The changing economy has brought a sea change in airline operations across India as air travel is becoming increasingly affordable. Budget travelers, who formerly chose trains over flights, can now opt for air travel without pinching their pickets. Statistics show that the share of low-cost carriers (LCCs) has risen significantly in recent years, mainly because corporate travelers are shifting to LCCs because of the economic slowdown. In an attempt to get back these customers, airline operators have introduced low cost airways. Full service carriers have no way to reduce their prices, meaning that the only strategy is to launch all-economy flights or move their flights to the low-cost wing. Nevertheless, the move seems to be beneficial for consumers as discussed below.
The biggest advantage of low-cost airlines is that the common consumer or rather the budget traveler can look forward to travel by air. Air travel is no longer a dream for the common man. Low-cost air services do not involve expensive frills, such as complimentary food and drinks. Instead, customers can purchase their meals and refreshments on board. They have a broad range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items, snacks and drinks to choose from. Some airlines even allow passengers to carry their food along. Low-cost airlines also enable customers to get low fares under premium brands. Many offer shuttling services including air-conditioned buses to carry their customers to the aircraft.
Though frequent flier benefits are not available with all LCCs, some airways provide these benefits, allowing customers to earn miles and redeem them easily. While most premium airlines focus on metro cities, LCCs have extended air connectivity to two-tier cities as well. The all-economy services of LCCs cover short routes involving cities, such as Kochi, Coimbatore, Madurai, in addition to major cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad. In fact, this initiative of low fare air services is a new trend in the airlines industry. Yet another advantage is that consumers can book their tickets online. They can compare ticket rates and learn the price difference to optimize their economic benefits. They can use secure online portals to book, pay and print their tickets in minutes. Mobile ticketing options are an added convenience as consumers can book their tickets and check the flight status on the move.
According to aviation forecasts, low-cost carriers in India will take over more than half the domestic market share. The disadvantages of budget air travel are few. For instance, customers may have to compromise on some leg space due to rather crammed seats and luxury services. LCCs may not allow flexible transit between different airlines or carriers. However, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, as evident from the quick pace at which LCCs are gaining their market share. In a nutshell, low-cost airlines offer quality service, reliable operations and standard services.