Although the large bulk of expenses for traveling are from accommodation and flight, the two slightly differ in flexibility. For accommodation you can go very cheap (couch surfing and hostels) to moderate (motels, apartment renting or 2-3 star hotels) and the very luxurious (4-5 star hotels, resorts and anyplace pampering). For flights (to get to your destination), however, it is not as flexible: the flight fares for normal airlines usually do not deviate much from each other but offer a standard of service, and while budget airlines may be cheaper, they are
sometimes usually lacking in that department (service).
Accommodation aside, flights on budget airlines are worth it only if it is for short distances (less than 2-3 hours, the lesser the cost the better the value) and (especially) when there are fare promotions to very nearby destinations. Being in (South-East) Asia, there is quite a variety of budget airlines that you can choose from (e.g. Air Asia, Scoot, Tiger, JetStar etc…). While the prices that budget airlines offer can (often) lighten the burden on your travelling budget (more so if you are willing to waste time with stopovers), not every airline/flight can be time efficient: with stopovers as long as the flight itself, getting to your destination may be cheaper but it will take you twice (or more) the amount of time to reach your destination; which might not be that all cost efficient after all since time is money.
Even if you manage to find a good deal for a budget airline, despite the cheap prices, it would be good to be mentally prepared for poor service/assistance should something (unexpected) go wrong (somehow). There is also a higher occurrence of late/delayed flights (usually happens more often with budget airlines) and the occasional lost luggage. This is not to say that the mentioned would not happen if you were to take a normal (full) flight, but budget being budget where you have to pay for extras like meals, drinks, entertainment, checked luggage, and even preferred seating, something has to give way… and usually it is customer service (i.e. it is that little smile or just simply being helpful and courteous) that is the real deal breaker.
A return trip from Singapore to Taiwan with Singapore Airlines, for example, is priced at about S$588 (when there is an ongoing promotion); included are meals, beverages, refreshments, blankets, use of the in-flight entertainment for that 4 hours or so flight back and forth (each). On the other hand, a return trip on a budget carrier such as Jetstar, costs about S$378-468++ for the return flight (when there is no promotion); not inclusive of any meals, beverages, refreshments, blankets, nor in-flight entertainment. With food and whatever extras you want to add, it can go up to as much as S$600-800. Of course, if you manage to get it at a promotional rate for a budget airline, it might be cheaper; but that depends all on your destination and when you are flying out.
I used to think that budget would be good (enough) for places as far as Taiwan (less than 5 hours), but after my recent encounter with Jetstar’s ‘wonderful’ counter service (and lack of proper assistance), malfunctioning air-conditioning on the departing flight, delayed flight on the return trip, poor cabin pressure and a strong smell of petrol permeating the air (just like a car door that has not been closed properly and the petrol fumes from neighboring vehicles finding its way in), I have come to the conclusion that budget airlines would be much better for trips less than 3 hours (e.g. Bangkok, Malaysia, Indonesia etc…). They might not be the best and (sometimes) fall short of (any) customer service standards and perceived value, so expectations should not be high (at all) except to get from point A to Z safely and intact (for both person and luggage) at the cheapest price. After all, you do get what you pay for - a cheap flight and that’s it. Anything else (e.g. service, politeness, helpfulness and assistance etc...) might either be a tall order or an added bonus.
Budget airlines offer flight service at a very low cost with everything (i.e. food, entertainment, luggage weight etc...) as add-ons at an extra cost. The only thing that is not considered an add-on option would be (for counter and in-flight service), which might explain why the standard in (basic) service fluctuates and is (even) sometimes non-existent. That said, while I might be not giving up totally on budget airlines since they are essentially cheaper (when there are reasonable promotions), I am most certainty limiting my usage of them.
What has your experience been like on budget airlines, which budget airlines do you prefer (if any) and why (do you prefer them)? ^^