Low-cost flights are not necessarily cheaper

Ryanair

Israelis are increasing their presence on the flights of easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air. But many things must be taken into account to ensure that fares really are cheaper.

Israeli passengers are voting with their feet and increasing their presence ion the flights of the low-cost airlines, especially easyJet, Ryanair, and Wizz Air, which all offer flights from Ben Gurion airport (and Ovda in the case of Ryanair and Wizz Air) to dozens of destinations in Europe. However, there are several things that should be taken into account before ordering such a flight in order to really benefit from the cheap price that these airlines offer.

1. Do you really save money by ordering early? Yes.

Most of the low-cost airlines start their flight timetables a year ahead of time, which means that you can now already reserve a flight for October 2019. This means that many seats at really low prices will be left available, and flexibility in choosing dates will be greater.

Early or not - the first rule of thumb is to compare the flight price not only between low-cost airlines, but also with regular and charter airlines. Competition in the sector is pushing prices down, and you will sometimes find that after all of the add-ons to the ticket price (mainly for baggage) and taking into account the roundtrip price (which is likely to be very different), the price of a regular scheduled flight can unexpectedly be more worthwhile.

Recommendation: compare the price of the flight also with the regular airlines and try to plan the trip as long as possible in advance.

2. Name of the game: Flexibility

Flight prices are determined by an algorithm that puts supply and demand according to dates and days of the week into the equation, which makes pricing dynamic. If you are flexible, you can therefore choose the cheapest flight in each direction, because differences in prices involving the date or time of the flight can sometimes make a big difference.

For example, on the date of our check, a flight with easyJet on February 27 from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam cost €44.50, compared with €90 the next day and €131 on March 1.

Recommendation: Try to be as flexible as possible about flight days and times.

3. The airlines have changed their luggage policy

Many low-cost airlines, including Wizz Air and Ryanair, recently changed their baggage policy and made their terms more stringent. This means that while previously you could put trolley baggage in the passenger compartment, you now have to pay for it; holders of basic tickets can bring only hand luggage on board.

The aim is to prevent unnecessary delays in takeoffs and reduce the flight weight. Reducing the weight means saving on fuel, which will enable the company (e.g. easyJet) to offer competitive prices despite rising oil prices.

As part of easyJet's change in baggage policy, it added an option for 15 kilograms of hand luggage (the next limit is 23 kilograms) at a price that can also reach €33 in each direction, while Wizz Air has added 10 kilograms of luggage for an additional €7-12.

On Ryanair and Wizz Air, priority passengers (those entitled to board to plane before the others) can board the flight with trolley luggage, in addition to their personal hand luggage. Upgrading to priority status can cost €5-15 for advance orders on Wizz Air, for example. Addition of a suitcase only is possible, but it can be collected only after landing from the conveyor belt.

4. On the airlines' websites, you can find the precise maximum dimensions for hand luggage and suitcases that can be taken on board. Incidentally, the dimensions cited for trolley luggage include the gross length of the suitcase, including the wheels and handle. The airlines do not hesitate to penalize on the spot passengers carrying excess baggage. The penalty can be as much as €50, including putting the case in the airplane's baggage section.

Recommendation: look at the companies' websites and measure the case you plan to take.

5. How much does the flight really cost?

The low-cost flight prices have a very clear rationale: a basic price can be €10 in each direction, but only if you bring nothing on the flight but keys, a wallet, and a mobile phone. Under the airlines' model, which has also spread to the regular airlines, passengers have to pay for everything they consume.

If you see a flight advertised for only £10, as Ryanair sometimes does, you should realize that such a flight does exist, but - and it is a big but - there are qualifications. First of all, it is a one-way flight, and the return flight will probably cost a lot more. Secondly, the price does not include a suitcase or advanced seating, and certainly not food and drink.

In order to calculate the final price, you will have to add all of these costs. Costs such as a charge for paying by credit card and a conversion fee charged by the local credit card company are liable to be added to the price of luggage and seat selection. For example, one low-cost passenger told "Globes" that he learned afterwards that in a charge had been added to the price of the ticket price he bought from Ryanair, because he paid by VisaCard, not Mastercard, and the credit card company therefore charged him a double conversion fee (the company explained that conversion was from euros to dollars and then to shekels; had he paid by Mastercard, the conversion would have been directly from euros to shekels). "I paid 12% more than the ticket price for nothing," he told us.

Recommendation: before paying, it is worthwhile checking the cost of all the extras and of the conversion from foreign currency to shekels.

6. Discount for purchasing services in advance on the website

For the low-cost airlines, the less the passengers bother the ground staff at the airports, the better the flight is able to take off on time. In general, when the airlines can prepare in advance, for example with the quantity of luggage ordered by the passengers, it saves them money. This is also the reason why it is possible and desirable to purchase all of the services in advance on the airlines' website at a price substantially lower than the price charged at the airport.

Note: if you want to pay for service after ordering on the website, you may have to pay more. On Ryanair, for example, adding 10 kilograms of luggage when you order the ticket will cost €8, compared with €10 for adding a suitcase on the website after the order.

The rates at the airport are the highest, and should be avoided at any price. Ordering a suitcase of up to 20 kilograms on Wizz Air costs €20 for those ordering on the website and €60 for those paying for the service only after reaching the airport. Incidentally, El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) uses a similar method for adding luggage on flights to Europe: the price is $35 for ordering in advance and $70 for those paying at the airport.

In general, where adding a suitcase is concerned, because this service is added to the ticket price as a separate unit, it is worthwhile checking how much upgrading the basic ticket to the next price level will cost - classic, flexi, etc. - that includes a suitcase. You will sometimes find that it is more worthwhile.

To illustrate the point, the price of a basic ticket on Wizz Air from Tel Aviv to Sofia on November 7 starts at NIS 290. The next level for the same flight, which includes a suitcase, seat selection, and check-in up to 30 days before the flight (compared with only two days in advance with a basic ticket) will increase the price to NIS 478. At the same time, adding a suitcase of up to 20 kilograms to the basic price costs NIS 178, so the basic price together with the suitcase costs NIS 468. It is therefore definitely worthwhile to switch to the medium price level for only NIS 10 more and receive additional services, such as seat selection.

Another addition that should be taken into account is food - even a bottle of water on the plane. If you did not prepare a well-stocked food basket in advance, you can buy food according to the in-flight menu. The prices are not awful, and the food is getting better, but it is worthwhile taking this expense into account.

Ordering in advance can also save money where food on the flight is concerned. The menu on easyJet, for example, includes a meal for £7 ordered in advance, a breakfast deal for £4, and coffee or tea for £2.50. On Wizz Air, you can buy a sandwich meal during the flight for €7, a croissant for €2.50, a bottle of water for €2 and a bottle of beer for €4.50.

Recommendation: pay for a suitcase and additional services in advance on the airlines' websites.

7. An entire world of services

Airlines have already realized that in view of the drop in flight prices, they have to find additional income instruments. A entire world of services was thus born for which the passenger has to pay. One is seat selection, which was once included in the ticket price and is now one of the services for which the airlines can collect an additional payment - including the regular airlines, among them El Al, whose price for seat selection starts at $15 per direction.

The airline is obligated to provide you with a seat, but if you fly with your spouse or your family and want to sit together with them, you can only do it if you pay for it in advance. Selecting a seat near the window or in the isle, a seat located in the front part of the plane, or a seat with legroom also requires additional payment. On easyJet, for example, a standard seat costs €6-8 per direction, while a seat with extra legroom will cost €25.

On the other hand, priority passengers, who have priority for luggage, will also receive benefits in seating. For example, with Wizz Go, the medium price on Wizz Air, addition al services with the ticket price also include seat selection at no extra charge (except for preferred seats), a suitcase, early boarding, etc. Before hurrying to pay for this addition, you should therefore check again whether it might be worthwhile to go to the next highest price level that includes additional services.

Recommendation: use a calculator when ordering a flight and check whether it is worthwhile switching to the next highest level of ticket.

8. From what terminal do you take off?

Because of cost consideration such as airport taxes, parking, and so forth, most low-cost airlines want to land and take off from relatively small airports. If you want to fly to London, it is worthwhile taking into account that these airlines do not land at Heathrow, a large airport, but at smaller ones, such as Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted. This has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your final destination (hotel location) or the cost of transportation to and from the airport.

After checking which airport the flight goes to, it is worthwhile also checking from which terminal you take off. At Ben Gurion Airport, for example, all of the low-cost airlines take off from Terminal 1, which was built for this specific purpose. This is a smaller terminal, in the renovated building of the original Ben Gurion Airport terminal. Although it does not have as many stores as Terminal 3, the process of going through it can be quicker.

Recommendation: Check in advance which airport you land at and from which airport you take off from.

9. What does the law say in case of a cancellation?

The Consumer Protection Law states that when ordering a product or service in a remote sale (by telephone or Internet), the consumer can cancel the deal for up to 14 days from the transaction date, or when a tourist or aviation service is involved, up to 7 days from the transaction date. This is an important clause, because it overrides the terms of the airlines' flight tickets, especially for inflexible tickets that cannot be canceled.

At the same time, when the company involved has no representative office in Israel, which is usually the case with low-cost airlines, they ignore the law and do not allow flight cancellations unless the ticket specifically allows this.

When can the flight be canceled by law? When it was ordered by an Israeli travel agent (or through an Israeli website). In this case, the agent is obligated to give the consumer his or her money back. Since the agent will not receive reimbursement from the low-cost airlines in many cases, it is no wonder that fewer agents are willing to facilitate such ticket orders.

Another option is to buy a flexible ticket in advance, which obviously costs more, but will allow you to cancel or change it.

Recommendation: Try to order the ticket through an Israel travel agent.

10. How to avoid payment at the airport

Check-in must be done in advance on the airline's website, even if only a few hours before the flight. It takes a few seconds; not only does it save time at the airport; it also saves you money. At Ryanair, for example, you will have to pay €55 for checking in at the airport instead of in advance (a penalty that is likely to cost more than the flight itself), while Wizz Air will charge you an additional €30.

After early check-in, it is worthwhile keeping confirmation - printed or one that includes a scannable code on an app or e-mail.

Recommendation: check in ahead of time.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 6, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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