Airlines are busy persuading us to book our Easter and summer holiday flights with them. But before doing so, it is vital to get on top of all the crafty ‘extras’ that can turn a bargain into an expensive trip. The Mail on Sunday investigates the hidden costs.
ROOT OUT THOSE EXTRA CHARGES
More than a quarter of the money we spend on budget airlines can go on so-called ‘ancillary revenue’.
This includes anything from paying extra for the weight of your suitcase to choosing a seat and buying snacks. It is all on top of the basic flight price.
Under the radar: Following a ban on fees for paying by credit or debit cards, airlines are now expected to introduce new hidden extras
According to IdeaWorksCompany, this extra income accounted for 39 per cent of total revenue for Wizz Air in 2016 while for Ryanair and Jet2.com it was 27 and 26 per cent respectively.
Following a ban on fees for paying by credit or debit cards, airlines are now expected to introduce new hidden extras to make up the resulting ‘ancillary revenue’ shortfall – which in some cases accounted for as much as 3 per cent of the price you paid for a flight.
Irish airline Ryanair is leading the way, hitting passengers with a £5 fee for bringing extra hand luggage on board from last month. Holidaymakers can still take a small handbag or laptop on the plane for free, but must now pay extra for another bag as part of ‘priority boarding’. The carrier denies there is a link with its scrapping of the fee for paying for a flight using a credit card – it previously demanded 2 per cent of a ticket price.
Kenny Jacobs of Ryanair says: ‘There is absolutely no correlation between our new bags policy and the removal of credit card fees.’
Baggage may be the biggest extra earner for budget airlines (see box). But travellers must also look out for charges for picking a seat, priority boarding, checking in and changing flight details.
Elle Croft, a travel blogger and author, says: ‘With a cheap flight, you expect no frills but are still rarely prepared for all those sneaky extra charges. With the cancellation of card fees, I fear we can expect airlines to get even more creative. For example, being charged for a glass of drinking water.’
‘Sneaky’: Blogger Elle Croft believes airlines will continue to hike fees
She adds: ‘Those hoping for wriggle room can forget it – they will only be disappointed. The secret is to check all details and carefully study the fees on an airline’s website. Only make a payment once you have a comprehensive breakdown of the total bill.’
FIGHT BACK WITH BAGGAGE
The best way to beat being charged extra for bringing hand luggage on board is to put more into the suitcases kept in the hold.
Unfortunately, budget airlines are wise to this – which explains why they have strict and expensive weight allowances. This is why it is vital to be prudent with packing – weighing and booking luggage ahead of a flight.
With the increased cost of taking luggage, you should also consider posting baggage using a courier. Such services can pick luggage up from your home and deliver it direct to the hotel where you will stay – cutting hassle as well as cost.
Holiday specialists worth considering include SendMyBag, Luggage Delivery Company and Direct Baggage. These firms broker deals with major direct couriers such as DHL, FedEx and UPS so they offer discounts as bulk-buying customers.
Adam Ewart, founder of SendMyBag, says: ‘Baggage is the golden ticket for extra revenue as far as airlines are concerned – and you can expect more to follow Ryanair’s lead in charging for baggage in the cabin as well as the hold.’
He adds: ‘With airline charges for bringing bags on board as well as putting them in a hold, what are passengers expected to do? The answer for many is to use a specialist courier service.’
SendMyBag charges £31 to send a 20kg bag one way from Britain to Spain – £32 for 30kg – but it can take four days to deliver. You would pay £114.50 to £146 for an ‘express’ one or two-day delivery.
Big savings are often made by those taking even heavier bags as you are charged only £2.20 for each additional kilogram above 30kg – far less than the minimum £10 levied by budget airlines.
CHECK IN ONLINE
Start preparing to travel at least a day in advance – as some airlines charge extra for checking in at the airport or if a boarding card needs to be reissued.
For those who are forgetful an alarm on your mobile phone that goes off when the online check-in opens should help. It can be up to 48 hours before you are due to take the flight.
Some airlines, such as Jet2.com, also enable you to download boarding passes that can be kept on your phone.
Another advantage of an early online check-in is that you should get access to a wider choice of seats.
Fail to check in online for free with Wizz Air and it charges £27 if you do it at the airport while Ryanair demands £50. To replace lost boarding passes there might also be a charge. Ryanair demands £15.
Those who want to treat themselves to extra legroom must pay for the privilege at the time of buying a ticket.
For example, an allocated front row seat with easyJet may cost an extra £26.99 on top of the standard ticket price. An option to avoid the scrum free-for-all is paying for ‘priority boarding’. Airlines such as Wizz Air charge £22.50 at the airport for this privilege – but you still endure the same flight.
A costly error to avoid is ensuring you do not book a ticket in the wrong name due to a slip of the typewriter keyboard or if your passport uses a maiden rather than married name. For example, Flybe charges £50 to change such passenger details.
BE WARY OF REBOOKING
If forced to change travel plans it might be cheaper simply to buy new tickets rather than rebook – as making flight changes can come with onerous fees. Occupational therapist Ina Sieczko paid a total of £198.86 so she and two-year-old son Leon could take a return flight to Poland to visit family in December last year.
Change of plan: Ina Sieczko with her son Leon
The day after making the booking in October she had to change their travel plans and immediately told airline Ryanair they wished to go in January instead.
The airline said the new flight including ‘change fee’ would cost £252.00.
Yet when Ina, 35, pressed the button to pay, an email came back with a final fee of £482.86 – including the £198.86 previously paid. She rang Ryanair and was told ticket prices varied on the day. She duly paid.
Out of interest, Ina looked up how much it would have cost had she simply bought new tickets online – finding a ‘total to pay’ of £201.66. So by rebooking her flights she believes she paid £82.34 more than if she had bought new tickets.
She says: ‘It would have been far cheaper to have torn up the old tickets and thrown them in the bin – and simply bought new flights. Rebooking seemed to be a waste of money.’
Ryanair imposes a ‘flight change fee’ of between £30 and £60 per person for each leg of a journey – so it was within its rights to demand up to £240 extra. On top of this – as with other airlines – it can charge any difference in fare between old and new tickets.
A Ryanair spokesperson says: ‘In addition to flight change fees any price difference between the original fare paid and the lowest total price available at the time of the flight change is charged.’
Other airlines with hefty rebooking fees include Jet.com at £35 per leg; Wizz Air at £27 to £36.50; and easyJet which charges between £17 and £52.
TAKE YOUR OWN REFRESHMENTS
Budget airlines are not alone in charging for refreshments while on board. Even British Airways has started demanding cash for snacks on short-haul flights for economy passengers. There is nothing to stop you making a picnic for the journey but only if it passes strict airline rules.
You can forget about bringing a flask of tea on board as airport security only allows liquid in containers of no more than 100 millilitres – and these must be put into a sealable clear plastic bag.
You may also be disappointed if you plan to buy a meal after checking in before a flight as airport prices are usually higher than on the high street.
Bring homemade sandwiches and other snacks.
Weighty issue: Airlines allow a cabin bag at no cost, but it is vital to stick to their rules on size
Pack too much and you’ll face a heavy charge
CABIN: One piece of cabin luggage no more than 35 x 20 x 20 centimetres in size can be taken on board for free. Another larger item no more than 55 x 40 x 20cm and weighing up to ten kilograms can also be taken on board if you pay £5.
HOLD: Suitcases no larger than 119 x 119 x 81cm can be put in the hold. You can take up to three 20kg bags per person but must pay £25 to £35 per bag for each leg of the journey depending on the season and destination. You must book online to avoid paying £40 per bag if you turn up at the airport. Above 20kg there is a penalty charge of £10 per kilo. No single piece of luggage can exceed 32kg.
CABIN: A single cabin bag no bigger than 56 x 45 x 25cm can be taken on board for free. Those paying at least £9.49 for an extra legroom seat can also take a further bag measuring up to 45 x 36 x 20cm for free.
HOLD: A suitcase must have dimensions that total less than 275cm. You can take up to three suitcases. The baggage allowance is 20kg for all bookings made before November 15, 2017, and 23kg for those made after this date. On top of this you can pay £12 for every extra 3kg up to 32kg. The minimum cost per bag for a single trip pre-booked is £8.99 – the fee depends on the journey and season. It is £37 if you wait to book and pay for the baggage at the airport. No single suitcase can exceed 32kg.
CABIN: Two pieces of cabin luggage can be taken for free. The largest item must measure no more than 55 x 35 x 20cm and the two together should weigh no more than 10kg. The smaller item must fit under a seat.
HOLD: For a standard ‘Just Fly’ ticket it costs £19 for a 15kg bag on a single journey – £24 for luggage weighing from 15kg to 23kg if booked online. The charge is £40 per bag if you book luggage at the airport. You can take a maximum of two suitcases. The excess baggage fee is £15 a kilo.
CABIN: One piece of hand luggage no more than 55 x 40 x 23cm and weighing up to 10kg can go for free. A further bag of no more than 40 x 30 x 18cm is allowed if a ‘Wizz Priority’ fee of between £4.50 and £9 has been paid.
HOLD: Suitcases up to 171 x 149 x 119cm and weighing up to 20kg or 32kg depending on the flight can be taken. There is a maximum of six bags each. Costs range from £14.50 to £50 per 20kg bag for a single journey booked online – depending on route and season. Booking in the same 20kg bag at the airport costs from £56. Cost is £19 to £61.50 for a 32kg bag – from £109 if booked at the airport. Above 20kg, excess is £9 a kilo. No bags can exceed 32kg.
CABIN: One piece of hand luggage no bigger than 56 x 45 x 25cm that weighs under 10kg is allowed on board at no cost.
HOLD: The charge on each bag varies depending on travel destination and period of travel. Typically you pay £22 per bag. The baggage allowance is 22kg and you can book up to three bags. The excess charge is £12 per kilo. No single bag can be more than 32kg.
CABIN: Two pieces of cabin luggage can be brought on board for free. This includes a 40 x 30 x 15cm bag weighing no more than 23kg. You can also bring a 56 x 45 x 25cm bag weighing no more than 23kg at no extra charge.
HOLD: Baggage must not exceed 90 x 75 x 43cm with the maximum weight usually 23kg. The number of bags allowed varies on fare type and route.
Some deals charge between £20 and £40 per bag for online booking. Checking them in at the airport can cost £65. If you break the baggage allowance there is a £65 levy.