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Flights - is Cheap Cheerful

As any regular visitor to this site will be aware, we have often highlighted the differences between traditional airlines and their new breed of Low Cost rivals - here’s an update. Differences would include perceived levels of service, cost model and flight network. We have also stated repeatedly that for Low Cost airlines to continue to expand and evolve, they will gradually need to move away from their original framework and explore avenues that will facilitate expansion. It is therefore interesting to hear that leading Low Cost carrier easyJet have flights to Marrakesh, Rijeka and Istanbul, with the promise that they are looking at other non EU destinations.

Airlines like easyJet have been reluctant to fly to destinations that are much longer than 2 hours (or even less) as they are able to make better profits by flying more frequently to closer destinations. Plane utilisation being the deciding factor that influences this decision. However many of the high density routes such as those in Spain are already saturated and thus it comes as no surprise to many that easyJet or someone like them, are looking at pushing back the line to which they will fly. By flying to Istanbul and Marrakesh they are pushing back this line to approaching 4 hours. A fact that if followed would therefore include just about the whole of Europe into easyJet’s potential expansion plans - there is no reason to think that any of easyJet’s rivals such as Ryanair would also not be thinking the same - what this will mean though is that aside of initial promotional fares, the reduced utilisation of the airlines fleet will mean higher fares overall.

It’s true, they can always throw in a few ‘one euro’ fares as headline grabbing banners, however a hundred and fifty seats per plane can’t be sold for one euro, despite the naivety of some people!

If, as many suspect, this is the start of the Low Cost ‘big boys’ eastwards expansion then expect a scramble as the jockeying starts for summer flights to Varna and Bourgas, with Sofia being perhaps a slightly less likely option in the shorter term although stag and hen night weekends (forbid!) might change this.

One should not forget however that Wizz and SkyEurope have, to all intents and purposes, already stolen a march on potential newcomers. They have already staked out their claim on a piece of the local cake with Wizz on the potentially lucrative direct flight route to the UK from both Sofia and Bourgas. Just think how much more lucrative this could be when the visa regime is waived for Bulgarians!

What Wizz and SkyEurope have also successfully done is prove to skeptical local travellers that they are reliable, trustworthy and indeed provide a service that is value for money. In this respect one can argue that its always harder to steal business from the incumbent, on the other hand the success of Wizz and SkyEurope may have made it easier for new entrants to chance their luck on flying to Bulgaria.

Either way, competition usually forces prices downwards not upwards. Isn’t that a benefit to all?

Mark Thomas, Jam Advice