Low cost goes long haul

Low-cost airlines used to be all about flying tourists on cheap short-haul holidays. But a new breed of no-frills airlines is going long-haul, and even targeting business travellers.

by Emilie Filou, World Business
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Silverjet, which launched in early January, offers flights between New York and London, for business travellers exclusively. And with fares starting at £799 return ($1,500), it will certainly be giving BA and other US airlines a run for their money.

Silverjet joins the now well-established MAXjet, which also flies to Washington and Las Vegas, and French rival L'Avion, which links Paris to the Big Apple.

This week, OASiS Hong Kong Airlines, which flies between London and Hong Kong, announced two more routes for 2007. The company has pioneered £75 one-way fares in economy and £470 business. Travellers will now be able to fly Hong Kong to Vancouver and Oakland for similarly tiny fares.

Air Asia X, a joint venture between Air Asia and Fly Asian Express (FAX), also announced it would launch in July this year and fly between Europe, China and India. Prices would start at £41 ($80) return.

Most of these airlines are growing in popularity with disgruntled ‘mainstream' passengers. In an era of increased security checks and congestion in major airports, low-cost carriers offer shorter check-in times from smaller, less congested airports. Possible connections with other low-cost carriers also make for attractive travel prospects.

As competition intensifies, most airlines are seeking to differentiate themselves. Silverjet announced it was the world's first carbon neutral airline (the price of the ticket includes the cost of offsetting emissions). MAXjet are promoting the sleekness and individuality of their service whilst OASiS are branding themselves as the family-friendly carrier with half-price travel for students and senior citizens as well as free travel for children.

Interestingly, with the exception of Silverjet, few of the airlines seem to be doing much about their environmental impact. But with the climate change debate gaining momentum every day, companies should beware that polluters may most soon become payers too.

Review by Emilie Filou

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