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Forget Cheap Please!

Take a look through any of the internet forums concerning Bulgaria and the word ‘cheap’ seems to appear with monotonous regularity ... be it property, cost of living or of course, flights! Mark Thomas of Jam Advice investigates why cheap seems to be used in just about every context. From property being described as ‘cheap,’ which translates into the politically correct terminology of meaning that property offers ‘value for money’.

The word cheap also appears when people describe their perception of the Bulgarian cost of living, which if the authors are comparing Bulgaria with the UK, then its fairly obvious Bulgaria offers a cheap aka ‘value for money cost of living’.


Indeed it sometimes seems that the word cheap is obligatory to be used in each sentence or paragraph. Count how many times people say ‘I am looking for a cheap flight!’ Do they expect that people will think that unless they use the word cheap it will be assumed (bizarrely) that they want to pay the highest possible fare! No. So why the craving to use the word ‘cheap’ incessantly?

Browsing through some of these aforementioned forums its also amazing how rumours, mis-information and downright ignorance seem to prevail when we come to air travel and getting to Bulgaria (which is what this article is about after all). One must appreciate however that not all forum participants are experts in the field of travel - otherwise they wouldn’t be asking questions in the first place. There’s nothing wrong in asking reasonable questions concerning travelling to Bulgaria, however when such reasonable questions receive a reply from the ‘been there before’ brigade whose retorts would indicate they use chocolate fireguards at home, then it’s a wonder how those asking logical questions ever get anything booked at all. In otherwords the supposed help, advice, knowledge and pearls of wisdom they receive is not far removed from being, well, totally useless.

A good example of this recently was advising that BA do in fact fly from Manchester to Sofia around once per month! Scheduled airlines do not fly once per month and nor will BA fly from Manchester to Bulgaria as they will almost solely operate out of London in future, having turned their back on the lands that lay north of Watford gap. As for the mention of the word easyJet and Ryanair then wow … what a lot of armchair experts there seems to be. To these ‘experts’ the only cheap travel in the world lays in the arms of these two airlines, as well run and as efficient as they are.

These two airlines have played a big part on revolutionising air travel in Europe but they are not the only ones. What they and others like them have done, is brought a new business model to the fray and as more and more new airline entrants have appeared in Europe so too the business model has been replicated and thus competition has increased.

The so called misnomered ‘Low Cost Carriers’ (LCC’s) are not solely responsible for offering or for providing cheap … I mean value for money ... flights - it’s the advent of competition and market forces that creates this. Thus Ryanair and easyJet whether they fly here or not will not in the longer term affect air fare prices to Bulgaria - its competition that will.

If any new airline was to seriously affect either the ski or beach travel market then it would need to operate at least a two or three flight a day to ski airports and around ten flights a day to the Black Sea and the chances of that happening are zero. If you think this comment is unreasonable, then do the maths:

1 plane = 150 people. Seven flights (1 per day) per week = 1,050 people per week. Assuming 4 people per apartment then that’s enough to fill roughly 262 apartments per week. Err ... how many tens of thousands of apartments et al have been, and are being, built on the Black Sea?

Thus one does not have to be a rocket scientist to suss that if the laws of supply and demand are followed, there is going to be lot of demand for very few seats - isn’t there? We all know then that high prices can thus be maintained by suppliers (airlines) until some sort of equilibrium is met.

Moving along to what might happen countrywide this year, we will see more and more airlines flying here. Newcomer airlines like GermanWings from Germany and MyAir from Italy are already slated to start flying here and the likes of SkyEurope will expand their summer offerings with flights from central Europe to the Black Sea. One though has to point out two things: that the European model of booking travel is changing. Plus secondly that the logistics behind flights to Bulgaria invariably means those that think they will consistently pay 100 euros for a flight to Bulgaria are living in cuckoo land.

On the first point; traditional Tour Operators are de-packaging their content so that one can book flights from operator A, transfers from B and accommodation from C. Therefore hybrid airlines now exist that mix and match the package tourist with the individual tourist - Thomsonfly from the UK would be a good example of this having evolved from being Britannia and flying almost exclusively on behalf of in-house brother Thomson Holidays. They now effectively sell ‘seat onlys’ as readily as they fly package tourists. Other former traditional tour operators also operate likewise. Therefore it is in this sector that anyone looking for seat onlys to Bulgaria will likely be satisfied - though not necessarily with the costs!

On the second point of the logistics behind flying to Bulgaria, one must remember that flying from the UK to Bulgaria is not like a hop to France or Spain. Flights to these countries are maximum 2 hours whereas to Bulgaria’s Black Sea its more 3 and a half hours. Therefore the reduced flight utilisation of the aircraft and overall increased costs means fares the equivalent to a Curry takeway are pipedreams. Ryanair really do not like flying longer than 2 and a half hours and their flights to Zadar in Croatia, even summer flights booked this far in advance pitch in around 140 - 150 euros. The question then begs outside of any promotional fares how much would pro-rata the fares be to the Black Sea?

We also all know the effect of smoke and mirrors and if it were 150 euros then OK, However the headline costs that all airlines hit us with are never the final cost and travellers should be aware of this. Charging extra for carrying suitcases, pre-booking seats, ordering meals on planes and for using credit cards (which may be an obligational way of payment anyway), can all inflate the total flight cost to as much as double the advertised level. It’s not just the LCC’s that do this however and many of the both the well known scheduled operators as well as Charter carriers each have their own mechanisms to ensure that you will not be buying a cheap - when all things are considered - flight to the Black Sea.

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