Lessons in Low-Cost-Carriers – Jetstar Edition

Maybe this should be titled “How Jetstar keeps costing me money” because really despite having travelled with a few Low-Cost-Carriers there’s one that has never ceased to let me down.

The premise of a Low-Cost-Carrier (LCC) is pretty simple, as passengers we pay a low price to get ourselves from Point-A to Point-B.  We may elect (at our expense) to add options to make that experience more comfortable, or bring bags or even eat.  We still expect the plane to arrive and depart as scheduled, and we still expect to be treated as a customer.

Jetstar Routes

So why am I so down on Jetstar?

In short way back in 2007 Jetstar left us sitting at Proserpine Airport for about 5 hours waiting for a plane to arrive.  No-one on the ground could tell us where the plane was, nor could their call centre.  In fact when it arrive the surly cabin crew were, err, surly, then plane was suffering mechanical problems and ultimately limped to Brisbane some 6 hours late.

Little wonder that it took 8 years before I was willing to risk Jetstar again.

So for our upcoming Japan trip we grabbed a “Pay one-way only” deal with Jetstar, that meant for the princely sum of $1055 Kitty & I were booked from Sydney to Narita return.  On the face of it a great deal, sure there’s already nearly $200 of payment fees and seat selection in there but we’re on the (flying) bus!

While we quibble over meal choices (at about $24 each) and baggage (about $80 per 20kg each way) there’s something else afoot.

See we don’t live in Sydney.  So getting from Canberra to Sydney for us means a choice between flying, driving, bus or train.  I ended up finding some cheap Virgin Australia flights to suit, there’s another $366 on the running tally.

Now on the other end we decided we wanted to start in Osaka and then travel up to Tokyo over our ~11 days.  Bam now we’re on a Peach Aviation “Happy Peach Plus” deal for $164 (one-way).

That all sounds great doesn’t it?

Then I get the first e-mail from Jetstar advising a schedule change.  Sure’s it’s only a 5 minute wiggle on one leg.  No problems!

When a few weeks later another reschedule turned up, going for a few inconsequential minutes I figured “hey that’s what I get for booking 9 months out”.

But it got worse.


In mid-February I got the worse one yet.  This time the flight from Sydney was going to be delayed by (ultimately after all the minor shifts) almost an hour.  Yeah.  Suddenly there wasn’t time to change terminals for the Peach flight with any margin for error or delays.

To fix this Jetstar (thankfully) offered the option of an earlier flight which now routed via Melbourne leaving Sydney about 12 hours earlier – this negated the booked accomodation in Sydney but didn’t interfere with our Virgin flights.

It’s not over yet though.  Last week I got a notice at 11am with a schedule change, again only a 5 minute shuffle.  No problems.  Pity it was followed by another shuffle around 5 hours later!  Yep, two changes in one day!

So my Lesson?  Jetstar, Never. Ever. Again.

F1 on a Shoestring – What Went Down!

We are heading for a month since I wrote my last entry, at the time I was just 7 days away from departing for Malaysia onboard AirAsias A330 for the 2014 Malaysian GP.

Well considering part of the goal was to travel light I ended up taking   just an iPhone 4S, a Kindle and the Panasonic TZ40 to capture the moments of the trip.

So first lets answer the question of accommodation; I stayed at The Victory Exclusive in Bukit Bintang.  Rather than write yet another review here’s what I said on TripAdvisor.  In summary though – the room had no windows a comfortable bed and was generally clean and functional and for the price I’m not complaining.

As with my previous visits Malaysia had me captivated with the pace of development and the friendliness of the people.  In Australia we often like to think of our country as being “multicultural” – and for a anglo-dominated 1st world country that may be the case – but Malaysia seems to incorporate a greater mix of cultures, languages and lifestyles with a ease that I don’t feel back home.

For me this trip was all about trying to have a good time without simply throwing money at the experience.  So I grabbed a Touch’n’Go MyPass and got around like a local on the Trains, Buses and Monorail.  The added advantage was the massive cost saving compared to taxis, in 10 days I went through about 70RM (about AUD25) on the card and was on some form of mass-transit at least once!   I can’t speak highly enough of the convenience of the system and wholeheartedly recommend any traveller to Malaysia pick one up as soon as they can.



F1 on a Shoestring – A bed for the (10) nights

With my budget drained by picking up options on airfares and the travel insurance I was now in the difficult position of trying to make the accommodation fit.

As I knew I’d be travelling with minimal luggage and only staying a short time I wouldn’t need the largest room, but I did want my own room, and own bathroom.  At 39 years of age I don’t think I need to do hostel style anymore.

So I hit Hotels.com – we’ve been using it with moderate success to get good deals and to be honest the aggregators always have some sting in their tail – whether it is pricing only the cheapest night in the date range, forgetting about the taxes and fees or worst still having the links swapped in bait & switch fashion.

I’m familiar the “Golden Triangle” and Bit Bintang so that’s where I focussed attention.

My Hotels.com Search was delivering a good mix of results, and in the end after a lot of reading I settled on a choice between 3 places, chosen for their price, the reviews on Hotels.com and on TripAdvisor and the pictures.

The finalists were;

  • Hotel Al Jafs which offers a great price and fair reviews.  The advantage here was being basically a hundred or so metres from where we’d stayed previously in Kuala Lumpur, within stumbling distance of Paper + Toast for the morning brew and great light meals.
  • Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang, again the price was great, moreso for the stated size of the rooms and there were some stunning discounts on offer.  Location wise it’s basically on the same block as the Low Yat Plaza of electronics and gadgets – a plus – but also a wallet risking minus.
  • Victory Exclusive, buried in the Fahrenheit88 complex the key attributes are location nestled amongst malls and food courts and price that approached the upper end of my budget (I needed a good discount to get over the line).

I’ve made my booking – missing out on some of the deeper discounting – and choosing a room spec which will hopefully offer a little more comfort than the base level.

I killed my budget though.  AUD652.50 spent.

For now I won’t say where – you can do the reading about each of the three candidates and when I check-in I’ll put up some reviews of the space then.

In my next post I’ll write a bit about all the things I’m going to do in the 7 days I won’t be at Sepang Circuit!

F1 on a Shoestring – Making it happen

In my last post I outlined the plan – attend the 2014 Malaysian Formula1 for an all-in cost of AUD 1500 from my home in Canberra Australia.

Key to this was getting some killer airfares – I needed to book 4 legs at least, either in a single booking or a cluster of bookings linked together by myself.

Turning to any of the regular travel aggregators gets some decent joined rates; Helloworld (formerly Bestflights) shows pricing of around AUD1000 and that’s pretty good, but I knew I could do better.

In the end I settled on using AirAsia and making a booking with my choice of service level, carry-on luggage only to KL, 20kg Return luggage, a seat in the Quiet Zone of my choice and so on.  Total spent including all fees – AUD425.  The problem is this flight left from Sydney meaning either two 3 hour drives from Canberra or a linking flight.

Turning to Virgin Australia and lining up matching flight times put me a further AUD247.70 down but I now had dates of travel locked in.

Its all getting very real now

With flights locked in on the cheapest virtually non-refundable, non-changeable fares this trip was going to happen.  I’d previously sketched out a rough budget while looking at airfares and now it was getting tight…

Description Estimate
Flights (SYD – KUL) $ 368.00
Flights (CBR – SYD) $ 240.00
Accomodation $ 650.00
Travel Insurance $ 90.00
F1 Ticket $ 250.00
Totals: $ 1,598.00

OK in reality the budget crept a bit when I added in the base cost of the AirAsia flights and the real (no discount) internal flights.  But at this point I was still allowing myself a generous 3 star accommodation budget and a pretty good range of ticket options for the F1.

Working a bit backwards I contacted our usual travel insurer for a quote – it came back a bit higher than expected, but not much, and a chunk of the increase was selecting the “no excess” option.  Always worthwhile when travelling and while my Credit Card offers complimentary insurance a dedicated policy is always much more generous.

Time to get serious and book some more stuff, with the flights already over budget I was hoping to downgrade costs a bit, so hitting the Sepang Circuit website I started the arduous choice of selecting my F1 tickets.

Sepang Circuit ticket prices are some of the better prices – and buying direct from the circuit online cut out some of the costs that other ticket sellers impose including mandatory postage of tickets.  Not to mention it’s not like the racetrack is a fraudulent operator!

In the end I’ve settled for a covered grandstand on the back straight – it was basically the best combination of allocated seat – I’ve grabbed one right on the railing so should have a great clear view.  It was cheap, at a smidge over AUD195 for the three days.

There is a bonus with booking through Sepang Circuit – that is the inclusion of tickets to the post-race party (Calvin Harris in 2014) and other things.

So now I had flights, insurance, and an F1 ticket and nowhere to sleep!

There’s about AUD600 to spend

F1 on a shoestring – Planning

This year I’m attending the Formula1 at Malaysia, and I’m doing it “cheap”.

I’ve never been to an F1 race before and despite being in Malaysia at the same time as the 2012 race I never quite made it down to Sepang Circuit to have a look.  This year I’m making a dedicated trip, on a budget.

The Budget:

The budget was “open” to interpretation as I’m always a sucker for toxic option syndrome, but to meet all the initial costs upfront from cash reserves and limit myself from up-speccing accommodation etc I elected to cap fixed costs of airfares, accommodation and F1 ticket at AUD1500.


I started out in January with a very simple plan, book some fares on the worlds best low-cost carrier and use the dates of the cheapest fares to determine the duration of the trip.  I wanted some time on the ground to visit some attractions as well as relax and generally “have a break”.

Canberra is not an international travel hub so my flight costs had to get blown out by the duopoly that is the Australian domestic airline industry.

F1 tickets for Malaysia are cheap, there’s no other way to put it and this was the most flexible part of my budget, I could spend next to nothing for a walking paddock pass or extend into Grandstand seats from around AUD100.

Accommodation was going to be part of the make-or-break equation, I knew spending AUD100-AUD150 a night would deliver a good room in a international hotel chain, but it would also significantly dent my meagre budget.  Thankfully Kuala Lumpur has a myriad of options and really the trick was seeing how much was left after the airlines took their share.

So the plan was:

1. Book flights to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) – ensure domestic flights could be matched up and book those too.

2. Lock in F1 ticket booking.

3. Decide on any side-trips, book Kuala Lumpur accommodation.

4. Do stuff I forgot to do first… (Like Travel Insurance)