I have wanted to go to Luxembourg ever since I was sixteen. It was less about a desire to see this small land-locked European kingdom, and far more to do with the fact that there lived a prince close to my age, and if I really wanted to marry royalty, this was the place to do it.
I no longer want to marry into royalty, no matter how nice last year’s royal wedding was. I am, however, suddenly filled with a desire to go to Luxembourg. But that’s because Ryanair is currently advertising tickets to that destination for under £10. That’s only one way, but as I have flown with Ryanair before, I am more than certain I can find my return flight for a similar price.
In February I booked tickets to Verona from London for £9 and then back to London from Venice, which is more expensive, for £14. People could barely believe it when I told them. In the UK, that amount of money will get me a few miles outside London by train.
But then March came and sure enough, without being made to pay any extra fees, I boarded a small aircraft, with a single half-filled rucksack on my back and headed off to Italy. When I added in the bus to and from the airports, and the train to travel from Verona to Venice, the total cost came to no more that £60.
I put it down to being off peak, that was why the flights cost me so little. But another search on Ryanair and I find a flight to Verona in June for £17.99. It’s not quite as wonderful as only £9, but it’s still far cheaper than heading to Cornwall for my summer holidays.
Cheap flights are everywhere in Europe. Something which I struggle to remember having grown up in Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world.
How do the budget airlines manage to remain so very cheap and not operate at a loss? Because these planes are just glorified buses. You get a seat and that’s it. By making all the usual privileges of flying with bigger airlines an extra cost, price can be quickly reduced.
Want to bring a cabin bag? That will cost you. Priority boarding to skip the queues? That will cost you too. Even choosing your own seats comes at an extra charge, but if you book your tickets with a friend in the same purchase, the likelihood that you will be seated together is more than high.
Don’t kid yourself, these aren’t some benevolent companies that are very passionate about making air travel available and affordable. They will bleed you dry if they get the chance. Don’t forget to bring your boarding pass to the gate: Ryanair will charge you £50 for that service. Don’t expect complimentary water: it’s probably cheaper to buy that in the airport than ask for it on the plane, which is really saying something.
And don’t expect luxury, in fact don’t even expect quality. Those fancy moveable gangways to get you from the airport building to the plane? They cost money for the airline to use, so you are going to be walking across the tarmac to the plane, or running, if the rain is pouring down.
And what about the aeroplanes themselves? Well, they aren’t much to look at, doing their best to look like a scruffy bus when you climb aboard, but one that you are sure should have been retired by now. Only this bus is going to be flying above the Swiss Alps.
But are the low prices, and sneaky ways of squeezing a few more pounds out of customers, really enough to keep these mammoth companies afloat?
Ryanair’s share value, which reached an all-time high in August 2017, has been steadily decreasing since then. The same experience has been shared by easyJet, whose stock was at its highest in the summer of 2015, with another peak in June 2018, but since then has been rapidly dropping. Although their value still sits far higher than it did pre-2013, both now show the same downward trends.
Is the world giving up on budget flights, opting for luxury instead? Or is it more general anxiety that is causing this fall in stock value? With each new piece of Brexit news, there is a little more worry about our ease of future travel, while others become more and more concerned with the impact that constant flights, or any flights at all, have on the environment.
But for now, the flights continue, ever full of families and young adults looking for a cheap adventure, and an easy way to see some more of the world.