Just how ‘low-cost’ are the budget airlines?

The advertising is certainly designed to catch the eye: you can fly off to your favourite European destination for the weekend for less than it costs to stay at home. And if you’re single, with just a cabin bag and not in a rush to board, you may get away with just an extra £6 on-line check in fee per flight (in the case of Ryanair) and the same again if you’re paying by credit/debit card. But that already adds £24 to your return trip. And now Ryanair are adding a further £2 fee per flight to cover compensation it has paid for recent flight delays and cancellations. This makes a minimum extra charge of £28 on the return ticket price.

But for families booking on-line, add-ons can push the advertised price through the roof, while a regular airline’s quoted price will remain the same. The Daily Telegraph" compared a trip with BA, easyJet and Ryanair to Madrid from London for a family of four travelling on the same dates in August with two checked bags, a set of golf clubs and a travel cot, paying by debit card.

Ryanair and easyJet offered similar fares: £271.92 and £275.92 respectively, while British Airways’ best offer was £476.20. But, once Ryanair’s online check-in fees (£48), luggage fees (£80, plus £80 for golf clubs and £20 for the travel cot), administration fees (£48), and the new delay/cancellation levy (£16) were added, its flights cost £563.92, nearly £100 more than BA’s. EasyJet’s extras added £111.25 to the start price.

So when booking your summer holiday this year, make sure that your price comparison is based on the final cost. The price of a flight with a low-cost airline can escalate so much during the booking process that you may do better to fly with a regular airline and have an allocated seat!

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