Flying to India with kids? Emirates is cheaper than ‘budget’ airlines

Not to mention the convenience and price guarantee offered by a full-service airline

There’s good news and bad news for travellers hoping for a ‘budget’ vacation this year.

First, the bad news: the so-called budget carriers are not really offering any bargain deals, even if you book weeks in advance and despite the ‘inaugural discounts’ being offered by some of the budget carriers to some of their destinations.

For instance, what a budget carrier flaunting a one-way airfare of Dh350 or whatever from Dubai to New Delhi is not telling you is that, once you add the taxes, and seat-selection charges, and meals, and baggage fees, what you might end up paying for the trip could be multiple times the single-sector airfare being advertised. Seriously.

The good news (yes there is some): the UAE’s full-service airlines, the Dubai-based Emirates and the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, may just work out to be cheaper for you, especially if you are travelling with kids.

How? Firstly, the so-called budget carriers operating from Dubai do not seem to make a distinction (when it comes to airfares and taxes) between a child and an adult.

An occupied aircraft seat, for them, is an occupied aircraft seat – be it an infant, a child, a teenager or an adult.

On the other hand, full-service airlines do make that distinction, and an infant’s ticket is usually priced at just about 10 per cent of an adult’s ticket, while children (two years and above until 12) pay 70 per cent of the price of an adult’s ticket.

In addition, the full-service airlines allow you to pre-select your seat (online) without any additional charges, besides a free baggage allowance and free in-flight meals, as all these are considered as part of the ticket price.

Not so for the budget carriers, which charge separately for each of these items, over and above the base airfare and taxes, which makes the eventual cost of the journey surpass what a traveller might have paid if travelling on a full-service airline.

Consider this: Emirates 24|7 compared the Dubai-Delhi return airfares for three weeks from now – departing Dubai on July 16, and returning on July 17, for 1 adult and 1 child – across three ‘budget’ carriers and two full-service carriers. The prices were revealing, to say the least.

SpiceJet, the latest entrant to the UAE’s airspace, began its Dubai-Delhi flights this week. A return journey on the said sector for the dates above (departing July 16 and returning July 17) for one adult and one child will set you back by Dh4,518 – and this is without even getting into charges for seat-selection or meals.

It, however, does allow a 30kg free baggage allowance for passengers on the Dubai-Delhi sector.

Air Arabia (which flies from Sharjah International Airport) offers the journey (Sharjah-Delhi return) on the same dates at least a fifth cheaper than its Indian peer.

The cost of the journey (including the cost of seat-selection and in-flight meals but not baggage allowance) works out to about Dh3,551.

Starting July 1, Air Arabia will be charging Dh10 for a 20kg checked-in baggage and Dh20 for a 30kg baggage on the route, as part of its pre-booked baggage policy.

IndiGo, another Indian carrier that has recently started its Dubai service, is only slightly cheaper than Air Arabia, and offers the Dubai-Delhi journey on said dates at Dh3,088 (including meals) for an adult and a child, but this price does not include seat-selection.

To its credit, the airline offers 30kg free baggage allowance for both kids (above two years of age) and adults (passengers above 12 years of age).

Now let’s look at the ticket prices at the UAE’s full-service airlines.

For the record, full-service includes free in-flight meals and beverages, a 30kg free baggage allowance, and the option of selecting your seats online, without having to pay anything extra for them Emirates, flying from the internationally acclaimed Terminal 3 in Dubai, will charge you Dh2,960 (all inclusive) for the Dubai-Delhi return journey (departing July 16 and returning July 17).

That is cheaper than any budget carrier flying between the two cities – in fact, the journey will be at least 50 per cent more expensive on SpiceJet, the latest entrant on the sector.

Etihad, another full-service airline in the UAE, is also cheaper than that, with the cost of the journey working out to Dh4,140 on the said dates although this price is more than the ticket prices of IndiGo and Air Arabia.

However, taking into consideration that Air Arabia doesn’t have a free baggage allowance, Etihad will work out cheaper if you’re planning to carry (and get it back) even a 10kg checked-in baggage.

Cost of Travel

Emirates: Dh2,960

IndiGo (with meals): Dh3,088

Air Arabia (with seat selection and meals)*: Dh3,551

Etihad: Dh4,140

SpiceJet (without meals): Dh4,518

Notes: Prices are for a return Economy class Dubai-Delhi journey for one adult and one child, departing July 16 and returning July 17, 2012. Air Arabia’s journey is from Sharjah to Delhi and back.

Etihad plies free bus service from pick-up points in Dubai to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

While this comparison was done online on June 27, 2012, for the said dates, prices may vary on different dates or if bookings are attempted closer to travel dates.

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