Love the prices, hate the consequences. Matt Eaton explains his tortured relationship with budget travel.
Frequent-flyer hassles: If something sounds too good to be true it probably is as budget flyers often discover when they buy cheap air fares.
"I will never fly budget again." I don't know how many times I have said that to myself over the past year, but still I keep going back for those dirt-cheap airfares time and time again. Perhaps I'm a sucker for punishment?
Like many expat workers in this part of the world, I travel. A lot. My Foursquare account tells me I've checked into Hong Kong International Airport about 20 times since January - with only two lame adventure badges to show for it.
I sometimes think, wow, I'm kind of like the high-flying Canadian journalist and entrepreneur, Tyler Brûlé, and maybe the Financial Times will ask me to write a weekly column about my travel experiences. And why not, I fly almost every week to far-flung places across Asia (OK, OK they're not that far-flung - it's either Malaysia or Singapore), but hey, doesn't hurt to dream.
Then I snap out of it and I'm stuck in AirAsia's LCC Terminal on a stinking hot Friday afternoon, my plane is delayed, there's not a pub in sight and we're huddled into some makeshift terminal with no toilet, screaming kids and a lot of very sweaty, frowning brows.
I'd love to meet the copywriter who came up with the AirAsia billboard on the long drive out to LCCT which says something along the lines of: "You're only 11km away from an awesome experience you'll never forget." Excuse me, sir, have you ever flown AirAsia?
But whether it's AirAsia, Tiger, Jetstar or Spring Airlines (yes, Spring is a budget carrier flying between Hong Kong and Shanghai - I highly recommend it if you're the adventurous type), once you are onboard it's pointless trying to get any work done. The seats are so squashed these days you can barely flip open your laptop and type without looking like you have alien wrists.
In all my travels I haven't quite figured out why airport authorities force cost-conscious travellers such as myself into specially created budget terminals.
It's budget. I geddit. No need to reinforce it.
At least AirAsia has an excuse. A stoush between CEO Tony Fernandes and Malaysia Airlines resulted in LCCT, but Singapore makes no bones about its budget offering.
Its painfully named Budget Terminal gives you no chance to think for a second you're special.
But despite all this I will probably keep flying budget, especially when Jetstar Hong Kong launches its budget offering with China Eastern Airlines, for the plain and simple fact it's bloody cheap and still safe.
I choose to forgo any hope of acquiring piles of frequent-flyer points and discounts on fancy hotels, rental cars and steak knives, to save a few bucks at the end of the day.
Anyway, budget travel will no doubt give me a steady stream of material to whinge about in the back pages of Marketing magazine. Until next month, safe travels.
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