A new way to compare airline charges
One new site allows you to compare those additional airline charges, so you know exactly how much your 'cheap flight' will really cost.
"Fly to Milan for £29!" the poster screams. The trouble is, you know that in reality it will cost you a fair bit more than £29 once all the added 'extras' that airlines like to charge for are tacked on to your bill.
It can all seem a bit misleading, which is why the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is stepping in.
The CAA has set up a new section of its website which lists the charges made by 23 airlines operating in the UK for paying by card as well as charges for luggage, meals, reserved seating, sports equipment, and various administration charges.
The 23 airlines covered include British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, EasyJet, Ryanair, Air France, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Flybe. The carriers compared account for 84% of flights to and from the UK.
The data will be updated every three months, as well as when an airline tells the CAA of a change to its charges.
The table is part of a CAA passenger portal which includes other information for air passengers such as advice about the ATOL protection scheme, tips on flight health and the latest guidance on airport security. The CAA also plans to publish further advice and guidance on what to look out for in booking terms and conditions.
How to compare prices
When you research flights you need to compare the airfare or headline price and the cost of optional extras to give you the total cost of the flight.
Optional charges include fees for paying by debit or credit card, charges for checking-in luggage or sports equipment, and any extra costs for reserved seating.
To check the CAA's table, follow this link (be warned, it opens as a PDF).
The worst offenders
Budget airlines tend to be the worst for piling on extra fees. Easyjet charges £13.95 per booking for paying by credit card. It’s a lot if you’re just taking one flight, but not as much as Aer Lingus’ or Ryanair’s £6 handling fee per flight per passenger – a family of four would pay £48 in fees for return flights.
BMIBaby charges between £13.99 and £15.99 for hold luggage if booked online or £20 via the call centre or at the airport. BA, on the other hand, includes a 23kg checked bag in the ticket price. Flybe charges a whopping £30.99 for the same piece of 23kg luggage to be checked into the hold.
If you want to take sports equipment such as skis or golf clubs, expect to pay more with most airlines. Flybe charges £30 per journey, for example, and Jet2 £25. However, BA will let you include most sports equipment as part of your baggage allowance.
If you want to reserve a particular seat it will cost you £10 with Ryanair and £12 or more with Thomson Airways.
How extras can make a difference
A few quid here and there can certainly make a difference to the total you pay. For example, if you flew with BA with one piece of checked-in baggage, wanted a meal on the flight and paid by debit card, there would be zero extra fees.
However, if you added the same extras with Jet2 you’d pay £5 to check-in online (or £10 at the airport), £7.99 to check in a bag, £6 for a meal and a minimum of £4.99 for paying by debit card, a total of £23.98 or £47.96 for a return flight.
Excessive card surcharges
At the end of last year the Government announced plans to ban excessive surcharges on credit and debit card payments. The Consumer Rights Directive will come into affect at the end of 2012 and although it won’t just hit airlines, they are among the worst offenders.
Under the legislation, airlines, cinemas and holiday firms will be stopped from imposing "hidden, last-minute" charges on internet bookings.
The decision followed a campaign by consumer group Which? that included a complaint submitted to the Office of Fair Trading in March 2011. The group says it costs retailers no more than 20p to accept a payment by debit card.