This is the sixth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Singapore.

As the title of this series indicates, my trip was built around flying Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and Lufthansa First Class. I booked those long flights well before I had a plan for my time on the ground.

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When I looked into how I wanted to spend my time in Southeast Asia, I decided to spend eight days in Cambodia. I had to get there and back from Singapore, and the way to do that seemed obvious to me based on previous experience in Southeast Asia: low-cost carriers.

Similarly I decided to spend three days in Slovenia to get back to the Balkans, and I had to get there from London. I knew it was another chance to save my airline miles and book a low-cost carrier.

Both flights could have been booked with traditional airline miles like United miles or British Airways Avios. But they would have been inefficient redemptions where I was saving less than 1 cent per mile used. Instead I saved those airline miles for redemptions when I can get 2 cents of value or more. And I redeemed Arrival miles earned on my Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, which can be used for free flights on any airline. (Meeting the card’s spending requirement unlocks $500 in free flights.)

How can you find low-cost carriers on routes you want to fly? How can you book them? What fees do you need to be aware of? Are low cost carriers bearable?

Low-Cost Carriers in Asia

In Asia, I knew I had to get from Singapore to Cambodia, so I started my research on the Singapore airport wikipedia page.

Three carriers flew from Singapore to Phnom Penh and two flew from Singapore to Siem Reap. Two of the carriers, Tigerair and Jetstar Asia Airways, were low-cost carriers. All three carriers–the third being Silkair, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines–are searchable on kayak.com.

I searched there and found prices around $70 each way. I would be a fool to redeem traditional airline miles instead of paying the $70. And I didn’t even have to pay the $70. I could redeem a net of 6,160 Arrival miles instead. (Click here if you don’t understand that math.)

I booked a one way flight from Singapore to Siem Reap and a return from Phnom Penh to Singapore to minimize backtracking within Cambodia.

My flights on Jetstar Asia Airways were totally fine. Each flight was about two hours in a half-empty plane. Seats were assigned, but I could freely move somewhere with an empty seat next to me. This mitigated the effect of tightly packed rows.

Low-Cost Carriers in Europe

For my flight from London to Ljubljana, I started my search for the cheapest flight on the Ljubljana airport wikipedia page. I found out that EasyJet flies from Stansted and Wizz Air flies from Luton.

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Partial List of Routes from Ljubljana

I searched my two London options on each carrier’s website. Wizz Air charged the standard assortment of fees–6 pounds for using a credit card, 9 pounds for a large carry on instead of a small–but the total was only 21.99 pounds because of the negative 14 pound base fare.

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I spent $37 for this ticket and later paid another $13 to change my luggage allotment from one large cabin bag to one small cabin bag plus one checked bag. (Under no circumstances does Wizz Air allow you to bring two bags into the cabin.) That was $50 all in for my ticket. Again, this a cash or Arrival miles redemption. A redemption of Avios or United miles would be a terrible idea.

This was another adequate flight that got me where I needed to go at about 500 miles per hour.

Tips for Flying Low-Cost Carriers

I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about low-cost carriers, but I’ve never had a bad experience. The price is so low that I can put up with the infrequent schedules and small seats. If you do fly a low-cost carrier, here are my tips:

  1. My biggest tip is not to make a distinction between the base fare and the fees. The common business model is to show you a base fare that is unbelievably low and also completely unbookable without adding on other fees like a fee to pay by credit card. Ignore the base fare versus fee distinction and just compare the all in cost of all the services you need from one airline to another.
  2. Pay very close attention to bag fees. Wizz Air makes you pay if you want to carry on anything larger than a laptop bag. And they make you pay a lot more if you don’t select your option before showing up at the airport. Know what bags you’ll have, what they’ll cost, and refer to tip number one.
  3. Pay attention to check in fees. A lot of low-cost European carriers charge exorbitant fees for checking in at the airport instead of online. Make sure you have access to a printer before the airport.
  4. Pay attention to airport. Low-cost carriers are notorious for flying into cheap airports that are over an hour’s drive from the city whose name they add to the airport. For instance, a lot of low-cost carriers fly to Beauvais–Tillé Airport and call it Paris-Beauvais despite being 85 km from Paris. These name tricks can add a lot of time and cost to your trip.
  5. Buy your ticket with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. You’ll earn 2x miles on the purchase. You can redeem miles to completely remove the charge, and your redemption gets an automatic 10% miles rebate.

Have you flown a low-cost carrier? How’d it go? Any tips for others considering flying one?

Full Trip Report

 

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