Like many people I scour the net for the best fares before I go but two recent experiences have made me think again. Recently I returned from Jordan. I needed to catch an onward but not linked flight at Madrid to Malaga. Because of heavy snow in Amman we were two hours late taking off and so arrived at Madrid after the gate closed for our flight on Iberia to Malaga. We had expected to lose the flight, have to buy another one and spend some time getting details for the travel insurance but Iberia simply checked us on to the next available flight. No cost, no fuss, no problem. Wonderful service.
Second story is ongoing. Air Berlin is the low cost airline for this flight. As many of us do, I went back to the web page this week to see how much the flight I had booked in January was now. I was confused to find the flight had a time two hours before the time I had on my confirmation. So I sent Air Berlin an e mail. I assume that low cost means don't bother replying to e mails because they haven't. So I phoned Air Berlin and was told that yes the flight time had changed but that they had told me. Since I hadn't received the email and they had sent the previous confirmation to the correct address I was a little cynical about this but, no matter, they would send it again. They haven't. The point though is this, what would have happened if I had arrived at the airport to find that the gate had closed two hours before? What if my plans didn't have a built in two hour contingency and they don't often?
I know that Ryanair is famous for its 'customer service' but maybe the other low cost airlines are taking the same approach. I shall think very carefully about the price difference between Iberia (our local 'normal' carrier) and the low cost airlines in the future.