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The real cost of your budget flight

With news that Ryanair are raising the cost to check-in a bag, focus is once more on the hidden costs that could make a no-frills flight less of a bargain.

We’ve looked at the extra charges you could be forced to pay by the leading budget airlines on trips within Europe to help you know upfront what the real cost could be.

Checked luggage fees

The charges for having a suitcase or bag checked and stored in the plane’s hold can vary wildly depending on the destination, weight of the bag and whether it’s peak or off-peak season.

Booking your luggage at the same time you book your flight online will give you the lowest charges, but each airline has its own pricing structure. Wizz Air charge between £11.50 and £37.50, while FlyBe charge a flat £21. A 15kg bag on Ryanair will now cost you £30 each way.

There are also hugely different charges for the bags being overweight. The standard on a non-budget carrier is usually 23kg, but the budget airlines allowance is usually 15kg or 20kg. Go over these and you’re looking at roughly £10 per extra kg.

If you’re going long-haul with the likes of Wizz and Norwegian, then expect these figures to go even higher.

Carry on luggage charges

Each of the airlines we looked at allowed you to bring carry-on bags with you. This is a great money saving trick if you don’t need to take much with you and are happy to decant some toiletries to smaller bottles.

However, carry-on can lead to a very expensive extra charge when you get to the check-in desk. If your bag is bigger than the size allowed by the airline, or heavier than the maximum weight, you will usually have to check in your bag.

These airport based prices are far higher than pre-booking a bag for the hold, and the cost of this can vary from £32 (EasyJet) up to £60 (Ryanair) – and can be even higher if you leave it to the departure gate, with Monarch charging £50 and Easyjet £45.

 

Seat reservation fees

Unlike traditional airlines, if you don’t pay to reserve your seat you will randomly be allocated your place on the plane – which can be a right pain for anyone travelling with family or friends as there’s no guarantee you’ll be put together.

This can be just a few quid, but some airlines charge at least £7 (Norwegian) or £8 (Ryanair). And that’s just for a bog standard seat (hopefully not too near the bogs). If you want a window seat, extra leg room or a spot in one of the first few rows you could be paying up to £25 extra per seat, per flight.

Booking, admin and card fees

Fly with EasyJet and each booking is subject to a £13 fee, while Aer Lingus charges £7 and Wizz Air £8.

Pretty much all the airlines we looked at, apart from Wizz Air and Aer Lingus, have an extra charge of 2% to 3% if you pay by credit card.

Airport check-in fees

You’re also expected to check in online and print your boarding pass from home with a few airlines. Fail to do this and you’ll be faced with a £23.50 airport checking in fee with Wizz Air and a £45 charge with Ryanair.

Food and drink costs

Hopefully your flight is pretty short as with most budget airlines you’ll have to pay extra for food and drink. Considering the quality of airplane food is rarely anything to send a postcard home about. Having to fork out £4.50 for an average sandwich and £1.80 for a can of coke (both Easyjet) is probably extra money you wish you’d not spent.

Insurance, car hire, SMS confirmation and other extras

Again, airline to airline, the charges for these extras vary. What you need to watch out for are the ones that pre-select ‘Yes” on their websites, adding unwanted costs to your total bill without you even noticing.

 

How to beat the charges

If it’s possible, being flexible can really save you on your airfares. Taking carry-on luggage, being happy to sit wherever and bringing a packed lunch can mean you truly can fly “no-frills” all over Europe.

But if not, these extras can quickly add up, making the bargain £20 return flight suddenly become more expensive than choosing an all in option with a different airline.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to accurately compare the total costs of each airline – so it’s a case of going through the booking process to find out what your end cost will be.

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