FYI: What is no-frills air travel all about? Few people can deny the success of no-frills flying. Almost every developed country has one low-cost carrier - a worrying trend in these climate-concerned times. Pioneered in the US back in 1949 by Pacific Southwest Airlines - whose reservations were initially taken by a ticket office fashioned from an army-surplus latrine - no-frills travel has matured fast, spreading to Europe after the aviation deregulation of the 1990s and graduating to Asia this millennium. AirAsia's launch in 2002 spawned 20-odd regional competitors. No-frills (or 'low-cost' or 'budget') air travel is marketing speak for offering the bare essentials. Service differs from airline to airline. Some US operators, such as Delta's Song, now defunct, have offered free personal entertainment systems at every seat, allocated seating and generous legroom, frills unheard of on European carriers such as Ryanair, which even charges for luggage in the hold. But most follow the broad business model: cutting costs to win over cost-sensitive travellers. Typical characteristics include: a single class, economy; one model of plane, cutting training and servicing costs; a simple fare structure with prices rising as the plane fills; direct sales, usually via the internet; earlier and later take-off times, exploiting cheaper landing slots; and flights through smaller, lesser-known airports, which charge less. There are also more ingenious ruses, such as fewer toilets - no one pays for the overpriced drinks that make you go to the loo in the first place - thus more seats. Customer care is often replaced with a premium-rate hotline. Unallocated seating encourages a stampede for the leggy fire-exit seats, thus speeding up boarding and turnaround times (meaning more journeys, more tickets, more money). Legroom is kept at a minimum - at least in Europe - as short-haul operators needn't worry so much about deep-vein thrombosis lawsuits, and staff double as cleaners, cutting cleaning costs (Ryanair even asks passengers to help clean up). No-frills airports include the rival terminals in Singapore and Malaysia and the new Marseille MP2 site, all designed to get people in and out quickly. The no-frills boom feeds itself, with each new successful operator prompting traditional carriers to follow suit - Singapore's first low-cost carrier, Valuair, led to Singapore Airlines starting Tiger Airways. But it remains to be seen whether the offspring help or hinder the parent brands. British Airways found that Go, an offshoot established in the late 90s to kill off new no-frills fliers, actually lent the young market credibility. There is another secret, successful ingredient: the name. A no-frills airline must project a slick, international image. It must whizz off the tongue as quickly as its passengers leave the plane. Therefore, we are tempted by easyJet in Britain, the eastern European Wizz Air, Snowflake in Scandinavia and JetStar, Lion Air and Tiger in Asia. And what about Ted in the US, part of United Airlines (it's the last three letters of United, get it?). The latest newbie, Oasis, is the London-to-Hong Kong carrier that is hoping to find the golden egg of air travel: a successful long-haul no-frills model. Oasis offers allocated seating, food and drink and good legroom, and is apparently comfortable - when it gets off the ground. Not no-frills flying at all, then.