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A Guide to Budget Airlines’ Extra Charges

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. By restricting yourself to hand luggage and staying within prescribed weight limits you can avoid some hefty fees.
  2. If you do need to take a suitcase in the hold, booking it ahead of time will save you money.
  3. Paying extra for priority boarding won’t necessarily leave you with a better seat than you’d get otherwise.
  4. Avoid being opted in for extra travel insurance. You’re likely to get a better deal from a specialist provider (indeed, you may already be covered.)
  5. Book online. You can be hit with a surcharge for as much as £20 when booking over the phone.
  6. Checking in online rather than at the airport can save you from huge additional fees depending on the airline you travel with.
  7. Using a debit card instead of a credit card can reduce payment fees, however you will lose the protection of the consumer credit act for transactions over £100.
  8. Double check how your name appears on your passport when booking your tickets. If the name you give doesn’t match you’ll be charged to change it.

If you don’t mind a back to basics approach, budget air travel can be a great way of bringing down the cost of a holiday. However, the attractive headline price is not usually what you’ll end up paying. Here we look at the host of potential extra charges you could incur and, where possible, how you can get around them.

Baggage Fees

You will normally be charged to have baggage carried in the aircraft’s hold. If you are going to need to take a suitcase you can normally save money by booking your baggage online well ahead of time, however, depending on size, you could still be charged somewhere between £20-£200. This is because, as well as having to pay for each case, if it’s too heavy, you’ll be charged per every extra kg by which you go over the weight allowance.

None of the budget airlines charge for hand luggage, so long as you are under their weight allowances. Of the big budget operators all have a 10kg limit for hand luggage. There are two exceptions: Thomson who only allow 5kg, and easyJet who do not place restrictions on weight as long as the bag’s dimensions fall within 56 x 45 x 25cm. Again, going over these limits will seeing you paying extra.

Bear in mind that in many cases you are only allowed one piece of hand luggage in which to fit this weight. Some airlines will give you the option of paying extra to carry extra bags on to their flights, however, you should not assume this will give you a greater weight allowance. You may well be subject to the same limits.

A good tip is to wear as much of your heavy items as possible, as only your baggage itself gets weighed. Dress in your bulkiest garments on the day of travel and stuff your pockets with as much as you can.

Make sure you check the weight of your luggage before setting off to avoid any unpleasant surprises. In cases where the volume of luggage is measured be sure to check this out as well.

Priority Boarding

Generally on budget flights the allocation of seats is something of a first come first served style free for all. If you want to ensure that you get a good seat you can opt for priority boarding, which should get you on the first wave of people to board the plane.

If you want to use priority boarding and you’re travelling in a group you may be able to cut down the cost by having one of you buy priority boarding, splitting the cost between you, and having them try and save the rest some decent seats.

Travel Insurance

Budget airlines are specialists in low cost travel. Insurance is not their area. If you require travel insurance you will get a much better deal by going to a specialist.

You should make sure you aren’t inadvertently ushered into buying travel insurance when making a booking. Some airlines will have the option to include insurance pre-selected, leaving it to you to notice and unselect it.

Phone Charges

Budget airlines use expensive premium rate numbers, so contacting them this way is expensive no matter what the reason. If you book over the phone it can be really costly, with some lines charging as much as £20 for telephone bookings.

Check In-Charges

The discrepancy between the charge you have to pay to check in online and print your boarding pass at home and what you have to pay to check in at the airport is, in some cases, preposterous.

See below and be sure to avoid having to pay a huge sum to have your pass printed for you;

AirlineOnline Check InAirport Check In
Ryanair £12 £120
Jet 2 Free with hand baggage, £12 if you’re checking baggage £17.50
easyJet N/A N/A
Flybe N/A N/A
Thomson N/A N/A

Booking Fees, Admin Fees and Card Charges

Perverse though it may seem, the act of actually paying also comes loaded with extra costs. Some of these are avoidable, others cannot be dodged.

Whilst booking and admin fees simply have to be put up with, by using a debit card instead of a credit card you do a little to can minimise the hit. Here’s a breakdown of what it’ll cost you to actually buy a ticket with the nation’s leading budget airlines.

AirlineFlat FeesCredit Card Charges
Ryanair £6 Booking Fee Each Way Additional 2% Charge.
easyJet £9 Booking Fee Additional 2.5%
Flybe N/A Additional 3% (£5 minimum)
Thomson N/A Additional 2.5% (£4.95 minimum)
Jet 2 N/A Additional 3.6% (£4.99 minimum).

If you are buying more than £100 worth of tickets and want to avoid extra charges by using a debit card you should be aware that, unlike with a credit card, you will not have the protection of section 75 of the consumer credit act of 1974.

Changing Names

The name you book tickets under has to match the name on your passport. If you make an error you’ll have to pay to have it amended. Ryanair charge £10 to correct small errors (but £125 for a full name change) whereas easyJet demand £30. Jet 2 will make you pay £27.50 if the name on your ticket doesn’t match your passport.

Further Reading

 

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