Outlook: Low-cost airlines

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The Independent Online
MOST AIRLINE passengers would settle for a flight that was safe, relaxing and stress-free. Not so those party-animals around at KLM, who think flying should be "fun, exciting and energetic". To that end the Dutch flag-carrier plans to launch its own low-cost airline from Stansted next year. Just to make sure that no-one mistakes Buzz for all the other no-frills airlines queuing up to use the airport, its fleet will be painted a garish mixture of sunflower yellow, purple and lime green.

KLM says it has the market research to prove that this kind of sensory assault is what passengers want. It also has the forecasts to demonstrate that, far from entering an overcrowded market, demand for low-cost travel will triple over the next four years.

In an effort to differentiate its low-cost entrant from British Airways' Go and the market leader, Ryanair, KLM has coined a new buzz phrase - "pay-as-you-go" air travel. Much as BSkyB subscribers can now pay a bit extra to view a goal from a particular camera angle, passengers on Buzz will be able to order that extra little frill.

In reality, Buzz is not quite the bold departure that KLM would have us believe. All but one of its six initial services are destinations currently served by KLM uk, which will simply be re-liveried under the Buzz word. Similarly, its fleet of eight BAe 146 jets, along with the pilots and cabin crew, will come from KLM uk. Buzz will also operate two fare bands - one for business travellers and another for cattle class, unlike other low-cost operators..

All the same, low-cost air travel has evidently caught the public imagination. There is even some evidence to suggest that the no-frills carriers are beginning to nibble away at the business-class market of the established flag-carriers.

But, equally, there is no doubt that there will be some casualties among the no-frills carriers. The demise of Swiss Air Express, another Stansted start-up, demonstrates that size of parent company is no guarantee of success.