/ 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

Steve James says:
21 April 2011

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 airli