The End of Lowcost?

Flying with lowcost airlines can save you a lot of money.

Flying with lowcost airlines can save you a lot of money.

A lot of traditional airlines find it hard to compete with their lowcost rivals on short-haul routes so they are either shutting down routes or offering discounts on short-distance flights to fill otherwise half-empty planes. Some flag carriers have introduced their own lowcost subsidiaries. Examples include Air France’s Hop and Vueling, whose parent company owns Iberia and British Airways.

It is a far-off prospect but it seems like the civilian passenger airline industry will end up consisting of two distinct types of players, and those won’t be conventional and lowcost.

Instead, as carriers strive to cut costs and maximize profits, there will be airlines specializing in long-haul flights and airlines that do short-haul routes only. The day may come when short-distance routes are only serviced by lowcost carriers (LCCs) – because they do it more efficiently – whereas traditional carriers will be chased away into the long-haul business.

Sure, with new, more economical large aircraft being devised, LCCs will be able to challenge traditional airlines on long-haul routes as well. But we are not there yet, as top-performing LCC Ryanair’s boss declared at an industry event in London in September 2013. Moreover, existing attempts to do long-haul flights lowcost have been rife with problems.

What seems more likely is that LCCs will come to dominate short-haul, whereas traditional carriers will refocus their business strategy to the long-haul market. In this picture of the future there won’t be traditional and lowcost carriers, only carriers that do long distances and airlines that fly short distances. So lowcost will become an obsolete label, unless we start adding “ultra” and “mega” and “uber,” to emphasize just how low their prices are, like Ryanair has started doing in a fit of totally uninspired PR. And we will all stop wondering how to spell lowcost – whether it is one word or hyphenated or two words – and English will have donated an obsolete coinage to at least 5 other languages. ;-)

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