How to Avoid Hidden Travel Costs when Booking Cheap Flights

Easyjet Cabin Interior

When you’re booking a flight with a budget airline, they lure you into a false sense of security with their cheap prices before dealing a blow to the chest with all their hidden extras. You find a flight for 99p thinking you’re about to jet off to sunny Spain for less than the price of a pint of beer, when suddenly they’re charging you to check-in at the airport, charging you to carry a bag and even charging you to use the toilet.

Budget airlines have a clever trick up their sleeves. They let you believe you’re flying for nothing by advertising cheap prices on their websites, but then pile on the costs at the checkout- it’s all a clever illusion. The extra fees airlines like to add on are:

  • Taxes
  • Baggage
  • Sports equipment
  • Insurance
  • In-Flight Meals
  • Online Check-In vs Airport Check-In
  • Seat Selection
  • Booking Fee and Credit/Debit Card Fee
  • Priority Boarding

Taxes– Taxes, fees and charges cover the costs that the airline has to pay to the government for that particular route. This can include UK Air Passenger duty, government tax, airport tax, the Aviation Insurance Levy and Wheelchair Levy.

Some airlines such as Easyjet include the taxes and charges in the prices they advertise. Others like to add the taxes on to the flight price after you’ve selected to book it. Unfortunately you cannot avoid paying taxes unless the airline has stated otherwise. Sometimes Ryanair foots the bill and offers the odd flight with no taxes and charges.

Tip: Although you can’t avoid these taxes, you can make yourself aware when comparing prices from different airlines that some are including them in their original flight price and some are not.

Baggage- Gone are the days where you were always able to assume that you could fly with a suitcase, these days airlines are making you pay for the privilege. “You want to fly with a Suitcase? Really? We thought you would just spend two weeks in Turkey wearing the same clothes! Well if you’d like to take a bag Madam, that’ll be 20 Euros please!”

Most airlines these days are charging to take checked-in luggage as well as your hand luggage. You can pay to take more than one checked-in bag, allowing you take two or three suitcases per person, but you can’t exceed the weight limit for each individual bag.

Tip: To avoid checked baggage fees, the best thing you can do is fly with just carry-on. Each airline has different rules for carry-on luggage; some have bigger dimensions than others, whilst some don’t have a weight limit and others do. Make sure you measure your hand luggage bag and ensure that it fits the requirements of the airline as they are all different. If you do need to check-in a suitcase, it’s advisable to pay for it at the time of booking rather than pay at the airport as the fees on the day are much higher.  If you know you’re going to be travelling with quite a heavy suitcase, it might be worth it to choose an airline with a higher weight limit, even if that means the flight is more expensive. Ryanair allow checked bags of 15kg, for instance, whilst Jet2 allows a bag of 23kg.

It’s easy to say this, but not so easy to do in practice; travel as light as you possibly can. Anything to avoid excess baggage fees at the airport.

Sports Equipment- If you’re taking sports equipment with you, whether you’re going on a Skiing holiday to the Alps or golfing in the Algarve, check the sports equipment rules and see which airline is the friendliest.

Remember to check the packing rules too so that you’re equipment isn’t turned away at check-in. If you do book sporting equipment, an important thing to also remember is that your item must be classed by the airline as sporting equipment!

Insurance- Airlines are being a little bit cheeky with the booking process with some of their extras. Instead of having the option to select insurance or in-flight meals, they automatically include them in your itinerary and then require you to actively opt-out  and deselect them. For those people not looking too closely at their bill, they might end up paying for extras they didn’t even want.

Airlines have started offering their own single-trip insurance in the booking process, and whilst it can seem like a small fee at the time of booking, you might be much better off booking travel insurance with an external provider. You can often get a better deal with longer cover and much better compensation should you need to make a claim.

In-Flight Meals– Some budget airlines offer the chance to book some sort of meal deal before hand to avoid having to sell your home to pay for a meal on the plane. But even then, even if you book the meal deal of a sandwich and a packet of crisps before the flight, you’re still being ripped off big time.

Tip: Make your favourite sandwich when you get up before your flight and take a nice packed lunch with a piece of fruit, a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar. Or push the boat out and make some gourmet masterpiece, but don’t get ripped off by spending a small fortune on unappetizing plane food.

Online Check-In vs Airport Check-In- The thing I don’t get about this charge is, you HAVE to check-in. You can’t just hop onto a flight without checking in, so why should we have to pay for something that’s compulsory. Opting for online check-in is usually cheaper than airport check-in and will shave a few pounds off your flight price. However you must remember to print your boarding pass, or you might have to pay a charge at the airport for another one. Ryanair charges £40 to print out a new boarding pass. Whilst some airlines don’t charge for online check-in, has an expensive £4 charge for online check-in as opposed to an airport check-in fee of £10.

Seat Selection- You can select where you would like to sit on the plane, but at a cost. Unless you really really care where you sit, or you’re in a group and want to be sat next to the rest of your party, just say “no thanks”. You’ll still be guaranteed a seat.

Booking Fee & Credit/Debit Card Fees- Yes you finally get past the “Would you like this? Would you like that? Are you sure you wouldn’t like us to take more money from you?” part and then they slap on a booking fee because they feel like it. On top of that many airlines charge a fee for using credit or debit cards.

Tip: Credit cards are usually more expensive than debit cards or Paypal, whilst  Solo, Maestro or Electron are sometimes free but not always. The way to get around the card fees with Ryanair is to sign up for a prepaid Mastercard. Use the card in your wallet that will incur the lowest card fee.

Priority Boarding- If you want to feel like VIP on a budget airline (if that’s even possible) you can choose priority boarding. But on all the flights I’ve been on with budget airlines, the priority boarders barely get on the aircraft any faster than the rest of the rabble. In my opinion priority boarding just isn’t worth the money. In fact I’d rather sit in the waiting area and save my legs until the boarding queue has gone down. My theory is if you board the aircraft last you’ll be waiting around less!

Victoria Brewood

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

  • Ada Petrova
    Posted at 10:16h, 31 January Reply

    …and also make sure that if you are booking through your travel agent that he doesn’t charge you any fees!..

    • victoria
      Posted at 19:25h, 31 January Reply

      You’re right Ada, I tend to avoid booking with high street travel agencies because they have to make their money by adding on agency fees. Usually I try to go directly to the source.

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