The phenomenon of budget airlines is something which has actually been around for more than a decade but has only become prevalent in Asia for less than 5 years.
It was envisaged as a radical alternative to buses, and traditional but more expensive carriers.
However it has not been all roses, and the thorns come in the form of increasing complaints about their services, which have left a lot of customers fuming.
There are 2 sides. The consumer who still thinks of SIA, MAS or other full price carriers, and expects services which albeit less than that of these traditional carrier, but still approximating them. Then when they board the planes (literally via steps), they quickly learn the meaning of budget, not only in price but also in service standards, feedback and dealing with emergencies. Singaporeans expect 2 dollars worth of service for a dollars price. That has to change.
Well, to me, these budget planes are like buses, do not expect more. So if they run late, thats par, and if the planes don't turn up, thats like buses.
However on the flip side, these airlines really are not prepared or do not wish to be bothered at all. There is no face, the phone lines are non-existent and if there is any change at all to their flights, or delays, they are unable or not willing to cope with the situation.
That becomes dangerous, especially in crisis situations like riots, natural disasters etc. The difference in service becomes so evident then. That little money we save becomes a pittance when we desperately try and find flights home.
Budget airlines are good in that they bring air travel to the masses. But they also need to understand the expectations of the customers and for their long term survival, they will need to buck up and leave a better impression. For every customer who complains about a bad experience, at least 5 more will stop using their services.
Travel business is dependent on repeat customers, that is why SIA can charge a premium. If the same budget cousins want a long life, they need to be more responsive or the potential customers or those who have been bitten before will beat a hasty retreat and choose other alternatives, like buses or pay more so they do not get treated like animals.
As the economy improves and people travel again, they will consider their options more carefully and with more money, they will certain vote with their wallets and choose the best compromise in travel experience. One which does not deplete the funds, yet makes them want to come back for more. Budget travel can be like dining at a good hawker stall. The wait is longer, yet the fare is cheap and makes you want to come back for more. Food for thought for the budget carriers.