Are Low Flight Fares Irresponsible?

Last week Laudamotion posted an advert for €9.99 flights. In the advert, they quoted Lufthansa as saying “Low fares are irresponsible”. While the advert itself isn’t especially thrilling, the Simple Flying team couldn’t help but think; are low flight fares actually irresponsible?

Laudamotion Fares
Lufthansa claims that €10 fares, such as those offered by Laudamotion, are irresponsible. Photo: Laudamotion

Low fares can be a blessing for the cash strapped traveler. However, there can be consequences of choosing such cheap tickets. At first glance, it would seem mad to call low fares irresponsible, but is that really the case? We will look at some of the pros and cons of choosing the cheapest fares.

The quote in question

The full quote mentioned by the Laudamotion advert comes from the Lufthansa Group board chairman, Carsten Spohr, who says:

“We need growth. But we do not need blind growth, we need high-quality, sustainable growth. Tickets for less than ten euros – as offered by some of our competitors – are economically, ecologically and politically irresponsible,”

However, here is how the Laudamotion advertisement looks:

Connecting families

One of the best things about low fares is their accessibility. While flying used to be exclusive to the rich and famous, nowadays almost anyone can fly. This is especially true of the rock bottom fares offered by the Ryanair group. While their cheapest low-cost ticket between London and Frankfurt comes in at just £20, with a full-service carrier this jumps to a minimum of £51.

low fares irresponsible
Ryanair’s low fares allow families to stay connected. Photo: Ryanair

While the difference only amounts to £30 per person per leg, it can add up. Imagine a family of four travelling a return journey. Assuming only adult tickets are purchased, this would add up to around £240 worth of savings. In terms of keeping the world connected, low fares seem the opposite of irresponsible.

Protecting the planet

There are two ways to look at the potential environmental impact of low fares. The first is the encouragement to fly. As previously mentioned, low fares make flying far more accessible. As such, people may be encouraged to take a flight they may not otherwise take. An example could be a weekend in Bremen which costs less than a trip to Edinburgh.

On the other hand, low fares encourage high load factors, meaning that per passenger, the flight will have lower CO2. The Ryanair Group cites that its passenger load factor for January was 91%. Now, taking the Frankfurt to Manchester route, on 28th May, Ryanair will operate one flight on the route, whereas Lufthansa will operate five. Interestingly, the Lufthansa Group’s load factor for the same month quoted stands at just 76.4%.

Load Factors
Lufthansa Group posted a load factor of 76.4% for January, while the Ryanair Group posted 91%. Photo: Lufthansa

Overall while the low fares may encourage more passengers, it appears that it is actually increasing the load factors, especially as the Ryanair Group’s model revolves around a minimal number of flights per day.

All in all, it seems as though low fares are not as irresponsible as they would appear at first glance, at least not in terms of load factors. But what happens when an airline sets their fares so low that they can’t sustain their business?

Unsustainable fares

Of course, when airlines charge so little that they can’t keep their business afloat, there’s a whole new set of problems. The recent demise of airlines such as WOW Air and Jet Airways has seen thousands of passengers stranded around the world, leaving other airlines to pick up the pieces as a result.

Pricing flights so they’re accessible is one thing; setting them so low that even a slight change in the cost of overheads (jet fuel, labor costs) puts you out of business definitely is irresponsible.

What do you think? Do you think low fares irresponsible? Let us know in the comments.