/ Travel & Leisure

Have you fallen out of love with no-frills airlines?

Plane with a love heart

This year’s Which? airline survey has seen no-frills carriers take a nose-dive, while all-inclusive airlines are flying high. It seems we all appreciate good service in the air, but how much more are we prepared to pay for it?

According to our survey of more than 5,500 Which? members, Swiss, Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa are the top three short-haul airlines.

Fly with these and you’ll find that in-flight meals, drink and hold baggage are included in the fare, as is online check-in and choosing a seat online in advance. With Swiss, snowboarders and skiers can also take gear for free on top of the luggage allowance.

All the added airline extras

These flourishes or ‘frills’ are the first things to go when we fly ‘budget’. Languishing at the bottom of the table of 16 short-haul airlines were Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways and Monarch. These four all charge extra for food and drink, hold luggage and reserving seats in advance.

Which? airlines survey short-haul airlinesWhat seems like an attractive fare at first can soon mount up. Many respondents complained about extra charges, including ‘rip-off’ card surcharges. So have we simply had enough of flying with no-frills airlines?

The answer seems to be no. In our survey more people flew with no-frills easyJet than any other airline on short-haul flights.

We all want a good deal, so perhaps we’re happy to forego the luxuries as long as the price is right. But even if an airline offers good fares, that’s no excuse for poor service. For instance, Ryanair and Thomas Cook Airlines only scored two out of five stars for value for money. And Ryanair only scored one star for its food and drink and boarding arrangements.

Can no-frills be a good thing?

Perhaps the biggest reason for people taking no-frills flights is the airlines’ wide range of routes to places you can’t otherwise easily get to. I’ve definitely gone with no-frills airlines in the past for this very reason. And on a short European flight, I’d rather go for a cheaper fare that doesn’t include a meal, because I wouldn’t need to eat on-board.

Plus, Aer Lingus came near the top of our survey table, proving that no-frills airlines can offer a good service. You’ll also have to pay extra for food and drinks on-board this Irish carrier and to choose a seat in advance online. But its airline staff, boarding arrangements and cabin environment all got high ratings.

Do you use no-frills airlines, and if so, why? If you prefer all-inclusive flights, how much extra are you prepared to pay?

Do you fly with no-frills airlines?

Yes (41%, 117 Votes)

Only when I have to (41%, 116 Votes)

No (18%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 289

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Jurgen UK says:
20 December 2012

“Low Cost Airline-Bashing” is currently in but not to be taken too serious as you will see all the grumbling faces again on your next cheap flight. I think everybody knows by now what to watch out for and what to expect. Given a choice I prefer some airlines to others but that’s it

NukeThemAll says:
20 December 2012

When you fly from A to B, you balance a whole load of factors: cost, service, flight departure times, convenience of airports at both ends (and cost/difficulty of transfer to final destination). All the info is readily available, so it’s simply a matter of choice. No story here. No, really, there isn’t……

Overall convenience is the main factor for me and I rarely end up with much if any choice of carrier.

Terry Rickhuss says:
21 December 2012

I have travelled with low cost to France for the last eight years.about 16 to 20 individual flights per annum during that period.Mainly RYANAiR with whom I have no qualms and quite a bit of praise cos of the deals available.My only carp is the change of airports both in UK and France with insufficient notice.
You have to accept some elements are not first class but for on time efficiency I can’t fault the airline.
I really can’t find why their rating is so low.Is it the expectation factor?

Yes – the expectation of being treated like a human being! The boss of Ryanair has a point when he says you get what you pay for, and I have some admiration for the uncompromising way he puts his position, but I’d still rather travel with someone who will listen sympathetically when I have a problem (even of my own making), rather than gleefully point out that I have fallen foul of a completely arbitrary rule and in consequence must pay an exorbitant sum to regularise my position.

NukeThemAll says:
23 December 2012

Yes – because the **perception** is that Ryanair could offer a more humane service without significantly denting profits.

But their boss has a point – he’s totally honest when he explains his business model, and it’s clear that he views the travelling public with, perhaps, a smidgin of contempt, so it’s your choice to use them or not, after weighing up all the variables. That’s what capitalism is all about, after all – hence my original assertion that this is a total non-story: you choose, you pay, you fly, if you like it repeat, if not, choose another airline.

Nukethemall, I disagree strongly with your assertion that Michael O’Leary is “totally honest”. I have flown with Ryanair many times, and have had no problems with the actual flights. But I now do everything I can to avoid flying with them (not always possible for the specific journeys I have to make) because I so much dislike the dishonest tactics they use, or have used at some point, to get you to pay more. For example :-
– Making it hard to find the “no insurance” option when booking
– Hiding payment charges until the end of the booking process
– Charging excessive surcharges for card payments
– Changing the rules about charges on their prepaid card and making it difficult for customers to claim back money remaining on the card
– Adding extra charges even after you’ve paid for the flight

And these are just some of the underhand tricks they have tried. The only way to describe them is dishonest, and they clearly view their customers with the utmost contempt. Definitely not someone I want to do business with.

NukeThemAll says:
24 December 2012

Esther, for legal reasons I didn’t want my post to appear so….. er, ‘harsh’, concerning Ryanair. Perhaps I should have used the word ‘upfront’ rather than ‘honest’: however, their boss has said many, many times how he views his business model. And it clearly works. For him.

But what is evident is that despite actual and perceived shortcomings of their service model, customers keep flocking back. Intelligent people (like yourself, judging from your post) are aware of the actual and potential drawbacks of using the airline. Some will keep using low-cost airlines because of lots of different factors (cost, they may be the only viable route, etc). Others have low expectations and low ‘awareness’ (they honestly don’t notice or care). And of course the stupid always pay the ‘stupid tax’ on life’s highway. That’s how capitalism works.

Pegsy says:
24 December 2012

I have to admit that Ryanair is my least favourite airline, mainly because of their uncompromising attitude – booking on Ryanair is a nerve-racking exercise because you know that if you get one detail wrong you’re going to be screwed.
Having said that, they are normally (but not always) cheap despite the add-ons and they do fly on time from some convenient (for us) local airports.
It makes you wonder, though, that if their customer satisfaction rating is apparently so low, that they might be very vulnerable to a more soft and fluffy competitor who can get their act together.
Having said that I took a number of flights in the USA this year, mainly on Delta and United, and believe me by the side of these two Ryanair look great!!

Wernher says:
9 August 2014

We flew with NORWEGIAN on two different occasions this year. Great airline, excellent customer service, well trained polite personnel. Faultless product and great rates!
This CANNOT be said of EASYJET!! In July 2014 we flew to Budapest with NORWEGIAN and returned with EASYJET. For reasons of time schedules.
On our return flight with EASYJET, from Budapest Airport, we were literally HERDED into ‘cattle runs’ in an HANGER ENCLOSURE whilst waiting for the incoming crew to switch planes!! Waiting for 25 minutes to board, standing with no place to sit!!
Their ground staff were unhelpful and curt. Quoting Rules and Regulations to any questions we raised. Their need to attend a CUSTOMER RELATIONS intensive training course was obvious. Preferably NOT AN IN-HOUSE ONE!
This broke the camel’s back!! Travelling with this airline again??? Obviously NOT!!