Malindo Air hit the headlines when Schapelle Corby used the airline to fly home from Bali.
“YOU’RE flying the family WHERE and for HOW much?”
I recently travelled to Kuala Lumpur with our family of four, but to be honest we almost didn’t go.
I’d managed to land a week in an amazing hotel resort for a steal, and all I needed to do was book the flights to match. Simple right?
When it came time to book, I found that the more conventional full-service airlines were out of our budget for our preferred travel dates, which of course was during the notoriously expensive school holidays. Things were not looking good.
Fuelled by coffee and a desire to finally have a well-earned break, I did more research.
Finally, I found online an option with Malindo Air. At $600 return per adult from Brisbane, it was about a third of the closest alternative in price. It seemed too good to be true!
Malindo Air began flying from Brisbane in March.
I took a deep dive into what you get for your money on the airline’s website and when I finally felt confident, I made the booking.
And when it was time to go on our holiday, the tips that I’d picked up when researching helped us to prepare for the flight so that it was a stress-free experience.
Here are a few of the things I learnt that are worth checking before booking any flight with a budget airline.
1. KNOW YOUR PLACE
Check if your connecting flights will actually take you AND your bags all the way through on the one booking. There is nothing worse than realising after booking your tickets that you haven’t left enough time between flights to make it through immigration, collect your bags, check-in again and get back through security to your onward flight – especially with tired kids. On our Kuala Lumpur trip, we had a stop in Bali but fortunately, neither us or our suitcases were required to leave the plane.
2. LUGGAGE LIMITS
Ensuring that you have enough baggage allowance is really important. When travelling on low-cost carriers, it pays to find out what and how much baggage you are able to check-in, and how much you can take on board. This is especially important when travelling with a little one on an infant ticket, as some carriers will give you an allowance for bub and some won’t. This can mean having to pay excess baggage or being forced to check some of your planned carry-on items at the gate.
Specifically, find out if that pram, stroller, car seat or travel cot is included in your allowance or will you need to pay extra? Check the airline’s rules before booking. In some cases, we found it easier just to hire some of those items at our destination.
Tip: Purchasing additional baggage is often available at the time of booking, and while it’s never cheap, trust me, it will definitely be less stressful than trying to repack your bags in the departure hall.
Luggage limits can really put a downer on your holiday plans.
3. TIME IS MONEY
I’ve learnt that some carriers operate from different airports, not just different terminals, depending on your destination. This is particularly the case around Europe where low-cost carriers often fly into more obscure airports to reduce costs.
Make sure you are familiar with your arrival airport’s location when arranging your ongoing transport. If you’ve booked a hotel transfer or a car, you want to make sure that it’s at the right place to meet you and the family!
Also, double-check the particular airline’s check-in opening and closing times. Some airlines have much earlier check-in deadlines and much stricter fare rules – arriving late may cost you a whole new ticket, or a steep change fee for each family member.
4. SEAT ALLOCATION
These days online seat selection is often considered an optional extra. With a sale fare, it’s fairly certain that you’ll need to factor this in as an additional cost to make sure you’re able to sit together.
Most airlines will try and accommodate families at check-in, but if the flight is full this may not be possible.
Be aware also, that there are some low-cost carriers who have no assigned seating. Instead, you board based on a “zonal system” – that’s first in best dressed. If you have an older family with teens, this might not be something you’ll worry about but if you have little ones, this is something to take into consideration at the time of booking.
Made it! Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Picture: eGuide Travel / Flickr
5. IN-FLIGHT EXTRAS
Booking a cheap fare often means paying for additional items like pillows, blankets, meals and snacks. Generally, the meals will be the same for kids and parents and will be regional favourites.
Little luxuries like personal amenity kits and emergency baby supplies may also be limited onboard. My recommendation for making the most of a low-cost carrier flight with kids is to pack your carry-on like you’re going camping (within the limit) and the closest neighbour is an eight-hour hike away!
6. THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT
Getting there is half the fun right? Well, bring the right activities for the kids with you and it can be. I always pack a range of things to keep our children occupied. Flying with a low-cost carrier means a kids’ activity pack is not always provided.
On our recent flight we managed to score seat-back screen entertainment. I understand that when flying with low-cost carriers, this is pretty rare.
Just a heads up though, movie options and children’s programming can be a bit limited. So, if you’re not a fan of the kids watching back-to-back Game of Thrones just because there was no other appropriate option left to watch, it could be a good idea to bring your own electronic devices to go with other activities. Oh and don’t forget the headphones.
If you are willing to make a little bit of effort ahead of your flight, flying no-frills is a great way to travel with kids. The limited number of bells and whistles simply means that you have to be a bit more creative so you that can take advantage of some big savings.
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