/ Travel & Leisure

Is this the last call for budget airlines?

Plane made out of money

Hidden surcharges, like airport taxes, are finally making their way into the upfront cost of flights. But without £5 tickets in their box of tricks, does this signal the end for budget airlines?

Like them or loathe them, budget airlines have revolutionised the way we travel. For over a decade, tickets to faraway lands have been advertised for the price of a packet of crisps.

But in return for cheaper fares, we’ve accepted budget airlines’ mischief as an unfortunate fact of life. We’ve tolerated the check-in fees, fuel supplements and other charges that have surreptitiously gatecrashed their way onto our bills.

The end of drip pricing?

At last, however, it seems the game might be up. Following talks with the Civil Aviation Authority, Ryanair, Jet 2 and BMI Baby have all agreed to incorporate unavoidable charges into their headline prices.

This means that from next week the price you select with Jet 2 will include compulsory extras – such as taxes – while Ryanair has promised to follow suit by the 1 June.

With full fat prices on show, budget airlines will no longer be able to bait us with unobtainable fares. It looks like the golden age of drip pricing might be coming to an end – but does this mean the time has come for budget airlines to grow up?

After all, even Ryanair chairman Michael O’Leary admits that fares are likely to rise in the long term, with talk of a more ‘mature’ airline operating from mainstream airports in the future.

Unfair card surcharges still remain

Unfortunately, budget airlines’ infamous card surcharges will be sticking around in the meantime. Airlines get away with imposing these fees by claiming they can be avoided if you use certain cards (like Visa Electron, Solo and Prepaid Mastercard). Though our research suggests that these cards are often difficult to get hold of and expensive to take out.

To make matters worse, Easyjet is allegedly about to charge £8 to process a debit card payment (40 times what we estimate it costs the company) and Ryanair last month ramped its own card surcharges up from £5 to £6 per person per flight.

This shows that our card surcharges campaign is badly needed. So far over 40,000 people have said ‘no’ to unfair surcharges, our super complaint has been submitted to the Office of Fair Trading, and a further 1,900 have emailed Ed Davey MP to ask him to stamp out unfair card surcharging for good.

Are we finally getting to a point where there are no more charges left to hide? Even Ryanair seems to be running out of ideas – its cancel levy and charge for using the toilet rival our April Fools’ surcharges.

There’s no doubt that prices will appear more expensive by bringing surcharges into the upfront cost of a flight. But will this make you less likely to take a trip with a ‘budget’ airline?


Totally, their entire sales ploy has been debunked and exposed for the sham that it is.

I try and avoid using companies that pile on the extra charges, but sometimes it can be pretty tricky especially as the charges aren’t revealed until you go to pay, so you can’t properly compare prices at the outset.

Skyscanner has just produced this really useful page which breakdowns all the different surcharges of the airlines – this should make it easier to avoid the bigger surcharges: http://www.skyscanner.net/news/articles/2011/04/009616-airline-credit-and-debit-card-fees-for-booking-flights.html

Steve in Essex says:
27 April 2011

For all recent flights, I have made use of tabbed browser facilities so that I can have each candidate open at the point of payment and am able to compare like with like.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, when you do that Ryanair are often not the cheapest and sometimes not even second.

I got an excellent flight from British Airways to a better destination airport, friends laughed that I paid £104.00, because they had seen a fare of £39 to another nearby airport.

Did there flight work out cheaper in the end, YES, after all charges, and transfers to the Hotel at the destination, their average was £91.00. was the extra £13 worth it, well it reduced travel time by over 50 minutes, plane was on time, service by the cabin was excellent, so to me Yes.

So cheap is not always value for money, and value counts

Regardless of where they put the charges the service at the airports and the delays are that bad I am starting to use cruise liners from home port as so that there are no delays or hidden charges. none of the airlines or airports are interested in passenger comfort or service they just want to make as much money as possible regardless of the discomfort caused. Thet tyhink we will stand for anything as there is no alternative. Well there is and I am going to use it.

Well it looks like Ryanair has taken inspiration from our April Fools. It’s now offering a 10 Euro charge each way to book a seat with extra leg room.

“The offer allows passengers to reserve seats in the front two rows of the plane ‘for prompt exit on arrival’, or in over-wing rows with slightly more legroom.”

What next?


Steve in Essex says:
27 April 2011

That has been the case with quite a few non-budget airlines for some years. Those where you could reserve a seat at all.

And as it is usually quite a lot more than “slightly more legroom” I for one am happy to pay that, so that my legs are not wedged into the seat in front.

Lerwegian says:
22 April 2011

I will actively avoid any airline company that behaves in this way, it is about time the government regulated against this type of charging, all it does is hide the true cost again making it difficult for consumers to calculate the true cost of their flights, especially when it is done in a piecemeal way via websites. At the very least the airlines that choose to act this way should be forced to publish full tables of all costs in a prominent way on their websites so they are not misleading the consumer

I have been organising annual walking holidays for a local walking group for eight years and each time going by a budget airline mainly by EasyJet trying to avoid the hassle of RyanAir. Over this period the hassle of dealing with budget airlines has got progressively worse. The credit card rip off’s and poor service coupled with what can only be described as threatening emails prior to the flight warning that if you be an ounce or centimetre over the limit the extra charges that will be imposed! Their attack dog mentality when dealing with customers really puts me off. Last year I was charged £178 for one single credit card payment for a group of 51. Last year I was able to make last minute changes to passenger details at no cost by using a spread sheet. This year with a smaller group of 27 it cost the party £115 to make a name change! What a rip off. No thank you EasyJet I brought you over 350 passengers over the years with not as much as a thank you. This little protest may only be a trickle which I am sure will turn into a stream and into a waterfall. Most I talk to are sick of the scams, deceit and unfairness. Lets go back to one price which covers everything and cuts down the hassle and then we may see the all up price from the start. Oh yes and stop hiding behind electronic walls or high priced telephone calls which prevent your customers speaking to you.

Bernadette says:
23 April 2011

Still have to stick up for Ryanair..if you know how to use the system it’s a great low cost airline, 4 friends and I regularly had a day out in Dublin for absolutely 0..thank you Ryan air.
Ryanair works best when you dont have to go away at short notice, I go to Ireland on a regular basis and even at short notice after the death of a family member Ryanair was cheaper than the other airlines flying into my chosen airport

Lin says:
24 April 2011

The extra charges are a disgrace. We travel to spain quite a few times a year to stay at our apartment. We have travelled with all of the ” no frill ” airlines. We usually find that the earlier you book the cheaper the price. Recently Easyjet reduced their flights, i contacted them and was issued with a credit for the next time we book – fair enough. When checking a flight with Monarch for May i was really surprised to find that it is now £110 cheaper,( 2 tickets for my mum & myself ) . I have contacted the airline but to no avail. Very disappointed and think that from now on i will stick with Easyjet!!

John Royce says:
25 April 2011

From mid April Bournemouth airport are charging £2 50 to be dropped off and also for your return pickup.Ithink this is pure extortion.

Pete says:
26 April 2011

Just bought an EasyJet flight to Prague: £110 + £30 fees (22 – bag, 8 – transaction). Those £30 of hidden fees are 27 % (!!) of the original price. And the fee used to be £20 recently (= 50 % increase).

What an UNETHICAL approach to hide a real price !!

Peter says:
26 April 2011

It is not just about the transaction (credit card) fees. BAGGAGES FEES are sometimes even worse.

Gatwick to Athens in mid November: air fare: £65.50, 1 piece of baggage: £28, credit card fee: £12.95

Hidden FEES INCREASE the basic price BY: £41 (63 % !!!!).

Why don’t the airlines have to disclose the real price as anybody else ??????????????

Skinny Liz says:
26 April 2011

We fly with Easyjet to Spain quite a few times over the year. You soon get to know the different charges which will be added and budget accordingly…I never take any notice of the advertised prices. The more you travel the more your learn! It must be difficult for the less frequent flyers though. At the end of the day, because of the increased fares and charges, we will be travelling less times this year.

Bob K says:
27 April 2011

Budget Airlines are a sham. They will try anything and everything to get your attention and then follow up with these hiden charges. Well done to Which for challenging these companies on our behalf.

My disgust today is aimed at Flybe. They try to position themselves as being flexible for the business traveller, but today have shown that they are anything but! If you book a return flight they don’t ‘permit’ you to take luggage in one direction! So not only do they want to charge £12 for taking a bag one way, they want to charge another £12 for not bringing it back. When I complained to customer (lack-of) services I was told that this was their ‘policy’. ‘policy’ seems a strange term. Then when I needed to change the return flight I was informed that I could not do this on-line because the trip was ‘part flown’. So I have to pay to ring up an expensive call-centre where the person I spoke to then tried to charge me double what was being advertised on line. Now my booking is not visible on-line at all and I have no way of finding out what day it is for except by ringing the expensive call centre again. This is a total rip-off and the public appears to have no protection against it. Regulation is desperately needed.

von Zipper says:
1 July 2011

I agree, and while we are talking about inflexible and unfriendly rip-off ‘policies’ from budget airlines – budget hotel chains should be looked at too. Why do we use a budget hotel? To save money. Yet Travelodge refused to correct a blindingly obvious date error in my telephone booking even though I reported it immediately within minutes of booking and on receipt of email confirmation – they either made the error or at least if I DID make an honest and silly mistake, I would have expected the ‘professionals’ in bookings to have kindly picked it up!!! The result? I paid twice, and my stay in a dreary and smelly Travelodge Glasgow with it’s punative penalties cost me more than a comfortable luxury hotel would have, and I will NEVER use them again.

von Zipper says:
1 July 2011

airlines and other traders should grow up and treating the public with contempt, stop wasting our time with unrealistic and unobtainable headlines prices or face the tough penalties enshrines in law.