09:10 06 May 2013
You’ve chosen your holiday destination and spotted a great deal on a flight. You’re about to complete the booking – when you realise that the final price on the screen is significantly more than the headline price you first saw advertised.
Getting stung by airline ‘extras’ such as baggage charges and check-in fees can considerably increase the final price of your flight with no-frills airlines. In fact, recent research by TravelSupermarket revealed that ‘extras’ can make up a mammoth 65% of the total ticket price.
The research also showed that the cost of some airline extras has risen by a staggering 66% since March last year – at 24 times the rate of inflation.
So, what increases in charges have we seen and how do you avoid paying them? We take a look…
If you’re not a fan of travelling light, then you will be used to the fee many airlines charge for simply checking your bag in.
And, almost all of the 12 airlines we looked at had increased their charges for checked-in bags this year.
For example, checking in a 20kg bag online in advance for a short-haul flight with Thomson in March 2012 would have set you back £15. However, checking in the very same bag in April this year, would have cost £22 – an increase of more than 46%.
Similarly, checking in a bag online for a flight from Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh with easyJet would have cost you £14.50 last March; now you will have to fork out £18 – a steep 24% increase.
It’s a similar story across the majority of airlines, with Ryanair and Flybe showing 17% increases and Jet2 increasing their checked-in baggage charge by 10%.
And the story gets worse if you leave it until you reach the airport to check a bag in. Flybe, for example, has increased its prices by 33%, British Airways by 14% and Ryanair by 8%. On its longer Canary Islands routes, Ryanair now charges a huge £140 to check a bag in at the airport as opposed to £130 in March 2012.
Top tip: Think realistically in advance about how much you will take away and pre-book any checked-in bags or additional bag weight online. Airport costs are always higher than those online, so waiting until you are there will put a huge dent in your holiday budget before you’ve even boarded the plane.
Opting to take hand luggage only is often seen as a cheaper alternative to checking in your bag.
However, anyone who has arrived at the airport and been told that their hand luggage weighs too much knows how frustrating – not to mention expensive – accidentally breaking the rules is. And, exceeding the airlines’ stipulated limits this year will cost you more than ever.
For example, passengers travelling with Monarch this year will be charged £50 for checking a bag in at the airport, compared with £30 last year, signalling an increase of 66%.
Top tip: Know your baggage allowances and stick to them – don’t assume they are the same across every airline as they can vary significantly. And don’t forget that many airlines have strict rules on taking additional hand luggage such as duty free shopping and handbags.
If you’re flying with little ones this year, again you can expect to pay more than in previous years. Ryanair, for example, has increased the cost of travelling with a child by 50%, from £20 to £30, and Monarch has increased its fee from £15 to £20.
Wizzair is the only airline that has set a fixed fee for a child travelling, which is £21 each way. Plus, if the adult’s fare purchased is lower than that of the infant, they will match the price.
Top tip: When comparing the price of infant tickets, don’t simply look at the ticket cost, look at what allowances infants have with different airlines too – for example if they are allowed any baggage as part of the ticket cost. Paying for extras such as this can soon add up.
Monarch and Thomas Cook were the only two airlines found to have also put up charges on admin costs for flight and name changes. Thomas Cook, for example, has implemented a 50% rise for name changes year on year, pushing the price up from £20 to £30, while Monarch has upped its flight change fees from £27.50 to £35.00.
Top tip: Before you hit “buy” when booking a flight, take a few minutes to check that all the details such as times, dates and, most importantly, names of all passengers are correct and match their passport. Otherwise you could be stung by hefty fees to change minor things such as initials and incorrect spellings.
Allocated seating charges, early boarding and a whole host of others…
For many of us, starting our holiday by sitting next to a complete stranger on the plane is the last thing we want. So, some airlines now give customers the option to choose their seats – but at a cost.
Whether you want extra leg room, an aisle seat or just to sit with all of the family, easyJet charges from £3 for a standard seat to £8 or £12 for extra leg room. If you choose to opt out of this extra, you will be allocated a seat which you can’t change when you check in.
Ryanair has also put up the cost of early boarding from £5 to £7, increased its compulsory online check-in fee from £6 each way to £7 each way and upped the fee for reissuing a boarding pass at the airport from £60 to £70.
Top tips: If you need to, be sure to check in online and print out your boarding pass well in advance of your flight – and put your print out with your passport so you don’t forget to take it to the airport.
British Airways, for example, allow you to pick your own seats for free when you check in online from 24 hours prior to your departure. So, if knowing where you are going to sit is important to you, factor the cost of allocated seating into your overall cost from the start of your research.
Don’t get stung
With all of these extras to consider – some compulsory and others optional – it’s not difficult to see why the headline price of a flight isn’t likely to be the price you end up paying.
So, change the way you think about flying and bear in mind that once you have factored in all of the extra charges, travelling with a full-service airline such as British Airways could actually work out cheaper than a budget airline.
And, to make even more savings, don’t end up shelling out more once you’re on board for items such as food and drink. Research from TravelSupermarket last year found that the average mark up on airline snacks was a massive 181% in comparison to supermarket prices, while the average mark up on hot food and sandwiches was even more ludicrous at 257%. So buy before you fly to save yourself a packet!
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