Long haul flights are where budget airlines lose money.

Many budget airlines have tried their luck with long haul flights over the years. Very few have had such with long haul flights. This is my personal opinion on why they fail to make these flights profitable.

Norwegian Airlines recently gave up most of their long haul flights. Air Asia did the same a while ago. Wow Air from Iceland closed down recently. And there has been many of these cases over the years. While budget airlines have thrived in selling short haul flights. They have mostly failed when it came to selling long haul flights. Why is it so?

People want comfort on long haul flights.

One very obvious reason is that many people, including myself, want a certain comfort when flying long haul. This is especially true for frequent fliers. Frequent fliers are the most important people for airlines. You tend to have less seat space on budget flights. That is ok for a 2 hour flight. But if you are flying for 10-12 hours, then it’s a different matter. I do not personally want to be cramped into a small seat for +7 hours. It will drive me insane with claustrophobia and make an irritable passenger. I also like when I have free food and drinks on long haul flights. Including alcohol. This is still possible on many flights by the way. I’m a frequent flier on Qatar Airways for instance. And they do serve some excellent free wine on their flights.

Qatar Airways.

On a long haul flight I want comfort. Like what you get with Qatar Airways.

The affiliate sales are not higher on long haul flights.

One aspect that many people do not think of when talking about how budget airlines make money, is affiliated sales. Whenever you book a flight, you will always be asked on whether you would like to book a hotel too. Or maybe rent a car. Or book an excursion and so on. It’s not just on baggage fees and travel insurance that budget airlines make extra money.

When you book a hotel or rent a car, through the airline website, the airline get’s a commission. Typically between 10% and 35%, depending on what you are booking. People will often spend hundreds of Euros on these things. This is why airlines can sometimes sell insanely cheap tickets.

People tend to spend roughly the same amount of money on these things, whether they book a 2 hour flight or a 10 hour flight. But fuel and labour costs are of course higher for a 10 hour flight. That makes it harder to earn enough extra cash, to cover the loss they have from selling under priced tickets.

Air Asia

Air Asia is great. But they had no success with long haul flights.

This was my 5 cents about why budget airlines tend to lose money on long haul flights. Feel free to agree or disagree. The comment box is there just for that reason.


Happy flying.

Happy flying :-).

1 Comment

  1. A very well thought out piece here, Claus, from a man who I know has flown more long-haul flights than I have had hot dinners, airline or otherwise. For a long time Emirates were my favourite airline and I’ll still fly then quite happily. I flew a few years ago to Sri Lanka with Qatar and they were, if anything, even better which I thought would be hard to do. I think that was the year I met you own there.

    I flew Norwegian when I met you in Madeira and it was OK but I would not have liked to be in that seat for much longer. You know how tall I am and legroom is a big deal for me. I don’t get claustrophobic but it is just damned uncomfortable. I just don’t fly cheapo airlines any more.

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