Southwest Airlines (whose IATA code is “WN”) is one of the original “disruptors” in the airline industry. When it commenced operations in 1971, founder Herb Kelleher brought affordable air travel to a burgeoning middle class in the United States; flying was no longer reserved for the one-percent. It was a refreshing addition in to the market, but Southwest Airlines has since grown into an outlier. Its barebones passenger experience doesn’t match those on legacy carriers, but it is, price-wise, definitely not an LCC. Some might argue that its fares are overpriced, whereas others would simultaneously claim that Southwest is the best deal in the sky. Whether or not it’s a good value depends on who you ask, and such ambiguity makes the airline all the more intriguing and worthy of a closer look.Continue reading “WNning on Southwest Airlines”
A proud symbol of the era of affordable air travel
The 787s that Norwegian Air uses for its longhaul operations are far from glamorous — expect slimline seats clad in grey “leather” for as far as the eye can see — but they are representative of an undeniably positive development in the commercial airline industry: more people can afford to travel. Norwegian occupies an interesting position in the market; it was one of the first carriers to take the low-cost/LCC model and successfully apply it to intercontinental travel. Its fares are so consistently low (it’s not unusual to see oneway transatlantic tickets go for around $100), but correspondingly, it’s natural to wonder if there’s any sort of catch involved. Is flying Norwegian an absurdly miserable experience or is it a viable option for higher flyers?
Norwegian Air’s strong reputation is due in part to the relatively comfortable accommodations it features on its sleek new planes, but its affordable airfares are equally as important in bolstering the airline’s status. There are some downright incredible deals to be had! That said, Norwegian shares a business model with an infamous counterpart in the United States: Spirit. The former has been praised as an innovative disruptor in the long haul transit market, whereas the latter is reviled for its many layers of (perceived) awfulness… even though they both run pretty similar operations. Don’t be deceived by Norwegian’s cheery Scandinavian/Ikea-esque branding; crafty bargain hunters must pay careful attention when they’re booking flights. Otherwise they risk getting trapped in a fee-laden hell all in the name of getting a “cheap” fare… and that’s definitely not higher flyer!
The introduction of new, remarkably fuel efficient planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 have led to two significant developments in the commercial airline industry: the emergence of really, really long routes (think Singapore to “New York” nonstop) and the application of the low-cost-carrier business model to longhaul flying. The former is useful and convenient for premium passengers especially, but the latter is special because it affords more people more opportunities to travel. Norwegian Airlines is one of the most prominent operations to do this; it’s taken advantage of relatively lax EU laws and has set up shop all over Europe to offer cheap flights to the Americas and Asia. Is it glamorous? Far from it. For the price though, Norwegian is comfortable enough and can certainly be considered “higher flyer” for its excellent value proposition.
A rewardingly cheap experience for the brave
Ah, Spirit. The airline that travelers love to hate, yet somehow keeps convincing those who say “I’ll NEVER fly Spirit again” to give the ultra low cost carrier another go. There are a number of good reasons why Spirit has become as notorious as it has, but perhaps none are as infamous as its fee-driven business model. After flying on it a few times though, I’m convinced that Spirit is a viable option for higher flyers, albeit with a few conditions. You can’t go in expecting Emirates — this passenger experience will be much more akin to riding a public bus (that flies!) — but you can definitely count on a safe, affordable, and effective mean to your end. For those reasons alone, it’s worth your while to at least consider Spirit for accomplishing your travel goal(s).
Spirit offers a far from glamorous flying experience, but its no-frills service approach isn’t exactly the reason why the airline so reviled. Its flight crews and staff are helpful and competent and pretty kind, while the carrier’s operational reliability is just about in line with everyone else in the industry. Its fleet is even the youngest in North America! Spirit is fine — definitely no more awful than its legacy competitors like American, Delta, and United — and its fares are markedly cheaper. “How does the airline make money?” you might wonder. Easy: its notorious fees make profit margins skyrocket. You definitely wouldn’t be the first to scream “Spirit sucks!” as your expenses balloon and frustrations mount… but you don’t have to suffer this fate.
The key to happiness, some say, is to keep low expectations. You may agree with that sentiment, you may not, but when you’re planning a trip on Spirit, it definitely helps to have that frame of mind. Its tickets, which are (affectionately?) referred to as “bare fares,” are just that: means for you to get from point A to point B. You’ll have to pay extra for everything that you might possibly want on a plane — including drinking water — but if you know what you’re getting in to, you’ll tolerate Spirit at the minimum. If you can play its game and avoid making some far-too-common mistakes, you’ll easily save a lot more than what you would on a legacy carrier. Your fatter wallet alone can be worth those frustrating, tacked-on fees, and while the travel experience itself is far from perfect, who cares at prices like these? #FlyHigher indeed.
“Should I pay for that?”
This shouldn’t be a surprise given the headline, but this post won’t be a full-blown review. It primarily seeks to answer some frequently asked questions: are a few extra inches of space/baggage/food worth the extra cost? If you’re flying on a low cost carrier like AirAsia, there’s a good chance you’re budget conscious and you want to balance your comfort with your expenses. Perhaps this post will give you a better sense of what to expect. Continue reading “Air Asia Hot Seats mini-Review”