I now look back fondly to the early days of Ryanair when my ticket price included one piece of hold luggage, I paid with Visa Electron to avoid admin fees and there were no check-in fees, no EU261 Levy nor the ETS levy. When we’d book a package holiday in the past, the flight check-in, the in-flight meal, one piece of luggage and the resort transfers would be included in the price and there was no additional fee if you paid by debit card.
Now, there seem to be charges for almost everything under the sun. As most package holidays now seem to only consist of a flight and accommodation, many people compare the price of booking a package holiday to the price of booking their own flights and accommodation separately. While it’s fairly straightforward to compare the price of accommodation, it’s harder with flights. You have to go through a few pages of options on the airline site to arrive at the final price for the tickets. Telexext Holidays have produced a report warning consumers to make sure that they check the real cost of their holiday.
What surprised me was that in many cases, the taxes and airport charges combined were higher than the base fare. The report compared the headline price for three different flights from the UK to Paris, Alicante and Malaga, with what it could end up costing after some addditional charges were included. Hold luggage charges seemed to push up prices most. But if you’re going on a week’s holiday, it’s hard to fit in everything you’d like to take into one carry-on bag.
Here are some of the charges that you are likely to encounter when booking flights and some tips on how to avoid them, if possible.
One piece of hold luggage used to be included in the price of a ticket, now many airlines charge hefty fees for this. According to the Teletext Holidays report, Jet2 charged the least for luggage on flights to Paris. Although the BA price included hold luggage, the flights were more expensive. I bought a Rufus Roo jacket so I could carry more luggage on to the plane, especially with airlines that operate a strict one carry on bag policy. It’s a bit easier flying with the likes of British Airways, as they allow you to take a laptop case in addition to a carry-on bag.
I think it’s ludicrous to charge you for online check-in. You’d think that doing your own check-in online, even printing your own boarding pass, would save the airlines money, never mind them charging you for the pleasure. Ryanair introduced this charge in 2009, which now stands at £6 per person per flight.
The payment/admin fee varies between airlines. There’s no charge on Jet2 or Flybe if you pay by debit card. You used to be able to avoid any additional payment charges by using a Visa Electron to pay for your flights on the Ryanair and easyJet websites. Then Ryanair changed this to a prepaid Mastercard and now there’s no way to avoid the £6 per person per flight admin fee. EasyJet introduced a £9 flat admin fee for all bookings. It usually costs less to pay by debit card rather than credit card, e.g. Jet2 charges 3.6% of the transaction total (a minimum of £4.99) and Flybe £11 per transaction for payment by credit card.
When the price of oil is high, some airlines bring in a fuel surcharge.
Seat Reservation Fees
If you want to be sure that you will sit beside the other people with whom you are travelling, or wish a specific seat, you’ll probably have to pay extra.
Early Boarding Fees
This is a kind of a hybrid; you avoid the boarding rugby scrum, as you get to go through the boarding gate first, but you are not guaranteed a specific seat. It can backfire if you have to take a bus to the plane.
Airport Passenger Duty (APD)
When APD was introduced in the UK 1994, the charges were £5 for short haul flights and £10 for long haul. The charges are steadily increasing; you currently pay £10 on a flight to Europe and £92 to Australia. It’s not just the UK Government who perceive travellers as cash cows. Last year Spain introduced airport taxes of up to £7 per person.
Be prepared to spend some time comparing the total flight price between airlines, to make sure that you pay the lowest possible price for the all options that you require.