5 reasons why you should pay more to avoid flying low-cost

Feb 28, 2020

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At first glance, a £10 one-way ticket with a low-cost airline might seem like an absolute bargain — and it is. But, when you unpack what you actually get for your money and the benefits you would get by paying more to fly a full-service carrier, then questions about the true value of your bargain ticket start to come into play.

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1. Earning miles and status

As a student, I loved to snap up super cheap one-way fares with low-cost carriers. It made travel possible on a tight budget and I discovered places I’d never even heard of, which is great. That said, if only I’d been a savvier traveller and understood the true value of the points and miles game I’d have known that the few hundred pounds I saved over the years could have been better spent flying with British Airways, for example, earning Avios and Tier Points and investing in attaining British Airways Executive Club status. The miles and points game isn’t a quick fix. It takes planning, patience and flexibility — three things I wasn’t great at. If I’m describing the way you travel now, then it’s not too late to travel smarter. Earning points and miles can set you up for free travel down the line and elite status perks.

Related reading: Is a Tier Point run worth it for British Airways Silver status?

2. Elite status perks

Speaking of elite status, if you fly with a low-cost carrier, you’re throwing away all those extra perks that you’ve earned and deserve. Say goodbye to lounge access and hello to waiting longer to board the plane and go through airport security.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

That’s not totally true, there are some great Priority Pass lounges you can access as a benefit through certain credit cards — but what if you need to change your flight at the last minute on the day of departure? BA Gold members can (Gold membership requires 1,500 Tier Points). Low-cost flyers generally cannot.

Related reading: 9 of the best Priority Pass lounges around the world

3. The airports are often better

Ever had to get up at 3 a.m. to travel an hour or more to Stansted or Luton to be greeted with a sticky table in Wetherspoons and a stag do downing pints before 5 a.m.? It’s not a pretty sight.

Of course, this can happen at any airport. But the likelihood is far lower at Heathrow for example, where you’re more likely to be able to find a bit of peace and quiet before that early flight. And getting there is often easier.

It’s not just departure airports that are problematic. Low-cost airlines often fly you to an airport that’s nowhere near the city you’re supposed to be going to. In recent years, this has gotten better as now the airline puts in brackets the actual place that you’ll end up in. As an example, when booking a flight to Barcelona on the Ryanair website, three airport options come up. First Barcelona (BCN), then Barcelona Girona (GRO), which is 91 km away from the city, and also Barcelona Reus (REU), which is 104 km away.

What would you rather do? Pay less money then have to cough up extra for a transfer and waste an hour or more of your trip? Or, pay more to start with, save time and fly as close as possible to your end destination?

4. Extra fees

A plane ticket for a tenner — winning. But, is it really only £10? If you need to check in a bag, then you’re already going to have to pay extra. With Ryanair’s new stringent policy, if you’re taking anything bigger than a handbag or a bag that doesn’t fit under your seat, then you’ll also have to pay more — even for hand luggage.

On top of that, there’s picking a seat. Extra annoying if you want to sit next to the person you’re travelling with or guarantee yourself the window seat for the views of the blues.

Related reading: 12 packing hacks for flying low-cost airlines

(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

That’s not forgetting the extra you might have paid for a Stansted Express train if you’re catching a Ryanair flight. Add all that up, and you might find that the most value for you is actually in paying a little more and going with a full-service carrier, rather than a low-cost airline.

There are even some cases when the basic fare on a budget airline is almost the same as a full service.

For example, as of time of publication, the cheapest one-way ticket with British Airways to Barcelona was £46. A checked bag of up to 23 kgs and free seat selection from 48 hours prior to departure brought the total to £66.

(Image courtesy of BA)

On the same day, a one-way to Barcelona from Stansted with Ryanair costs £43. To check a hold bag (of slightly less at 20 kgs), there’s an additional £33 to pay. With that, you also get a small hold piece of luggage, free airport check-in and a reserved seat.

(Image courtesy of Ryanair)

BA for £66 or Ryanair for £76?

Granted, it’s not going to always work out like that, and most of the time Ryanair‘s fare before adding the extras will probably be significantly less than BA. This does go to show, however, that it’s always worthwhile to work out the value you’re getting for your money.

Related reading: Everything you need to know about flying Ryanair

5. Flight times

Low-cost airlines are notorious for leaving either really early in the morning or landing really late in the evening — or even the early hours of the morning when you come home.

For example, on 11 May, a flight back from the Greek island of Mykonos with EasyJet costs £71 and BA costs £96 — that’s a difference of £25. The flight times of the BA flight are considerably better, getting you back into London at a sensible time around 6 p.m.. Landing at Gatwick with EasyJet at 11 p.m. means you’re not likely to get home until midnight.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Yes, the difference in flight times here isn’t that extreme, but trust me, there are times when it’s a lot worse. Taking into considering the other points raised above, I’m sure you’ll be able to see even more value in paying the extra £25 than just landing back home a few hours earlier.

Related reading: Everything you need to know about flying EasyJet

Bottom line

As you can see, there are lots of factors that come into play when considering the value of paying more to fly a full-service carrier than going with a low-cost option.

Each of the points raised as stand-alone arguments might not seem strong enough to sway your wallet but when all factors are considered together it’s hard to deny there can be some real value in spending a bit more in the short term to increase the value you get for your money and maximise your travel in the long term. That said, if the low-cost ticket is too enticing, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Featured image by Bloomberg/Getty Images

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