Certainly, China’s a bastion of all things “cheap,” and, in addition to the $15 Rolexes, $20 Prada bags, and $5 for enough dumplings to feed you for a week, flights are the latest addition to China’s cheap offerings.
Kiwi.com, the masters of locating budget airfare, developed an algorithm to find the most and least affordable flights—the “Aviation Price Index.” Rather than relying on tactics like “booking on a Tuesday,” they calculated the average ticket cost per 100km of travel. The surprising result: The cheapest international flights, at $1.22/100km of travel, land in China.
How can this be? There are a few reasons. For starters, in recent years China’s major cities have transformed into major international hubs, which, consequently, has demanded the development of low-cost airlines flying in and out of the country. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, these low-cost carriers go unseen by Western travelers. AirAsia and Spring Airline, two budgetary Asian airliners, often don’t appear on Western booking sites like Expedia. Also, take Ctrip.com, a common website for Chinese travelers. Sublime China, a Chinese travel agency, showed how sites like Ctrip.com save travelers more than 20 percent on flights.
In the U.S., the culture of low-cost flying remains in an infantile stage, and, sure, “riding the Spirit” isn’t helping its cause. At $12.84/100km of travel, budget airlines should find success in the U.S., and, if the continued progression of low-cost carrier Norwegian Airlines signals anything, it’s that Americans want cheaper flights abroad.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.