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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Budget airline add-ons: Which ones are worth and which are not?

If you are flying budget airlines –such as AirAsia, Scoot, Spicejet then almost everything is chargeable. In this post, I am giving a breakdown of each of those add-ons (such as priority check-in, extra baggage, meals, more hand baggage allowance and so on) and my opinion if they are really worth it.


#
Add-On
What it gets you
Is it worth?
Remarks
1
Priority Boarding
You can board first
NO
Most over-hyped service-costs nothing to airlines and gives a fake VIP feeling to passengers.

Unless you can get off the plane also ahead of others, there is no benefit boarding early, except that you will get luggage space exactly over you. It is better to relax in airport and board few minutes late than sit in cramped seats of the economy class
2
Check-in Baggage
Pre-paid check-in baggage eligibility up to certain Kgs
Depends
Will be required for long haul flights/long duration trips. Sometimes it is enough to buy Check-in bag for one passenger alone instead of buying it for every family member.

Buying at airport will always be expensive. Plan and buy if really needed.
If you are booking tickets 9 months in advance, check in bag can be added later, say few weeks before travel date
3
Extra Cabin baggage allowance
Carry heavier bags on board.
No
Usually 7 Kg of hand baggage is allowed and some airlines allow you to buy few kgs of extra hand baggage allowance for a fee.

If you have heavy laptop, camera and such gear there is a risk of exceeding 7 kgs. Usually hand bags are not weighed, but if your bag looks large/heavy then counter staff may insist to weight it. If you don’t have a check in bag usually a kg or two beyond prescribed limit is ignored but some airlines do insist on extra fee.

If you have passed the check-in counter then you are safe. No airline has time and patience to weight the hand bags before boarding. As long as bag looks normal and you don’t give any hint that it is heavy, you will go through. But it might be unethical to carry more as well.  If two or more of you are flying together, you can split heavy items such that both of you carry less than prescribed limit each.

If airline allows a laptop bag in addition to standard cabin bag, make full use of that.

At some airports checked-in bags take forever to arrive on the belt. In such cases, if you are in a hurry, buying extra cabin bag allowance might be worth instead of check-in bag
4
Meals
Eat food on board at discounted rates
Depends
For short haul flights, I usually do not buy meals. I try to eat at home before leaving or eat after landing, which works out way cheaper. For long haul flights, you might have to buy something on board to keep hunger in control. Usually pre-booking will save you a bit. Depending on your preference and convenience decide on buying the meal
5
Insurance
Some degree of protection/
Compensation against accidents/loss of documents etc
Depends
Every airline will have this option pre-selected. It is easy money for them as probability of you meeting with an accident or losing your stuff is very low.

It is not like moment something goes wrong someone will meet you at wherever you are and hand over the compensation. There are lots of paper work involved to claim insurance, takes few weeks of time at minimum and process is often kept very complex and at times just not worth it.

Depending on your risk profile and gut feeling decide on this.
6
Fly for sure/
Delay compensation
/Alternate flight
Compensation in case of delay
Sometimes
This facility ensures that you either get some compensation or will be put on next available flight, if your flight is cancelled due to airline’s fault (not applicable if delay is because of reasons beyond airline’s control.

If you have a connecting flight or a very important meeting or can’t afford any kind of delay, then this deal will be worth it. Like insurance there will be many terms and conditions as well as process to claim this.
7
Seat Selection
Select a specific seat
No
I would save a few hundred rupees by skipping this. If you are a large group and wants to sit together then this might be worth, else you can skip paying this and try your luck during web- check-in
8
Lounge Access
Comfortable waiting
No

9
Extra Leg room/more recline or more comfortable seats

Depends
Some seats offer more leg room or are conveniently located near the door etc or may have more refline. These seats are sold at a premium compared to standard seats. I prefer to save some money and won’t be opting for these, but if you feel the extra comfort is worth it, then go for it.
10
Empty seat

No
Spicejet promises to leave the seat next to you empty if you pay more. This is usually assuming that flight is not full. I am not sure if they will still honor it if the flight is 100% sold out.

Empty adjacent seat means you will have more space to move around, read or relax.

If flight is not full, usually you are free to sit somewhere else after take off. I would skip this add-on
11
Transit services

Usually Mandatory
Budget airlines having Singapore as a hub charge this fee if you have a connecting flight. Alternate option will be to clear immigration, collect your bag and check-in again for connecting flight which will need visa and time consuming process.
12
Priority Check-in
Helps beat the queue
Usually No
Worth if you plan to arrive late at the airport or airport is likely to be very crowded. If you think 10-15 min waiting in the queue is better than several hundred rupees this add-on costs, then skip it.
13
Credit card payment charges
Payment gateway charges
Try to avoid
Paying by net banking is usually cheaper than paying by credit card. If you pay by IVR, some airlines waive off payment charges. Explore alternatives.
14
In flight WiFi
Limited or Restricted WiFi access in flight for critical communication
No
From what I have seen in Air Asia or read about Scoot, in flight WiFi not worth. There are so much limitations.

However if you have some extremely important message to communicate that can't wait till you land, then go ahead and buy.
15
Combo deals

Evaluate and Decide
Some airlines club multiple add ons into one package and sell it as a package- usually buying a package is cheaper than buying the services individually, but the package will generally have couple of services that no one would buy when sold separately.

Evaluate and decide if you really need these services.
Things to keep in mind-

  • If you keep buying every available add-on, then your ticket will cost way more that what full service airlines charge. Thus one should be careful to select only those add-ons that are absolutely essential.
  • Some charges will be per passenger, per leg. If you have a round trip involving one stop transit each way, it is 4 legs and you will be paying 4x the amount shown.
  • Some services need not be booked for every passenger- for example- It might be enough to buy one check-in bag for the entire family for short vacations
  • Few services can be bought later- if unsure, skip it during booking and add them closer to travel date. If you pay in advance and then change your mind, the money is gone.
What is your take? Which of these services do you buy regularly? Did I miss anything? Do share your opinion.

9 comments :

Ami said...

I completely agree with the pay for your seats add on. It is a complete rip off. Well captured and very useful.

Sims said...

Useful analysis Srinidhi.

Radha said...

People should know about budget fare then only they get benefit and very informative, nice article..keep it up!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Ami, Sims and Radha

Anita said...

Nice points & well explained.
Agree with you, Shrinidhi :)
I buy additional baggage usually!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Anita I know you need lots of that :)

Purba said...

BUt we always opt for seat selection. The last few rows get the stalest air. Makes sense if it's a long haul.

Vishva Bhraman said...

Nice Post

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Purba- Thanks for dropping by and writing a comment. Yes, seat selection is useful if flights are likely to be very full and you need to travel together

@Vishva- Thanks