Interest rates are up and the cost of living is biting hard, which means budget airlines have never seemed more enticing.
Sure, your luggage may not come with you, and you will be forced to sit through all sorts of annoyances and indignities for the pleasure of flying – but hey, at least you’re getting away, right? While most of that is true, there are ways to make even the gnarliest budget carrier tolerable.
First, read the fine print. So many of the hassles and extra costs that travellers get hit with when travelling with budget carriers happen because they are unaware of the quirks or peculiarities of that particular airline.
Some, like Ryanair, force you to print your boarding pass before arriving at the airport (or you get hit with a huge fee). Some, like Jetstar, will be very strict on the weight of your hand luggage (and if you’re over, you get hit with a big fee). Some will close their check-in procedures well before the flight departs.
You need to be ready for this by carefully reading all documentation beforehand, and adhering to all the rules.
Next, get to the airport early. You will probably have to queue for longer than you’re used to. Part of the budget experience is that these airlines are chronically (and wilfully) understaffed. To ensure you get on the flight with as little stress as possible, give yourself plenty of time.
The best plan with a budget carrier, too, is to travel with hand luggage only. This will help you avoid those check-in queues entirely, plus reduce the chance of all sorts of hassles, from “delayed baggage” – ie, they lost it – to the exorbitant price charged for the privilege of having those bags go missing. Just ensure you stick to the weight limit.
Upon boarding, it’s not nice to have to say this, but you need to be one of those people trying to be first in line. Don’t wait until the end because there probably won’t be any room left in the overhead bins. Get on early, find space for your luggage.
Now that you’re flying, make life as comfortable as if you were travelling on a full-service carrier by bringing your own luxuries. So that means a tablet (or at least a phone) loaded with enough movies and TV shows to get you through the flight. Or bring a book if that’s more your thing.
Bring your own food, if the offerings on board are going to be of low quality, or too expensive. Though also be aware that some budget carriers – notably AirAsia X – offer surprisingly good cuisine.
If it’s an overnight flight, bring a neck pillow, an eye mask, ear-plugs, moisturiser, and sleeping pills (if that’s a thing you normally use). Bring a bottle of water onboard too.
And finally, bring with you a sense of impermeable calm, a zen that allows the inevitable hassles of budget travel to wash over you like a river over a stone. And look forward to your holiday.