Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on February 20th, 2010

Flying to Kaunas

I was pretty excited when over the fall airBaltic announced non-stop flights from VNO to CDG. They’ve had all sorts of sales, and I’ve already flown the route three times. The schedule seems to be settling down a bit (my flight into VNO landed at the hilarious useless time of 23:00), and they are adding flights. Twice when I’ve flown, the plane was full, and it was nearly full the last time I flew.

Yet now Ryanair has announced their own non-stop from Paris to Kaunas, a city only 100km from Vilnius (the airport is actually even closer). Now while airBaltic is a low-cost airline, they are not precisely a “budget” airline, like Ryanair is. So the idea of getting to Lithuania from Paris for even less than what airBaltic charges was instantly appealing, especially when I clicked over to their site and saw they were charging about 55€ round trip, while I spent about 110€ on my last round-trip on airBaltic.

But though this post seems particularly tailored to the Paris-Vilnius crowd, it does apply to a lot budget airlines when comparing costs, because that 110 and 55 above become rather different numbers when we take into consideration other effects.

First, let’s make sure we’re playing with the same fire here. I’ve priced out a trip to Lithuania in May (so that Ryanair is already flying). I’ve chosen to fly out on May 6 and return on May 11. I chose May 6 for obvious personal reasons, but Ryanair won’t let me fly on that day, which means I have to either miss being in LT on the 6th or spend an extra night out there (and work extra hard to catch up on lost time at work). On the other hand, Ryanair will send me home on Monday, making me miss less work on the back end.

Ticket: airBaltic: 118,63€ = (10€ + 18€ + taxes); Ryanair: 33,98€ = (11,99€ + 11,99€ + 0*taxes)

Note that this Ryanair ticket claims no taxes, which, well, frankly, I don’t believe. How is it possible that the airBaltic flight charges taxes, but the Ryanair flight doesn’t? So I’m a little skeptical about the math here.

The next step, baggage, I’ll skip. Both companies will beat you senseless on baggage charges. In fact, airBaltic seems to have an 8kg limit on hand luggage, which is, once you get down to it, not a lot at all. Fear over tipping that limit had me leave my roller-bag at home, not wanting to pay for the metal frame and wheels and the like.

Then the next step, though, is a bit of a killer. Ryanair, you see, flies not to Vilnius, but to KUN. Furthermore, it doesn’t fly from CDG, but, rather, from BVA. Beauvais-Tillé airport is, incidentally, 85km from Paris, so about 10km closer to Paris than Kaunas airport is to Vilnius. This kind of distance in land travel obviously has a price. There is a shuttle running from the edge of Paris to the airport 3:15 before each flight. It costs 14€ one-way. Add in the 1,16€ in a Métro ticket, and you have a round-trip price of 30,32€. Furthermore, getting from Kaunas to Vilnius costs, and those tickets are 11,25€ one-way. They deliver you at Panorama Hotel near the Vilnius train station.

Flying airBaltic involves land transport costs, too, of course. The train ticket is 8,50€ one-way to CDG, and the bus from the airport to downtown Vilnius is ,72€. The cost of the little train from the airport to the main train station (right by the Panorama Hotel) is even a bit less. So that comes out to 18,42€.

Ground transport: airBaltic: 18,42€ (2(,72 + 8,50)); Ryanair: 52,82€ (2(11,25 + 14 + 1,16))

Now the Ryanair ticket savings get a bit more contextualized. The airBaltic price hops up just to 137,05€, but the Ryanair price soars to 86,80€. It’s interesting, in fact, that the ground transport is more than the price of the ticket for Ryanair.

In addition to ground transport costs, all that extra moving around involves opportunity costs, which differ from reader to reader. I typically don’t consider my time as being “worth” anything, but I do value some level of comfort, and I know that I was very glad that, on my last flight back to Paris, I literally stepped into the taxi and was on board the plane only 25 minutes later (the taxi would add about 2,50€ to the cost). That would be impossible if I had to hoof it all the way to Kaunas.

Nevertheless, a 50-some euro difference, even when accounting for the disparity in ground transport, isn’t nothing. That’s about a night out on the town, if one is hanging out at Disco 311. Assuming this 0€ in taxes business is real, we’ll see what I choose to do in the future.

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