Note: This article was originally published on April 15, 2014
I really like Singapore as a place. It’s a really well thought out city. And one of the things I really love about the place is its amazing library culture. But this piece of writing is not about Singapore. Rather it talks about how I ended up traveling to Singapore and how I ended up getting a taste of really cheap air travel while doing that.
My first trip to Singapore happened during my MBA days at Great Lakes. There was an international study tour that we could opt for and we ended up spending a week in Singapore and a week in Malaysia in that trip. It was a really good trip and I guess I got done with all my touristy things in that trip itself. Case in point being that it was the only time I visited Sentosa islands in Singapore
My next visit happened in 2011. I had put in my papers and was serving my notice period at Deloitte. In one of those days when I randomly browsing through various websites in my bid to while away time, I came across this banner ad of Tiger airlines on some website that mentioned a 1 dollar ticket. And I'm not hiding which site it was that I came across the ad. I really don’t recall. (I was in office, so I'm pretty sure it wasn’t porn).
The result of having being sensitised to all those ads which tried to lure you in to click on them with “Earn $$$’s online” “You just won” and all is that you tend to completely dismiss all those ‘sounds too good to be true’ information that you come across; even when they are true. And if I recall well, this ad was had some animation also in it, reminding you of the typical ads that you come across on torrent sites.
Fortunately I ended up checking out the link which took me to the website of Tiger airlines and after doing some browsing I really did discover that there were 1 dollar tickets available for some of the days mentioned in their travel period during which the offer was live. And fortunately for me, the travel period coincided with the completion of my notice period as well. I realised (or rationalised rather) that it would be a good vacation soon after my notice period and a good start to my sabbatical. I did ponder over it for a couple of days and then ended up buying the ticket and traveling to Singapore on a 1 dollar ticket. The fact that I actually got the ticket sort of made me a convert. Until that point, my experience in most similar situation would be something like this: You reach the site and it informs you that the tickets in that offer category are sold out. Then they end up nudging you to buy the regular higher priced one.
For the benefit of understanding this 1 dollar ticket fully, the 1 dollar fare was available for 1 way only. And there would be applicable taxes on top of it. The other fare worked out to be 128 USD or something and this was when USD was around the 45 INR mark. So all in all, I travelled round trip including visa fees for about 10k.
I signed up for the Tiger airlines newsletter post this experience and I have been exposed to some amazing offers subsequent to that. I couldn’t take advantage of almost all of them but some of them were really neat and tempting. Notable ones being buy 1 get 1 free, round trip to Australia for 7k (or was it one way?) and 24 hour flash sales that has tickets for 16–85 SGD. One of the other neat offers that I have come across in the past was an Air Asia round trip to Malaysia for 6k. And most recently, I received newsletters from Indigo, Spicejet & Emirates. Indigo is offering sub 5k tickets to travel to Dubai, SpiceJet is offering sub 5k tickets to Singapore and Emirates is offering 40k & 60k (round trip in the case of Emirates) to London & New York respectively.
At this stage it’s interesting to note that domestic travel within in India is comparable and in some instances expensive that international travel. This is without even factoring in that the service standards and overall flying experiences in these carriers that I mentioned is quite superior to the domestic ones. (Kingfisher was an exception, bet they aren’t around anymore unfortunately).
Domestic air travel expenses have really shot up since the exit of the two of the main players from the market: Air Deccan & Kingfisher. There was a time when it was normal to get a Cochin — Delhi ticket for around 4k with the peak rate working out to be around 8k. I haven’t even seen a sub 10k fare for Cochin — Delhi anytime in the recent past. I recently did come across some articles which mention that Captain Gopinath is soon going to be back with his next airline in an effort to make air travel cheap and affordable again. And I'm also really looking forward to Tony throwing in a dash of much needed competition into the Indian commercial aviation sector with his award winning Air Asia fleet!