Following the explosive growth of Low Cost Airlines and the general retreat of the older, legacy carriers away from short haul services to focus on more lucrative long haul routes, there has been an inevitable lack of connectivity between the two types of airline. This makes it difficult to find cost effective connections from local airports to the major airport hubs which offer long haul flights to destinations world-wide. The technology used by low cost carriers (such as EasyJet) has not been easily integrated with that used by legacy carriers (such as British Airways) and airports have catered only for connecting passengers who have bought, through tickets that allow passengers to check in at the originating airport for their entire journey. This is only made possible by interline agreements between participating (i.e. not low-cost) carriers.
As with every restriction which forces passengers to pay more for their flights than is necessary, an increasing number of travellers have found a way around this problem. They are booking themselves on two tickets; the first short haul sector using the cheap fares of a low cost carrier (e.g. EasyJet) and the second longer sector on their choice of legacy carrier (e.g.British Airways). The cost savings justify the added risk of what happens if the first flight is late as well as the extra time needed for exitingthe air-side part of the intermediate airport and checking in again at the land-side desks of the airline providing the second part of the trip. This practice is "Self-connecting" and a passenger who is booking "Self-Connect" is one which the airline industry is beginning to recognise as a significant potential source of extra revenue.
A passenger who decides to Self-Connect and book personally on-line, needs to make two separate bookings. These cannot be done simultaneously and there is therefore the possibility of losing the price or the seat availability for the second flight booked. This leaves them with a less than optimum first flight booking if their first choice of onward flight disappears or substantially increases the price of the journey. Secondly the Self-connecting passenger needs to consider the possibility of airline delays and airport congestion between the arrivals gate and the land side check-in desk of the second airline. These parameters dictate the length of connection time allowed by the self connecting passenger at the intermediate airport as well as the type of fare chosen. If the cheapest, non-changable, non-refundable fare is chosen on either carrier and the passenger, for whatever reason, misses the connection, there is no re-course to either airline for compensation for the missed self-connection or for assistance finding an alternative onward flight. Hence savvy self connecting passengers must allow relatively long connecting times (2 hours plus, depending on the airport) and should consider buying flexible, changeable tickets on both airlines. EasyJet and even RyanaIr now offer these type of fares, and legacy carriers have always relied on this type of fare for extra income.
So what is the industry doing to adjust to these new demands from these "self-connects" ?
Alternative Airlines is launching early in 2015, a new self-connect booking capability which allows two tickets to be booked simultaneously in one transaction and removes the risk from the passenger of the price changing or flights suddenly becoming full. Within this new facility is the acknowledgement that some flights are delayed (even EasyJet with its fantastic on-time performance record) so the fares quote are those with some flexibility built into the terms and conditions. Alongside this new self connect capability comes an expert knowledge of the landscape of the intermediate airports which is passed onto the self-connecting passenger. For example, which arrival gates are likely to be used and which terminal, where, and what level, the airline check-in desks are situated. Exclusively for Alternative Airlines passengers, some long haul airlines have agreed to accept the inbound passengers, arriving on a low cost airline, as their own, offering onward assistance as if the passenger was on a traditional connecting 'interline' ticket. More generically some major airports, such as London Gatwick, are waking-up to this new type of carrier and providing an 'all-airline' check-in desk in the arrival hall so that the passenger can collect his hold baggage off the first flight and immediately check it in again (and himself) for the second flight. This new facility helps with lowering the connecting time required between flights, however the passenger still needs to exit through immigration and back through security to catch their onward flight. Alternative Airlines will be working closely with the airports in Europe and worldwide as this type of capability spreads and keeping our passengers informed as to which airports make it easy for them to use as their intermediate connection point.
Th airline industry continues to change rapidly, but in terms of self-connect facilities, airlines, airports and on-line flight suppliers are lagging behind what their most sophisticated customers are doing for themselves. Alternative Airlines self-connect capability is looking to address this need, fill the gap in a sensible, expert way and help our customers find better, alternative ways, to get their chosen destination as conveniently and cheaply as possible.