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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Days of "low cost" airlines numbered

I see that Easyjet's profits fell by 45%, similar to the fall of 47% suffered by Ryanair a couple of weeks ago. With rising fuel and other costs, they're going to have to consider their branding and stop calling themselves low-cost airlines. They will have to start competing equally against the big carriers and that means treating passengers like real people, having proper customer service and not charging people for taking luggage (Ryanair).

At the weekend I booked two flights to Dublin in February for a short break. I was interested to see that Ryanir was offering "free flights" for this period. But, by the time you'd clicked through to the check-out stage, the price for two tickets had shot up to the region of £353. In fact, exactly the same price, down to the looose change, that British Airways were quoting. And in BA's case, they stated the sum upfront with none of this deceitful "fly free or fly for £14" malarkey.

Faced with the choice of Ryanir and BA for the same price, it's a no-brainer. With BA you get an allocated seat (no undignified scramble at the gate); no charge for luggage, a snack and a decent cup of tea, and airmiles. Plus the airport is London City, which is very close to where we live and the friendliest, most efficient airport it's possible to find.

My advice to Stelios and Michael Ryan would be that if they no longer have a price advantage, their business model has gone up in smoke and they'd better consider introducing the frills that they so despise. Otherwise they may follow in the footsteps of Excel and the others.

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