The Hidden Costs of LCCs

If you made it through my mammoth post about rail travel and service recovery in Germany, this should be a fairly light read. As I mentioned earlier, service starts with the customer’s expectations. On my flight from Frankfurt to London my expectations were incredibly low – I had booked a ticket with a fairly famous and long-running LCC (low cost carrier) at a very affordable rate.

In theory, the LCC business model is predicated on stripping flights down to the basics, and charging for all incidentals. Given that all airlines operate on razor-thin margins, it’s no surprise that even traditional carriers now mimic LCCs. But there are still a few noticeable differences.

Given I was expecting to be haggled for every Euro, and to be uncomfortable, I had my expectations met. And, paradoxically, this meant that even though the trip was unpleasant at times, I did not have the same visceral emotional reaction as I did during my other leg.

Here’s a list of ways this LCC differs from full service airlines:

  1. Watch for (ALL) the extra charges. Having a printed boarding pass is mandatory if you’re not an EU resident, but I didn’t find that out until I checked in the day before and didn’t have access to a printer.
  2. But I’ll give you a medal if you can figure out how the charges work. If you don’t have a printed pass they will, according to their website, either do it for 7 euro, 15 euro, or 30 euro (depending on which page you land on, mobile or desktop site or app). As a pro tip the Frankfurt airport will print anything up to 5 pages for 5 Euro on the spot so I opted for this.

    Frankfurt Airport printing at the info desk, Terminal 1. You’re welcome.
  3. The rules might not apply to you. Passengers from non EU countries are advised to go to the check in to get a stamp. When I arrived 5 hours before my flight (keener) there was a 70 person queue at the check in desk. A truly massive line. Prompting some Irish backpackers behind me to say “this is f*cking ridiculous” which was good for a laugh.

    Even more funny is that if you’re from Canada, you don’t need any special stamps. You can actually use an electronic boarding pass (which will have already been issued for free). Queuing for nothing is always a giggle as is paying to have something printed that is actually unnecessary.

  4. They’re a little skint on staff. Labour is expensive! When you get to your gate, the airline uses the same staff for multiple functions. Expect to watch them scramble to deal with another check in first and then run over to yours.
  5. Don’t set your watch to the flight time. The flight is probably going to be delayed and you will find that out — not from the airline or their staff — but when someone who has the right app (only available to EU residents in the App Store) gets a notification and groans “oh f*cking f*ck it’s delayed”.
  6. The boarding … process? After a 40+ minute delay to boarding they will have you line up to board. Your pass may say ‘priority’ but this won’t match what happens at the front. In my case they made two lines to board that merged into one line … borderline chaos.
  7. Take a bus to the plane, it’s time to practice being a sardine. Priority or not you’ll all be shuttled by bus (crammed to the rafters) to the aircraft which boards on both sides. If you made the first bus bully for you but you’ll have to wait for the second bus.

    The bus doors open and it’s a mad dash to board the plane. (Guess the cat is out of the bag on which airline I flew).
  8. Bags for days. Everyone has all their bags because checking a bag is more expensive than the flight itself. Cramming the luggage in around the passengers further delays the flight. The seats are SO UNCOMFORTABLE, I believe the bottom cushions are made from old phone books.
  9. Don’t turn your nose up at a meal. The food is actually decent. There are meal deals not unlike “full service” short-haul airlines offer. I recommend the Chicken Tikka.
  10. The crew are saints. Honestly, I got full service friendliness from the fight crew on this very short flight with lots of food and purchase options and very demanding customers. They worked incredibly hard.

I made it alive, only an hour after expected, and the flight was dirt cheap. Considering I’ve had some of these foibles with full-price carriers, I just might do it again the next time I’m in Europe!

PS: Heathrow? What are you, a celebrity? Y’all are flying to Stanstead. Google it. 

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