Thursday, 13 September 2007

Budget, Low-cost or just Cheap?

I took a Tiger Airways flight the other week and therefore used Changi's Budget terminal for the first time. That's what it's called: "Budget". Getting there involved taking the bus to the main terminals then getting on a shuttle to the Budget terminal. If I'd know that's what it was, I could have saved myself 20mins by getting off the bus on the main airport access way and crossing the road to it.

It's a new (2006), purpose-built facility, but looks like a low, converted warehouse-cum-shed painted in bright yellow with the logo and tagline "Pocket the Difference" all over the place. "See the Difference" more like. The plaque says it was opened by the 2nd vice-minister for paperclips or something.

I think only Tiger Airways flies from there. Check-in was a 25min queue with the usual delays from people trying to check-in over-weight cases or trying to take over-large items as 'hand carry'. [BTW, I saw an extreme example of this recently at Heathrow with a couple trying to check-in 2 cases of 34 and 37Kgs. The legal maximum for a single item is 32Kgs (Health & Safety), so they had to remove 7kgs (while standing at check-in) just to get to legal, and would then still be 24Kgs over their ticket allocation.]

Departure lounge is Okay with a reasonable selection of food, drinks, dodgy souvenirs and a handy money exchange kiosk. Queuing at the gate, our documents were checked again by the same ladies from check-in and I wondered if they were the stewardesses as well (they weren't but it was shades of Bob Newhart's Grace L. Ferguson Airline & Storm Door Co.). It's a walk yourself to the plane job; no jetways. On-board, they spent 15mins going up and down the plane checking seat belts, electrical items (Airbus A310, so no phones, iPods, games etc), kids, tray tables, luggage etc. I haven't seen such dumbing down in cabin crew since I last flew on China Southern in the late 90's.

In-flight, everything costs extra (drinks, snacks) and officially they ban bringing your own on-board but it was a well ignored rule, not least by me.

The return is similar and the Duty Free shop in the luggage re-claim hall is really cheap (£6 for a litre of Gin!), so there's a huge queue being served by staff displaying a level of work disengagement normally reserved for Soviet cabbage farms.

The final security X-ray was the slightly apologetic affair that characterises Singaporean officials who know their processes inconvenience the many to catch the few. Apparently (given our port of embarkation) they were on the look out for illegal "snakes in liquor bottles". Being verifiably unencumbered by pickled reptiles, we were free to beat a hasty retreat from the yellow shed.