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Tips for successfully using Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) to/from or via Bangkok
Know the “cut off” time for check-in
Many LCC’s have a defined and enforced cut-off time written in their Contract of Carriage and posted on their website. Traditionally, if you fail to meet this check-in time-- for whatever reason-- the airline is normally NOT liable to you for any re-booking (on a different flight of the same airline) or re-accommodation (on a different flight of a different airline) assistance. The airline *may* offer to rebook you (as a courtesy), but may charge you substantial penalties for doing so. LCC tickets are normally NOT transferable to any other airline.
Remember that your checked baggage must also be properly tagged and delivered/tendered to the airline *before* the check-in cut-off time to be eligible for travel. LCC airlines will NOT load late tendered baggage on a subsequent (later) flight for you. You will be required to either re-ticket for a later flight or abandon your baggage.
Know the limit of your Free Baggage Allowance (FBA) and Carry-on allowance
Unlike major airlines, LCC’s usually have much lower (if any) FBA. They usually charge for any excess over the allowance. Excess charges can be quite expensive so plan your baggage weight carefully. Some LCC's offer you the ability to pre-purchase (at a discounted price) a higher baggage allowance. Pre-paying for excess luggage at time of online booking can represent a considerable savings, if you *know* that your checked baggage will exceed the individual LCC's normal FBA limit. Pre-paid excess baggage charges are generally non-refundable if not used at the time of check-in-- so plan accordingly. LCC's are known to closely monitor the amount (pieces) and weight of your checked baggage to insure compliance with their FBA levels and will assess charges for any amounts over your particular allowance.
What about my carry-on?
Most LCC's limit the number of pieces, their size (measurements) and weight for accepted hand-carry baggage. Check online for your specifc limitation. Most LCC's do NOT offer you the ability to purchase extra carry-on allowance. Also, rememeber that whatever you elect to bring as hand carry must still comply with all airport and airline security screening policies.
What about my connection and baggage?
Most LCC’s do NOT have “interline” agreements with other airlines. Meaning, your LCC will not and cannot automatically send your baggage to your next airline or next flight-- this normally also includes flights on the same LCC airline... Therefore, after you arrive, *you* will be required to reclaim your baggage (and clear customs and immigration, if inbound internationally) and deliver it to your next airline at the check-in counter. Be sure to allow for extra time involved in re-claiming and re-checking your baggage with your next carrier.
Note that some LCC's do sell true connection flights, and as such if your are booked as a true connection (commonly this means all flights are one ONE ticket) the your bags should be 'tagged' to your final destination.
What about checking-in for a connecting flight?
Like your baggage, LCC’s do not have the ability to check-in passengers for other carriers. You will need to either check-in with your next airline in advance, or at the airport, upon your arrival. A good suggestion is to make use of the online check-in option (OLCI), if available.
Missed flight: Now what?
For the most part, LCC tickets are sold as point-to-point only. So, if you’ve missed your flight on another LCC—- for whatever reason, the airline has sole discretion (unless terms of your ticket state otherwise) if they will allow you to rebook.. Quite often, if any rebooking allowed will incur substantial fees. It is *strongly* in your best interest to allow for sufficient time between flights.
Warning: If you plan to use a LCC to “connect” to or from another airline which is a regular full-fare carrier-- be careful. Why? *IF* your LCC flight arrives late- for any reason- and as a result of this late arrival you miss your onward connection (on the regular full-fare airline) the LCC is NOT liable to you for any expenses you may incur or for any rebooking assistance with the regular full-fare carrier..
The same principle applies in the reverse. If your full-fare airline flight is late-- for whatever reason-- and as a result you miss your onward LCC flight. Neither airline is liable to you for re-booking or delayed passenger compensation.
Again, remember that most all LCC airlines sell ONLY point-to-point tickets and as such make no guarantees about missed connections—regardless of “fault” in the delay. You should allow for sufficient time between flights to insure that you can make your next flight.
Is this a good price?
LCC's price their tickets *EXCLUDING* many benefits that are regularly included with more traditional airline tickets.. Therefore, to insure that you're getting a “good price” and comparing “similar” products, be sure to add in any fees for such things as baggage, pre-assigned seating, food/beverage, booking, etc.. In some cases the full-fare carriers have lowered their previous fares on routes where they directly compete with LCC's and now offer prices that are extremely competitive-- so be sure to compare “true” ticket prics.
Where will you sit?
Some LCC's now provide immediate seat assignments at time of your paid booking for no additional cost. Other LCC's offer you the ability to reserve the specific seat you want or so-called "prime" seats, on a first come basis, for a small fee. In many cases these "prime" seats are the most popular seats and rows such as: Bulkhead rows, Forward rows, Emergency Exit rows and Window and Aisle seats.. If you skip this option, your seats will automatically be assigned once you check-in or at the airport before departure.. This can be important if you are travelling in a party of two or more as you may *not* be seated together unless you pay in advance for the pre-reserved seating option. Note that if you selected the emergency exit rows you will still have to meet the airlines safety requirements for sitting in these seats.
What can you expect onboard?
Most LCC’s operate short-haul flights-- about 3 hours or less in duration. As such, the onboard service offerings will be very limited. Normally, there is no movie or audio available. Some limited range of food and beverage will usually be available (for purchase) on board. Pillows and blankets are not normally available.
Can I bring my own food and/or drinks rather than buying them on the aircraft?
Each airline sets their own rules for the consumption of passenger-provided food and beverages. Of course, anything you attempt to bring for on-board consumption must be permitted thru airport check-points. Do know that safety regulations and carrier rules strictly prohibit the opening and/or consumption of *any* liquor on the aircraft *unless* this liquor has been supplied and served to you by a member of the cabin crew.. This includes liquor that has been purchased by you at an airport duty-free sales outlet or via on-board sales.
What happens if you need to change your flight or cancel?
Your ability to change or cancel your flight (and receive either a refund or flight credit) is governed by the carriers “Contract of Carriage”.. Be sure that you’ve read it carefully. In most circumstances LCC tickets are non-refundable and/or carry heavy penalties *if and when* the carrier allows any date/flight changes. Some LCC tickets sold, are done so on a strictly NO refunds or changes of any type basis. You should only purchase your LCC tickets once you are reasonably certain of your travel plans..
Are they reliable? Will you be delayed or cancelled?
As a whole, the LCC's operate a fairly reliable schedule. That said, any carrier-- Low Cost or otherwise-- are subject to occassional delays for events such as weather, air traffic congestion, maintainence issues and such.. Due to limited customer service staff employed by LCC's, you may not receive advance notice of a schedule change-- it is a good practice to check with your carrier several days in advance of your flight to confirm details.
Where can you buy tickets?
Most LCC's sell their tickets ONLY thru their own website or at staffed airport locations. In some limited cases the airline may also have city ticket offices or staffed kiosks in major malls.. Many special fare tickets are only available thru the internet sales option. Note that when issued, LCC tickets are "paperless" or electronic (you will receive an email to print out and present for check-in)-- as such there are no formal printed paper ticket documents provided by the carrier.
Air Asia is the only notable exception to this rule. They allow selected travel agents to sell tickets for any Air Asia flight. This includes all Air Asia services including their new long haul service- Air Asia X.
Is it worth flying a LCC?
Flying a LCC can be a very economical way to travel. If you properly plan your trip to minimize excess fees and set reasonable expectations of the onboard experience, you should have an excellent trip. Remember, you are not paying for any "whistle and bells" so don't expect that.. What you can expect is a basic, clean, safe and reliable flight that in the end, will save you money over a regular full-fare airline.. As with any airline, it's always wise to have comprehensive trip/travel insurance to cover any unexpected expenses, if they occur.
What do LCC's not provide compared to other full-fare airlines?
Examples of services or products that are normally not available with LCC's are: seperate check-in for premium passengers, airline-run pre-departure lounges, first/business class seating options, Frequent Flyer programs or mileage credit, inflight movies and/or audio, free food/drink onboard, cabin ammenities, rebooking assistance and interline abilities for passengers and/or baggage.
What about special needs flyers and infants?
Check directly with the individual airline as accommodation policies can vary based on aircraft and services/facilities will vary among the airports served.
What "rights" do I have when and if things go wrong?
LCC airlines must comply with the same set of regulations that any other "full fare" airline does in terms of passenger accomodations and other rights. Each LCC has their own unique Contract of Carriage, which will spells out exactly what rights you are entitled to and under what circumstances. Also, any applicable national or regional regualtions will also apply to any LCC airline-- just as it would to any other full-fare airline operating on the same flight.
What are the largest Low Cost Carriers currently servicing Thailand and surrounds?