Budget Airlines vs. Established airlines

I'm travelling to the Maldives and have looked at a few options to get there. I've narrowed it down to Sri Lankan airlines which is the cheapest I can find but never flown before. I have also looked at Etihad and Singapore airlines which I have flown before but are around $400 more expensive. What is it like going on a budget airline and what is the difference between the more recognisable airlines? Is it worth paying an extra $400?


  • +2 votes

    Not sure Sri Lankan is considered budget, although I've never flown them. Also, are you talking about economy or business?

  • +1 vote

    What is it like going on a budget airline and what is the difference between the more recognisable airlines? Is it worth paying an extra $400?

    Normally budget airlines skimp on things like

    • awful air plane food included in ticket - you can buy separately on airline but its ridiculously overpriced, or buy snacks at the airport
    • Entertainment screens - I use my own devices.
    • certain drinks available and included or not - I refill and BYO water after security check.
    • some comfort - like using cheap seats that are smaller or the airline adding more seats at the expense of legroom for other passengers. Do a google search on the airline on this
    • charging ports for mobile devices - bit of a luxury but you can bring powerbanks on an airplane as an alternative

    To me, if its a short haul flight like 1-5 hours (I have high tolerances) budget airline is fine for me. Long haul flights I would spend the bit extra to have the above.

    Main difference is the services offered in each plane and whether you want to rock up nicer to the destination or as cheap as possible - or in Air Asia's instance, alive.

    Have you done a google search on reviews of the airline such as from TripAdvisor or whatever? I would start there

  • -1 vote

    I've fixed the title - "Airlines Vs Overpriced Airlines"

    • +2 votes

      They have 7/10 customer review and yet Etihad has 5/10. Qantas also has 7/10. All Nippon Airways has come highly recommended by a friend (for trip to Japan) and sure enough, 8/10. I would say based on this Sri Lankan is doing alright.


    I'd suggest checking out Air Asia and Scoot, I did a search and scoot is doing sub $650 return but you have some pretty big transit times(15hr there and 5hr coming back). Air Asia is not much better.

    It's all up to personal preference there's ups and downs about both. Also as other have said do your research, not all airlines are the same even full service ones. I can tell you on a recent domestic flight on Virgin where a $600 fare for a short trip between capital cities and we were only offered water/juice, a small packet of burger rings and no entertainment at all. I'd hardly consider that full service on a 7pm flight.

    Both Etihad and Singapore offer great planes and exceptional customer service.

    Flight times & transit times

    Unless you enjoy spending lots of time in the transit this is pretty important. Some flights are cheap because they have god awful transit times. I'd pay more to fly at night and get to where I'm going fresh and not waste a day just transiting. That is of course unless you can get out and explore the city you're transiting in. Singapore is still one of the best in that regards in getting around and the quality of their terminals if you have short stop-overs.

    There's no direct flights to the Maldives so choosing a flight with decent transit times is pretty important. The transit city and airport are also worth considering depending on the time you're stuck there. If you have lots of free time it may not be an issue, most people have limited annual leave so it's better to spend those hours either working or actually holidaying and not being stuck at the airport.

    Add up the extras you're likely to use.

    Confirm the $400 you're saving is including all the thing you'll likely need
    On flights over 3 hours you're going to need refreshments like liquids and snacks.
    If you are going to spend a long time stuck at a terminal transiting you'll probably shell out more for food / entertainment. I'd recommend getting lounge access.
    If you're travelling with friends and want to sit together you'll need to select a seat then thats going to cost you more.
    If you can travel with only carry-on you'll save a bundle flying budget airlines.

    In terms of inflight food Air Asia is really reasonable and even cheaper when you book ahead.

    If you can live without the options then it makes some financial sense to go budget. Once you tick more than 2 boxes they you might as well go full service.

  • +2 votes

    Sri Lankan is not a budget airline. Flew few times with them and can not fault them.New planes, very friendly staff and food was excellent, it was a business class experience because price was very good comparing to other airlines at the time. Went to Europe just two months ago and tried to use points for Air Sri Lanka but noticed a significant price rise, they joined One world, so flew again business class this time with Oman Air for a fraction of price and the service and everything else was fantastic.


      As above, I flew few times with them, they are not a budget airline, Emirates used to share codes with them, I think now they with One world.


    Haven't flown on Sri Lankan, but looks like it provides full service (meals, etc) so if it's the cheapest i'd probably go with them. Because I have kids and generally dislike being in planes, I go for whatever flights are the most direct and will pay more for them, unless there's a stop in Singapore, because that airport is seriously awesome.


    Personally I can live with some discomfort onboard if it is cheap enough but my main concern is reliability. If there is a good likelyhood they won't get me to where I want to be on the day I'm flying, or they are likely to cause me grief with interconnections, then I don't want to fly with them. I have the impression Jetstar is not reliable - however, their air fares to NZ are usually pretty good.


    Go with Sri Lankan and they are not budget airline.