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Airline fees, what to expect when flying low cost

It is a traveller’s dream to score a flight for a few quid from a low cost airline. Most times though that dream is short-lived because once you add the taxes, the luggage fees, check-in fees and a toilet fee (?), it might have been cheaper to go with a regular airline…

Flying with a low cost airline is without a doubt the cheapest way to go if you know how to do it properly. They offer great fares at discounted prices to the most popular destinations all over Europe. So what’s there not to love? In order for airlines to offer such low fares to their passengers, the airline has to make up for it in other ways.

Low cost airlines manage to cut back on costs by flying to regional airports instead of major ones. The landing fees are cheaper, as are their airport fees. That is why you’ll find flights to Gerona instead of Barcelona, Bremen instead of Hamburg and also Beauvais Airport instead of Paris’ main airports Charles de Gaulle and Orly.

So, who’s charging what?

Recently airline fees have hiked in anticipation for this summer’s tourist season. The top two stories in the headlines are compliments of Ryanair and Spirit Airlines. Ryanair has introduced a £1 toilet charge, to be paid on board. New wash room cubicle doors are being installed which will be coin operated so every time you need to relieve yourself, have your coin ready. This new fee is meant to encourage passengers to use the airport facilities.
On the other side, Ryanair plans to remove 3 out of the 4 toilets on board in order to make space for 6 additional seats on the aircraft.

As for Spirit Airlines, an American low cost airline based in Florida, they’ve introduced a US$45 carry-on luggage fee. It is the first airline to do so, consequently creating a lot of buzz. It costs passengers $45 at the gate to bring a piece of cabin luggage on-board. If you reserve your cabin luggage space beforehand the fee is only $30. It costs less than this however to check luggage: $25 for the first bag if you pay it on-line. Why create a carry-on luggage fee? The airline said it is in attempts to shorten aircraft turn around times. If passengers do not have to shuffle around, grabbing bags then the airline estimates it can save up to 7 minutes on each flight, adding up to 20 hours of time a day.

How to save when flying low cost?

  • Pack light: know what the free baggage allowance is (if there is one) and stick to it. Excess baggage fees are hefty, especially if you have an extra piece of luggage to check. Pay attention to weight and size restrictions. If you have to pay to check a bag, think about just packing a carry-on. Only bring the necessities.
  • Carry-on luggage: most airlines allow a few extra items on top of your cabin luggage including a coat, blanket, reading material, camera or laptop. Bring them with you instead of packing them below.
  • Check-in: save the airport fee by checking-in on-line before you leave for the airport. In most cases you are allowed to check-in on-line up to 24 hours before your flight. Ryanair, Bmibaby and Wizz Air charge passengers to check-in at the airport.
  • Toilets: use the airport facilities before you fly and save yourself a quid or two on Ryanair flights.
  • Dress in layers: there is nothing wrong with wearing extra layers of clothing for the flight if you’re luggage is a little over-weight.
  • In-flight catering: most low cost airline don’t offer complimentary drinks or snacks. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once you’ve passed through security. Pack a few snacks as well if you flight is a few hours in length.
  • Credit cards: read the fine print as some low cost airlines will apply a credit card processing fee, especially with specialty cards like American Express.

Have any more ideas? Share them with us below! You can check any airline’s baggage restrictions with our Airline Directory, including the low cost and charter ones.