Hidden airline charges
When you add up the booking fees, baggage charges and admin costs that come with no-frills airlines, it can sometimes be cheaper to fly with traditional operators. We've put together a summary of the main add-on airline charges that you need to consider before you book your flights to make sure you're getting the best deal and don't run into any nasty surprises at the airport.
Recently airlines have been called to make booking fees for debit or credit card payment more transparent, but this is still coming into play and many advertised flight prices currently do not include these costs. Some airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, charge a flat admin fee for each booking.
|Airline admin charges|
|Airline||Pay by credit card||Pay by debit card||Pay by Visa Electron
|Ryanair||£14 per person + 2% of transaction||3% of transaction fee||£6 per person|
|Flybe||3% of transaction fee||No extra charge||No extra charge|
|easyjet||£10 per payment + 2.5% (min £4.95)||£10 per payment||£10 per payment|
|Thomson Airways||2.5% of transaction (min £4.95)||No extra charge||No extra charge|
|British Airways||£4.50||No extra charge||No extra charge|
|Virgin Atlantic||£9.62||No extra charge||No extra charge|
Baggage restrictions and fees
If you can manage with just hand luggage this will be much cheaper than checking in luggage, which can set you back between £10 and £100 return. However, be careful to check the weight and luggage size restrictions as if you go over on your allowance you could end up having to check-in luggage at the airport and pay a hefty fee. See our hand luggage allowance page for details on how much you're allowed to take on the plane with you. See the tables below to compare and work out allowances and for check-in luggage.
|Hand luggage allowance|
|Airline||No. of bags||Weight||Dimensions
|Ryanair||1||10kg||55cm x 40cm x 20cm plus one smaller bag up to 35cm x 20cm x 20cm|
|Flybe*||1||10kg||50cm x 35cm x 28cm|
|easyjet||1||No weight limit||56cm x 45cm x 25cm|
|Thomson Airways||1||5kg||55cm x 40cm x 20cm|
|British Airways||1||23kg||1 bag max 56cm x 45cm x25cm plus laptop bag or hand bag up to 45cm x 36cm x 20cm|
|Virgin Atlantic||1||6kg||23cm x 36cm x 56cm|
|Checked baggage fees|
|Airline||Checked-in baggage allowance||Paid in advance online||Paid at the airport
|Ryanair||15-20kg||15kg - £15 - £25
20kg - £25 - £45
|15kg - £30 - £50
20kg - £40 - £75
|Flybe*||15-20kg||15kg - £13.99
20kg - £14.99
|easyjet||20kg||£10 - £20||£30|
|Thomson Airways||20kg||£30 - £32||£60 - £64|
|British Airways||22kg||No extra charge||No extra charge|
|Virgin Atlantic||23kg||No extra charge||No extra charge|
*As part of Flybe's New Economy ticket you are entitled a free 20kg standard hold bag, if you are not carrying a hold bag and your hand baggage is either oversized or overweight or both, as long as it does not exceed 20kg, it will be placed in the hold free of charge.
Generally it's much cheaper and quicker to check-in online before you arrive at the airport but make sure you print off your boarding pass, as you may be charged to do this at the airport. Ryanair charges £60 per person to print a boarding pass at the airport.
|Check-in fees and options|
|Airline||Paid in advance online per person, per return||Paid at the airport|
*Except on "incl taxes & charges" sales.
Food & Drink
Check out the table below to find out if your airline will provide refreshments or how much you can expect to pay to stay fed and watered during your flight. For low cost airlines, which won't include food and drink on your flight, keep costs down by taking your food on the plane and buying drinks from the terminal shop before boarding.
|Drinks and snacks|
|Airline||Teas/coffee||Beer/wine||Breakfast or snacks
|Ryanair||£2.10||£3.90 (glass of wine)
|£4.60 (Kellogs Breakfast Box)
||£2.80 (breakfast bundle)
£3.95 (classic sandwich)
|easyjet||£2.50||£4.00 (glass of wine)
£3.60 (beer 330ml)
|£4.00 (snack box)
£5.90 (sandwich, potato chips, cold drink)
|Thomson Airways8||£2.40||£3.90 (glass of wine)
|£3.90 (sandwich / snack box)|
|British Airways||No extra charge||No extra charge||No extra charge|
|Virgin Atlantic||No extra charge||No extra charge||No extra charge|
*For long haul flights of 7 hours or more - meals are included in your holiday price.
Watch out for insurance add-on options when booking your flights. If you are wondering what this insurance covers, usually it will include the following to some degree:
- Cancelling / curtailment of your trip
- 24 hour emergency medical assistance
- Medical expenses
- Loss or damage to personal possessions
- Redundancy cover for cancellation
- Stolen or lost travel documents/li>
- Compensation for delayed baggage
If you already have travel insurance or a 'multi-trip' package it's likely that you will be covered for these essentials. Always ensure you have travel insurance but you may find it far cheaper to buy elsewhere.
If you don't want to go with the airline's insurance, you can opt for this when filling out your booking form online, or de-select insurance if the airline has pre-ticked an insurance box to automatically add it. Note that if booking with Ryanair, it will prompt you to buy it by asking which country you live in for the purpose of buying insurance. To avoid this select "don't cover me" from the drop-down menu displayed. If you click "United Kingdom", you'll be charged.
Date published 01/07/2012
All information correct as of January 2014
If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include the most popular.