid frustration and stress when using cheap airlines. In other words:

Beating low-cost airlines at their own game

Let’s start with the basics:

  1. always web check-in (save cost of airport check-in but, most importantly, save time not having to line up at adroitly understaffed desks)
  2. learn to play the luggage game (I have posted before on the art of traveling light, so no need to repeat)
  3. working on a low cost flight is almost impossible (at least with my MacBook Pro) so don’t bank on it

Now on to intermediate stuff:

  1. Buy your own food & beverages before boarding – airports are overflowing with sugars and unsaturated fats, but also on vegan sandwiches, fruits juices and decent coffee; I wish more of them had sushi bars (but I can tip my hat at Dusseldorf and Brussels; Berlin even has a take-way one; in London there’s good seafood bars in T1 and T2, but don’t expect sushi there: it’s only on the menu)
  2. Ditto for bathrooms: more comfort, more choice, more hygiene (in most cases)
  3. Web check-in should ensure good boarding priority, but I do consider buiying things like the EasyJet year-long SpeedyBoarding card which gives you 365 days of priority boarding  just by flashing the card at the gate. Priceless !

To finish off with advanced tips:

  1. Keep your passport at hand until you sit down. They are obsessed with security and perusing the damn thing fifteen times is their recipe to avoid the son of bin Laden boards one of their flights
  2. Priority boarding ensures you can head straight for the emergency exit seat; I have seen attendants trying to talk people out of taking those seats, which seems futile at best given most low-cost flights are packed. Anyway, do not relent: put your bag, your coat and your scarf in the overhead bin, sit down, smile and just ignore them. After a few seconds they’ll go harass someone else.
  3. Avoid all interactions with the crew: don’t buy anything, don’t ask anything, don’t make eye contact, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t carp because there’s no room in the bins, don’t try to stuff your briefcase under the seat in front of yours if you are on an emergency exit row.
  4. An inflatable neck pillow, eye mask and a fully charged iPod are all you need to forget where you are for the next two hours.

Remember, you traveled to London and back for less money you paid for the airport car park. You are winning !


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