Sneaky flight scams revealed

Flight scams

Have you ever been stung by sneaky added extras when you’ve booked a budget flight? Hefty hand luggage charges or excess baggage costs can come as a nasty shock and add a fortune to your original budget bill.

The good news is you can save major money by avoiding these rip-off scams. Here’s our essential guide on what to look out for to avoid those sneaky extra charges.

Hefty fees for forgetting to print your boarding card

Don’t get caught out like former Westlife star Brian McFadden when he didn’t print out his boarding pass for Ryanair.

brian mcfadden twitter

The airline charges an eye-watering £70 if you forget to print out your boarding cards beforehand. Unsurprisingly, the Irish pop star was not happy – using his Twitter page to vent his anger (see pic opposite).

Ryanair hit back, saying: “We’re surprised that Mr McFadden, having agreed to print his boarding card, couldn’t manage this super-complex task, which is accomplished daily by over 80m passengers annually.”

Obviously they’re not very sympathetic!

Avoid being hit with this huge cost by printing the boarding passes for the entire family (return flight, too) in advance – especially if you’re travelling with Ryanair!

TOP TIP: Most airports have an internet and printing facility if you do get caught out. Remember to allow yourself plenty time to deal with any last-minute hassles and look to see if there is an option to have a boarding pass barcode sent direct to your smartphone.


Excess baggage costs

Budget airlines make a fortune out of passengers with sneaky excess baggage charges – they know this is something many passengers forget to check.

Packed a little too much? Weight a bit heavy, bag a bit too big… can I have your credit card, please?

Budget flights usually allow 15-20kg for hold luggage. Anything above that and you can expect to pay around £20 per kilo excess.

Usually budget airlines don’t charge for basic hand luggage – up to 10kg is normally ok, but always check for weight and size restrictions.

EasyJet have reduced their hand baggage size allowance to 50cm x 40cm x 20cm, but there’s no weight limit.

If your case doesn’t fit airlines’ cabin requirements, you could be made to fork out up to £75 to put it in the hold at check-in. Chance it until the boarding gate and those fees could double. Eeek!

TOP TIP: Weigh your bags on the bathroom scales and use a tape measure to check the size of your bags at home before you jet off to avoid extra charges.

Annoying admin charges

If you’re booking your flight online using a credit card there will always be a fee. However, paying by credit card for a flight costing over £100 is the safest way as you’re protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Card Act. This means your credit card company is liable if anything goes wrong with your flight so you’ll get your money back if your airline goes bust, for example.

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Credit card fees usually cost 2-3% of the transaction.

If you paid for the flight with a debit card and something goes wrong, you may also be covered by a scheme called ‘chargeback’. However, this is a voluntary scheme from card providers, so there is no legal guarantee you’ll get your money back unlike with a credit card.

TOP TIP: Flybe, Jet2, Monarch, Ryanair and Thomson Airways don’t charge a fee for paying by debit card, but Easyjet charge £11 for all bookings.

Cheeky check-in fees

Some airlines charge an unavoidable fee for check-in which can be up to £14 per person. Online check-in is usually free, easy to do and can save you paying out at the airport.

Buggy and car seat charges

If you’re jetting off with young kids, check how much equipment you’re allowed to check in as you may be charged extra for certain items.

Ryanair, for example, charges £10 per car seat each way if you book online and £20 at the airport, although you are allowed one buggy per child for free.

TOP TIP: Check if there are rental opportunities for car seats at your destination airport – it may work out cheaper.

‘Miss Stakes’ are high for the name on your ticket

Even minor errors can cost you big style. Double-check for typos and incorrect names when you book your flights.

Some airlines will understand if you booked a flight under a shortened name instead of the full name as shown on the passport. But not all airlines are that understanding. Jet2, for example, will charge £27.50 if you miss out the middle name that appears on your passport and Easyjet £30, increasing to a charge of £40 if this is done at the airport.

Ryanair charges as much as £110 for changing the name of the passenger on a return ticket and that’s if you do it in advance. They’ll charge you a princely £160 if you have to change the name at the airport!

TOP TIP: Call the airline’s helpline or fix the mistake online if you can. Typos and maiden names can usually be amended for a £10 – £30 admin fee if you fix it in advance.

Crafty added tax

Quite rightly, there has been a crackdown on this, but some budget airlines and third parties quote pre-tax prices when you’re searching online. Look out for the small print and check that a flight which was originally £43 hasn’t shot up to £90 plus once unavoidable costs such as web check-in and EU levies are added.

Priority boarding

Airlines can often scam you into paying out extra for priority boarding. This could mean being allocated seats, or just paying to get first pick on the plane. Many people say this isn’t worth the money, especially on a short flight.

Be aware that some airlines, such as Jet2, preselect ‘sit together’ fees of around £4 per person included in the booking. Remember you can manually deselect this.

TOP TIP: Get to your boarding gate in good time and you can often bag good seats regardless of whether you’ve seats booked.

Sky-high prices for eating on-board

You can bring food through airport security and on the plane – it’s only drink and liquids you have to bin. Remember yoghurt is classed as a liquid.

TOP TIP: Take food and snacks for your family and save pounds on the extortionate prices on-board.

Check where your cheap flight is landing – some budget airlines fly in to more remote airports and could leave you with an unwelcome charge for a taxi into the centre.

Feeling stranded

Check out where your flight is landing – some budget airlines fly into more remote airports and could leave you with an unwelcome charge for a taxi into the centre.

TOP TIP: Factor in the cost of getting to the airport and back, especially if you have an off-peak flight as taxi charges can double and public transport may not be running. Check out the cost of pre-booking a taxi in advance as you may be able to negotiate a deal.

Longing for legroom?

Paying for more legroom is another extra that could add costs. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the extra £15 some airlines charge for 30 inches of leg room. Always pre-book to save money.

Insurance and other add-ons

It seems you can’t book a flight without being bombarded with sales tactics to get you to buy a whole host of add-ons.

Watch out for holiday insurance and other add-ons that are sometimes pre-selected when you go to pay for your flight. It could be more convenient to book there and then, but you’ll probably find a cheaper deal online elsewhere. It’s important to organise insurance. For regular travellers, check out prices on yearly premiums. Some bank accounts include travel insurance as a perk so check if you have this.

Getting the best from budget airlines

All these craftily ways airlines hike up their prices are annoying. But there are plenty of crafty tricks you can use to get ultra cheap flights here.

Happy travelling!