Interesting thread, Cedric. I think that there are a wide variety of factors behind the sucess of SOME budget airlines (remember that many have failed – Oasis, Buzz, Go, Globespan etc.) to do with price, convenience etc.
With the exception of Oasis, Air AsiaX and Jetstar, all budget airlines operate shorthaul with, typically, flights of less than 2 hours. I know that the trend is towards longer routes but that remains the dominant principle. The comparison is, therefore, with bus and train travel where a level of discomfort and low/ zero service is often expected. So, the argument is that if I put up with it on the bus from Manchester to Leeds, I can sit in an aircraft that long with a similar lack of pampering. Provided that the price is right.
There is also a general casualisation of travel. Going away is no longer the “big thing” that it might have been for many people in the past, planned and dreamed about well in advance. We travel on the spur of the moment and are driven in our choices by availability and price. So on a Thursday evening you may decide that you want to go away for the weekend – you go to the FR/EZY website and see what is good value from your local airport. Its not “Lets go to Paris, Darling” but “Haugesund is really cheap (£4.99 including taxes) tomorrow, why don’t we try it this time?”.
There is also a matter of options and choice. For a short break, FR offer me over 30 destinations direct from Prestwick. BA offer me Heathrow, Gatwick and City; bmi offer Heathrow and Copenhagen etc. For a short flight (business or pleasure), what makes more sense, comfort and a two hour wait at Heathrow while changing or a direct cattle truck to my destination, where an on-time arrival is much more likely than the indirect route? If I lived in London, maybe things would be different.
Finally, for many people, travel is discretionary expenditure and is built around a finite budget. I am looking to take the family to Oslo in August. KLM/BA/bmi all come out at about £250 a pot. FR offer me a direct flight from EDI at less than £100 a head. That is a saving of about £500 which can go to a better hotel, a couple of drinks at Norwegian prices etc etc.
I know the situation with budget airlines is somewhat different in Asia but also bear in mind that in the US, Southwest (the original post-deregulation budget airline) regualrly wins service awards…..
It will be interesting to see what others have to add. I am off down to Wembley for the biggest cup final of the season this weekend (come on the Saints!!) and am on an early EZY flight tomorrow. Any other option would have been a crazy price or strikebound…….