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Low cost air travel: social inclusion or social exclusion?

Baum, T. (2006) Low cost air travel: social inclusion or social exclusion? Tourism, Culture and Communication, 7 (1). ISSN 1098-304X

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Abstract

The low-cost revolution that has impacted upon North America, Western Europe, and, increasingly, other parts of the world, is, on initial examination, a development that has created opportunity for wider travel for all sectors of the community. This is certainly true in terms of price in that the impact of the emergence of low-cost carriers on major, generally short-haul, air routes has been to reduce headline prices significantly across all service providers. However, there are operating features within low-cost air travel which, notwithstanding price, may create barriers to access for some sections of the community. This article looks at the operating features of low-cost airlines and evaluates these in terms of social exclusion criteria. Based on an exploratory study of consumers in Glasgow, Scotland, the article concludes that access to low-cost airlines is considerably easier in both practical and perceptual terms for consumers with a flexible relationship to working and leisure time, and also access to the technology and financial systems required to avail of the best travel opportunities.