When we went to Sydney a couple of weeks ago, we flew with Tiger Airways. We flew with them because quite simply they were the cheapest! Flying a large family is an expensive thing to do, but as Sydney is only an hour flight from Melbourne, I had no problem flying with a budget airline.
I flew with the five kids on my own and the return trip including all airport taxes and additional fees so we could take 30kg luggage, cost $710. Tiger Airways actually charge for infants (8 days to 23 months) a flat fee of $30. This meant as our tickets from Melbourne to Sydney were a super special at $28.95 each, the toddler had the most expensive seat on my lap!
In assessing our experience for value for money, Tiger Airways was good. I had heard some less than great stories about the budget airline so my expectations weren’t high. It was cheap and cheerful and thankfully I had done some planning for the flight which really helped things go more smoothly. My top tips for flying with kids on Tiger are:
Be prepared for delays.
We were delayed at both ends. From Melbourne when we had a 6.50am (yes AM!!!) flight we were delayed by over an hour. In Sydney the delay was 30 minutes. The budget airlines seem to have such small margin for error, as they turn around flights so quickly. It appears that the domino effect for even small delays can end up quite significant. For a parent this means extra food supplies and changes of clothes for baby/toddler. My toddler poured water over one lot of his clothes, then to my horror, while waiting in the very crowded departure lounge, he had diarrhea and went through the spare set of clothes that he had. He then flew to Sydney in only a nappy and a hoodie.
In flight food and entertainment.
Tiger Airways supply no free food or any activities for the kids. They run a cashless food service, where you can hand over your credit card and pay ridiculous amounts of money for junk food (or alcohol!). So make sure you pack your own food and water supplies.
I also made each child an activity pack. (They were gold for passing the time while we waited for our flights as well.) I went for open ended activity packs that allowed them to use their imagination. The stickers, writing paper and envelopes were a big hit the four and six year old. I had recently taught the older boys (11 and 8 year olds) the basics of Blackjack, no gambling of course, but it is a fantastic card game for the kids mental maths. There is no in-flight entertainment paid or free – accept of course for people watching which I am quite fond of 🙂 .
There are no tags available to label your luggage at check in, so make sure you have your luggage labeled. Almost all fares only include carry on luggage. Carry on luggage is restricted to 7kgs. At both Melbourne and Sydney they weighed the carry on luggage and people had to remove items to get their weight down. We purchased 2 x 15kg extra luggage which cost $40. We took two suitcases and they weighed exactly 30kgs and I have to admit that is my best ever packing effort.
The Tiger Airways Tullamarine check in is separate to the rest of the domestic airlines. It is almost like a big old shed and is cold. It was slightly warmer in the departure lounge but then when you have to you board the plane, there is a decent walk outside and it was very cold the morning that we left. But I was just really grateful that it was not raining, as part of the walk is not under cover. This walk on the tarmac was however, a highlight for the preschooler. Being so close to the planes, the noise of the engines, he found it all very exciting. The walk on the tarmac in the open air is much shorter at Sydney.
Passengers are required to walk on the tarmac with Tiger Airways, depending on where you are seated on the plane. As part of the strategy to turn the planes around so quickly, passengers board at the front and end of the plane. We managed to have seats allocated at the back of the plane, both times, hence our walks on the tarmac and up some very steep steel stairs. On the plane itself it was quite warm, so I definitely recommend layers for traveling with Tiger.
Service and amenities
The plane was very clean and presentable. I didn’t use the toilet facilities, as I breastfed the toddler to sleep on both flights and he slept on my lap for the remainder of the flights. The staff certainly don’t fuss over you, but were very friendly to us. As there is such tight restrictions on luggage, everyone seems to have carry on luggage. We were some of the last to enter the plane on the way home and there was no room in the over head luggage compartments anywhere near us. So we had to stash all the backpacks and my bag (5 in total) under the seats in front of us.
It is only worth it to fly Tiger Airways if you are prepared to book online. They charge a
$150.00 administration fee if you book via their call centre.
What other tips can you suggest for parents thinking about flying with kids on a budget airline?