Flying Around (Experiences on the Road – III)

How much economic sense does it make to fly a low cost airline? Is the airline claiming to be low cost, really so? Which full service airline gives you more? Read the holistic analysis to learn more.


I have spent my life traveling full service airlines and mostly in business or in first. For a long period of time (at least on domestic routes) on Indian Airlines, till very recently on Jet Airways and a smattering of everything else. The change of career path (with the initiation of KOOLSKOOL) now gets us to look for cheaper fares, and some amount of low cost carrier flying brought in some interesting insight.

Quick comparison

Lets do a quick comparison of cheapest available return fares on three different airlines – Indigo, Jet Airways, and Kingfisher. The route chosen is Bangalore-Delhi-Bangalore, and the dates are 26th Oct (for onward) and 30th Oct (for return). The cheapest tickets we could find are listed in table 1.

Clear trip price
Clear trip schedule for 1750, for March 11 2010

Clearly, the real low cost carrier beats every other fare hands down. But, that would be an unfair comparison. Lets bring in food. Table 1, also shows the price of food in the LCC flights. Kingfisher Red will serve you a sandwich for free and provide you a small bottle of water. The other two will sell you food for say Rs 150 a sandwich, and Rs 50 for a can of an aerated beverage. Table 1 also shows approximate costs of food that you might buy on-board. The full service airlines, of course, serve you a free hot meal (depending on the time of the day), but the stark difference still remains.

Elite Tier

Lets now assume that you are a Platinum level on the Loyalty Programs of both Jet, and Kingfisher (Indigo doesn’t have a loyalty program). You would get lounge access in most airports. Jet doesn’t have a lounge at Bangalore, but they give you a food coupon. You do get to sit in peace for a while and eat a bit and/or sip a beverage. Surely that has a cost as well. Lets throw in a Rs 250 (my guess)for the food, and the same amount per passenger in the lounge. That makes is a Rs 500 (per journey) that the airline spends on you for the lounge. Table 1 above also adds the cost of lounge access to the Indigo ticket.

Add the miles twist
jet airways fare
Jet Airways fare, on 11th March 2010

Now, Indigo does not have a loyalty program and thus you don’t get frequent flier miles. But, assuming you are the same Platinum level frequent flier, the miles that you get are as in Table 2 on the left along with the miles that you will need to get yourself a free return ticket on the same sector.

For the final math!

So, with what we have seen so far, one calculates backwards to figure the number of flights (see Table 3) you will have to take to be able to get a free return tickets on this sector. And second, given the differential between Indigo fares and the others, how many Indigo tickets you might be able to buy within that extra flying.

jetlite schedule
Jetlite schedule showing 1750 flight, for 11th March 2010
The verdict

This is rather clear. Talking money, it makes no financial sense to fly a full service airline at all. Unless, of course your company/ office/ employer or someone else is paying for the ticket.

  • The entire analysis above is based on a spot check, and the fares of each of the airlines could easily differ on other days.
  • The fares on all the airlines could have been different due to the current load.
  • The analysis above is not derogatory in nature, neither is it a paid advertisement (or otherwise) of any airline. It is but an observation. A similar analysis (with similar or different result) would have been possible with other airlines in India.
  • All calculations provided above are for the cheapest available fares in economy, on the airlines’ individual web sites. Choosing different sectors, class of travel and source of ticketing may alter the calculations.
  • Passengers of these airlines are expected to use their own judgment to purchase tickets. Our above post in no way aims to influence a buying decision.

Codeshare between full service, and low cost

Unfair code share between full-service and low-cost carriers. Jet charges more on their web site than Jetlite on the same flight.

Many of you have spent considerable amount of your work-life, or otherwise traveling between cities. Over time, you have noticed the advent of bucket shops not only in brick and mortar format, but also on the web. You also have seen the advent of all the travel portals in India. While all this has been happening commercial aviation in India has also moved a distance with two carriers getting acquired by two other full service carriers.

Deccan became Kingfisher Red, and more or less kept its older model, though there are seat numbers allotted, and there is food served during the flight.  Sahara became Jetlite (reminds me somehow of yogurt, but that is a different story), but Jet opened up Jet Konnect as well.  Both in Jetlite as well as in aJet Konnect flight, you will need to purchase food (or bring your own).

jetlite schedule
Jetlite schedule showing 1750 flight, for 11th March 2010(click to see larger image)

My post today is however, about pricing and the way code-shares seem to happen in India. I know of at least one particular flight, because I have flown at least twice on that. This is 1750 service between Delhi and Bangalore, operated by Jetlite as S2  233. This is code shared by Jet Airways too as 9W 7075. Jetlite, on their web site, charges Rs 5379 as the lowest fare. Jetcharges Rs 5529, on their web site for the same fare. And

jet airways fare
Jet Airways schedule showing 1750 flight, for 11th March 2010(click to see larger image)

Cleartrip charges Rs 5470.

I understand the last one.  But, how do the first two fares work?

  • Jetlite is a Jet Airways subsidiary (or not?), and one would expect ticket pricing to be the same.
  • How does a company do a code share between a full-service airline and a low-cost carrier? Are these not two completely different product offerings for the market with different levels of service? If you flew Jet Airways (on one of their regular flights, you would not have to buy food), and if you held status on their JP program, you could go sit in the lounge as well. Jetlite passengers don’t get to use the lounge
Clear trip price
Clear trip schedule showing 1750 flight, for March 11 2010 (click to see larger image)

regardless of their JP status, and they also need to buy food on the plane (if they want that food). Is this a fair trade practice?

  • The Jet Airways price, on their web site, is higher than even the price offered by Cleartrip.

PS: I have cropped and rejoined some of the pictures to show the particular flight, and make the images fit. Images (and data) are have been extracted from the web sites, and are owned by Jet Airways, Jetlite and Cleartrip respectively.