We all love a good bargain, right? And no more so than when it comes to getting a cheap flight deal – just look at the rise and rise of low-cost airlines. And partly fueling the increasing dominance of the loco’s are meta-search engines like Expedia and Kayak which invariably show the cheapest flight first. Long established, legacy premium airlines have been forced to join the fray – much to the dismay of many travellers.
Only yesterday, the Lufthansa Group which also owns Austrian, SWISS Air and Brussels Airlines announced an expansion of its “Light” fare option on all Transatlantic services to North America. The fare only allows travellers to take hand luggage and limits advanced seat reservations, although meals and drinks are still complimentary.
Lufthansa joins a growing number of premium airlines to introduce comparable fare structures on long haul flights. Last month, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic introduced similar deals. The airlines say they’re simply offering more choice but it’s clear they’ve been forced to react to the low headline fares offered by the likes of Norwegian, Primera and Iceland’s Wow Air.
One of the biggest problems for the premium legacy airlines is trying to convince passengers they’re getting a good deal when the headline fare is higher than competitors – especially when the fare is tucked away on the second or third page of search results.
Some search engines have tried to level the playing field by listing the amenities you should expect when flying on different carriers. But breaking down the various add-on costs and ancillary fee’s you might need to pay is still a work in progress. Routehappy, for example, displays what it calls ‘rich content’ in search results to help travellers make “smart” flight choices, rather than just relying on cost and flight timings.
“The ‘right flight’ is about more than just shopping for the lowest price,” says Mike Slone, chief executive of the digital software provider, Travelaer.
“It is about varying flight attributes such as flight type (direct, 1 stop, etc), total travel duration, seat size, flight rating and much more.”
Travelaer has introduced a new system which allow’s airlines to display the features provided by competitor airlines, flying the same route when consumers are searching for a flight on the airline’s own website. Updated in real time, the ‘Right Flight’ tool is meant to increase conversion by convincing potential passengers that they’re getting a good deal – even if the fare is more expensive than a rival airline.
The upstart tech company’s software is already used by a number of airlines including Finnair, Air France and El Al.
But let’s be fair – while software like this might be designed to help convert potential customers into passengers, it’s probably not going to stop the race for ever lower airfares. And that means the crush of hand luggage into overhead bins will continue for some time to come.
The good news at least is that despite widespread cost-cutting and annoying ancillary fee’s, flying has never been cheaper.