Friday, 9 August 2013

travel tip: budget travel and family friendly airlines


We find that international flights consume a big chunk of our holiday budget, so, for the first time recently, my husband *pointing the finger firmly* purchased 'budget' airline tickets.  It was one of the worst flight experiences I have had over many, many years of travelling.  

Part of the problem was our fault, we made assumptions based on years of combined travel and didn't read the fine print. Big mistake.  There are added costs for just about everything that you need as a travelling family.   On this particular flight the added costs were for:
  • reserving your seats so that as a family we could ensure that we sat together
  • purchasing a seat with extra leg room
  • check-in baggage to be purchased in 20kg lots
  • entertainment
  • food
We were expecting the entertainment and food to be extra but didn't mind as it was a midnight flight.  We didn't expect our child's seat to be discounted as not all airlines offer this.  We did however, expect to be seated beside or near each other, so that for us was a compulsory extra charge as was purchasing check-in luggage allowance.  When you add these cost both ways, the 'cheap' fare starts to look a lot more like finding a good deal on a non-budget airline.  

We expected the seats to be a bit more cramped - they were.  The biggest problem for us as a family was the isle.  It was so narrow, people could not pass each other.  Everyone had at least 7kgs of carry on luggage +++ and so there was a huge delay in getting people seated and then of course not enough space so ours had to be put under our seats or in another area.  During the flight, many people were standing in the isle as the seating was cramped, or to chat to friends that they didn't get to sit next to.  And of course we have a child that doesn't need to go to the toilet until it's 'desperate'!  She got to the loo in time but it was stressful.  One of the passengers lit up a cigarette for a few puffs but because of the isle congestion the cabin crew were not able to get to the area and locate the exact offender, just the lingering smell of smoke!

Soooo, based on our only experience ('Fly Dubai'), it seems that budget flights are a better deal for solo travellers than for families.  After adding up the extras, we also felt that the saving was minimal and not worth the small difference in cost.  It would be interesting to hear the perspective of others travelling with families - are budget flights (as opposed to discounted regular tickets) worth looking at?