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?