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1 Introduction Low cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair have developed quickly in the European market in the last five years The UK market has seen the most dramatic development where by the summer of 2001 these carriers accounted for over 22 of the short haul capacity from London and were present in 58 of the 128 short haul routes operated from this city source OAG 2001 During a five-year period from 1997 the seat capacity offered from London has risen by 17 and virtually all of this rise 954 was attributable to the low cost carriers The low cost carriers have both penetrated and grown these markets principally by garnering a consumer perception that the fares offered are very low This perception has been developed in no small part by extensive advertising and effective use of public relations For example Ryanair has offered fares as low as one penny plus taxes and therefore it is not surprising that there is great media coverage of these carriers which in turn generates more interest in the services Both Ryanair and EasyJet have been very effective in using media coverage of their legal wrangles with traditional carriers such as British Airways and Lufthansa to promote their services and low fares While the media has helped these airlines communicate their message of low fares to the public it has also focused on the availability of these very low fares Some reports offer anecdotal evidence of limited availability of very low fares Some reports have also demonstrated the range of prices that a group of travellers may have paid for their ticket arguing implicitly that these airlines should only be called low fares airlines if all their fares are low This research investigates the availability of low fares in various markets under different purchasing scenarios It is clear that the average fares attained by the low cost airlines are significantly higher
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