More than a decade back, in 2003, flying was a fancy thing to do. I was overwhelmed for my first flight experience with route from Surabaya to Jakarta. I put on my best clothes and shoes (of course!). It was an era where not everyone could (afford to) fly but it was the way my mom rewarding me for a good grades at school. Did I mention that my parents are also a travel addicts?
Time goes on, flying becomes more and more popular; numerous new airlines companies started to establish in Indonesia. By the time, some survive, some others must go bankrupt for many reasons but many more were popping-up. For example, in Indonesia, to provide a lower cost flight, Garuda Indonesia was initiating its own low-cost brand, Citilink. It was my favorite airlines at that time due to its time punctuality was adopted from Garuda Indonesia. Then Lion Air started to provide a friendly budget flights. Some years after, budget airlines companies Malaysia origin, Air Asia, and Singapore origin, Tiger Air, were also in competition to provide as low as possible prices so everyone can fly domestically and internationally.
How couldn’t it be tempting to find a return flight Jakarta-Phuket for only IDR 700,000 (USD 54) from Air Asia? Air Asia made my first trip abroad happened in 2011. Now and then, I’ve tried some other budget airlines like Jetstar, Vueling, Easyjet and Transavia also I’ve booked with Scoot and Cebu Pacific. In case you want to learn how to travel in budget and to find the cheap flights, check this article.
Back to topic, going with budget airlines feel so perfect when all goes well as planned but if otherwise happens, it could be too upsetting. So before you decide to go for budget airlines, you need to figure out some essential precautions that will be useful to avoid disappointment. These are the list of essential precautions that I collect based on my own experience (and might be still counting).
1. Be Aware of the Other Fees
So you search a flight through these flight scanner tools like Skyscanner, Momondo or Google Flight and find this USD 30 flight Jakarta-Singapore? Brace yourself and don’t fall to false hope just yet, you may need to verify whether the price is all inclusive or conditional. Before making plan and telling your friends that you find this cheap price, you should click on the link and go all the way next-next-next until the final payment page. You could be surprise that there are still some fees to be added to that USD 30 like fuel fee, seat fee, baggage fee, airport tax, meals fee, credit card fee, etc. If you’re still fine with the price amount showing up on the final payment page, you might want to book it immediately before the price is gone.
2. Check the Time Punctuality Trend
We all have the same opinion about delayed flight. Delay sucks, even more if you have another flight ahead with different booking number or even different airline. I fly a lot, above average among my friends, I experienced a lot of pissed-off moment caused by flight delay and I get surprised when my flight is on-time.
It is interesting observation that I did sometimes ago for how it made a big different to fly with the same airline but different flight number. First flight is unlikely to be in delay, last flight is prone to delay. The operational team also makes a different, for example if I go with AirAsia to Kuala Lumpur, I will choose to go with the flight number started with AK instead of QZ or XT. AK flight is operated by AirAsia Malaysia while QZ or XT are operated by AirAsia Indonesia (no offense but it happens).
You can’t be sure that your wanted flight will be on-time, but what you can do is type the flight number on flightaware and learn its trend of time delay and punctuality. If the trend shows that the flight is always on delay for 10-30 mins, for me it’s fine because normally they will catch up the delay time on the sky, but if the delay trend is more than that you might want to select another flight number or another airline.
3. Check the Condition of Carriage
Who’s guilty to just tick the box “understand/accept the terms and conditions” without even understand it? Well, me too and trust me it could lead to devastation when something unexpected happens.
The most important thing that I’ve learned lately is to check the conditions of carriage article 9 related to the flight reschedule, delays and cancellation. If you don’t read this article 9 carefully (like me before), you could be disappointed when the airline decides to reschedule your flight and refuses to give you a refund when you want to cancel because the schedule is not convenient for you.
The condition of flight reschedule by AirAsia is, they hold the right to reschedule your flight within 3 hours before or after the initial schedule. But under some circumstances, they did give me a full refund in my AirAsia credit shell when they rescheduled my flight 45 minutes earlier (my original flight was at 5:30 am and they moved it to 4:45 am which is too early for me). As I’m a frequent flyer of AirAsia, I also experienced the cancellation of flight where they give me two options either to choose for the most convenient flight schedule available or grant me a full refund. AirAsia is also handling a request of reschedule fairly with agreeable reschedule fee. I think those are the reasons why I prefer to fly with AirAsia in addition to their BigPoin program.
The next experience is, I did book with Cebu Pacific for my flight from Boracay to Cebu. Few weeks before the flight, they reschedule my flight 2 hours later of the initial schedule. The schedule didn’t match with my plan so I had to cancel to fly with them and they provided me a full refund. While with Vueling was different, I was already inside the aircraft expecting to bound from Barcelona to Genoa when suddenly I felt strange that the aircraft was quite hot inside. Seemed like the air condition didn’t work and in the end all passengers were requested to leave the aircraft and the flight was cancelled. Vueling provided me one night stay at Gran Melia hotel and an early replacement flight.
The latest case that gives me a lesson to clearly understand the Article 9 is with Scoot. So I booked this perfect schedule including stopover in Singapore for two people with route Krabi-Singapore (stopover)-Jakarta. The initial schedule was perfect, we should be arriving in Singapore at 6 pm and re-depart to Jakarta the next day at 8 am. We booked it because it has been quite long time that we didn’t visit Singapore so we would like to spend a short night in Singapore before the early flight back to Jakarta. This fairy tale doesn’t happen with Scoot, a month before the flight I received an email from Scoot notifying that the Krabi-Singapore flight was rescheduled 2 hours later of the initial schedule. So this new schedule would make us arrive in Singapore at 8 pm, which is too late. Strangely, the reschedule notification email doesn’t leave us any option but to acknowledge and agree with the new schedule. Of course we didn’t push that button. I made a call to Scoot, hardly catching their busy customer service on the line for hours. Sending a message from their website yet leads to no feedback. So I initiated a contact through social media, with some explanation of my situation, they really do not give me any refund if I decide to cancel my flight with them. Apparently, their Article 9 condition obliges the passengers to agree if they reschedule the flight not more than 8 hours difference from the initial schedule. Oh God, seriously? This airline is really allowed to reschedule any of their flight for up to 7 hours 59 minutes and refuses to provide any refund? Generally speaking, any plan could be ruined with such reschedule policy.
From now on, you may want to fully understand the condition of carriage before ticking that box.
So those are the essential precautions that you should note before going for budget airlines. Nothing is perfect and sometimes we need to compromise between the comfort, the cost and the peace of mind.