Low-cost carriers still winning

1 Apr 2004 by BusinessTraveller

There's little doubt that low-cost carriers are just that for leisure travellers, but for business travellers, there's always been a doubt. Prices rise the closer to departure date you book, and then you must consider all those related costs such as the time it takes to get to and from a city's second or even third airport.

Yet research by Business Traveller shows that because conventional carriers using prime airports like Heathrow or Gatwick load their prices (sometimes by as much as a factor of 10 to 1) for passengers obliged to travel at 1800 rather than 1300, the majority of business travellers can still enjoy savings when flying at peak times with a low-cost carrier.

We checked fares on one of the UK's most important international routes, London to Amsterdam. We compared Easyjet and British Airways from Gatwick with BA/Bmi from Heathrow. We also checked Easyjet fares from Luton which, other than Gatwick, is this budget carrier's nearest departure point to Heathrow.

We opted for a day trip on Monday March 1, with all flights at similar times. We started comparing prices a week ahead and continued until the Friday, three days before the departure date.

The results for this particular route showed that at busy times BA/Bmi give no price breaks even with a week?s notice. BA was already charging £392 from Heathrow when Easyjet was asking £91 from Gatwick and £76 from Luton. Even by Friday there was still a large gap in Easyjet?s favour.

They also revealed that, surprisingly, when Bmi quotes economy class fares as high as £391 you?d be better off booking this carrier?s business class where tickets cost £350 return. This isn?t the case with BA whose business class is costlier: £432 ex-Heathrow and £379 ex-Gatwick.

But Bmi?s website doesn?t alert you to this potential saving and told us it would "action our comments" when we pointed it out. It also demonstrates that, because of convenience and limited flights, the airlines using Heathrow can name its price.
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