That's what Tiger Airways, a new low-cost airline based in Singapore, was charging last month for seats to Bangkok, Phuket and Hat Yai, Thailand, to promote its start-up. Thai AirAsia, a budget competitor based in Bangkok, fired back with 17-cent one-way tickets between Singapore and Phuket.
Ryanair and EasyJet, has landed in this vast region.
Among Asia's other low-cost airlines, which fly routes mostly of five hours or less, are Malaysia-based AirAsia (which runs Thai AirAsia in a joint venture); Singapore-based Valuair, which started in May; Qantas Airways' JetStar, launched in May in Australia; and Virgin Group spinoffs Virgin Blue, based in Australia, and Pacific Blue, which began flying in January from Christchurch, New Zealand.
These new carriers have their downsides. They don't fly to the U.S., and connections with other airlines aren't ensured. Buying a ticket can be cumbersome. Confusing rules can leave you holding the bag — literally. If you're flying from the U.S. on a major international airline, you may not even save money in the end.
"You'd have to be very adventuresome to use some of these carriers that are clearly designed for domestic use," said Thom Nulty, a corporate-travel consultant based in Laguna Niguel and former president of the giant Navigant International travel agency in Englewood, Colo.
Several travel agents and tour operators in the U.S. said they booked such airlines rarely, and only if clients requested them or if savings were substantial. "We are hesitant to use the new carriers because they don't have a track record," said Hima Singh, president of Tarzana-based Asian Pacific Adventures, which organizes cultural tours.
Another barrier: Most of Asia's low-cost carriers aren't listed in agents' computerized reservation systems; travelers must book them on the Internet. They typically don't offer toll-free phone numbers for U.S. customers. It's just too expensive, industry experts said.
"We anticipate that most people flying on Tiger Airways are either Singaporean or Thai or noncitizens who live in either country," Tiger spokesman Patrick Keenan said.
Using such an airline may make sense for some U.S. visitors, said Prashanth Kuchibhotla, global airline consultant for EClipse Advisors, a Philadelphia subsidiary of American Express.
If you plan to use a hub city such as Singapore as a base to explore several Asian destinations, he said, you may save money by booking no-frills flights. Compared with trains, they're faster and may be cheaper. They also may be handy if a major airline is sidelined by a strike or other crisis.
You may have a hard time finding 58-cent fares, which actually total about $21 when you add taxes and fees. Deluged by 5.7 million hits on its website the first day it offered the sale, Tiger Airways sold out the initial round of these seats in 36 hours, Keenan said.
But you can still find good prices. When I recently checked Singapore-Bangkok round trips on airlines' websites, I found substantially lower fares on low-cost carriers: about $93 on http://www.tigerairways.com , $95 on http://www.airasia.com and $145 on http://www.valuair.com , compared with $224 on Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com), the established full-service carrier.
The price advantage of low-cost airlines disappeared when I priced the Bangkok visit as part of an international ticket from the U.S. On Singapore Airlines I could add a three-night Bangkok stopover at the end of an LAX-Singapore round trip for just $74 more than the round trip without the stop. (I chose dates in mid-October, and those fares may no longer be available.)
Because of market conditions and operating costs, international airlines often offer such reduced-rate stops on long-haul tickets, EClipse Advisors' Prashanth said.
Another consideration: No-frills airlines generally don't have agreements with other airlines. That means if you're connecting from one airline to another, you'll have to pick up your bags after the first flight and check them again with the second airline. If you miss a connection in the process, too bad. Tickets are generally nonrefundable.
"After flying 16 hours to Kuala Lumpur to go to Bali, do you really want to deal with a low-cost carrier and interline baggage?" Prashanth asked.
Or pay excess-baggage fees, for that matter.
The rules for checked baggage vary. Singapore Airlines' limit for coach passengers is two bags totaling 20 kilograms, or about 44 pounds; Tiger Airways' limit for its single-class service is one bag weighing 15 kilograms, or about 33 pounds. (Singapore's allowance for premium customers is more generous.)
Other practices of Asia's carriers may be equally unfamiliar. Several forbid passengers to bring food to eat on board. Tiger's website stated it was "not equipped to handle physically incapacitated passengers," including wheelchair users.
And here's another surprise: When I called Valuair, its agent offered me a lower fare for a Singapore-Bangkok round trip than I found on the airline's website. She explained it was a phone-only promotional price good through the end of the month.
"International travel is more of an art than a science," analyst Nulty said. "It's best not done on the Internet."
Whatever the challenges of flying these new carriers, he added, the fresh competition is good for consumers because it helps push down prices. "Certainly there's been pressure on airfares," Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd said.
As in the U.S. and Europe, cheaper tickets throughout the region may become the most durable and widespread legacy of Asia's no-frills airlines.
Jane Engle welcomes comments but can't respond individually to letters and calls. Write to Travel Insider, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.