The hidden cost of budget airfares

Booking budget travel may initially look good for your bottom line , but hidden costs can add up to make your cheap flight a costly one in the end.

When booking flights, particularly online, a lot of travellers tend to only see the cost of the flights they are booking, sometimes neglecting to notice things that can have a negative affect on your wallet – and your holiday. Some of these may include:

Indirect routes

Most cheap flights will often take an indirect route, so you may find yourself stopping over in as many as five countries one way. This means much longer flights and inconvenient (and uncomfortable) waits in international airports. And with waiting comes boredom – and the increased likelihood of your wallet being opened more often.

Flight times

As many of you will no doubt be aware, the cheapest flights are usually offered at off-peak times, which may mean very early mornings, or very late nights. Add to it that you’ll need to check in at the airport at least an hour or two before your departure.

Being so early or late, public transport may not be running, so you may have to fork out for a shuttle, car service, or taxi just to get you there.

Then, if you arrive at your destination early, your hotel may not be open, so you either have to beg them to hold your bags until they are ready to check you in, which can also cost you extra, or you can drag them around town until your room is good to go.

Baggage fees

Be aware of your airline’s conditions relating to baggage. Individual airlines have different rules when it comes to luggage, so ensure that you are familiar with them, as additional fees can be charged for checked luggage, overweight luggage or if you take on more than one carry-on bag.

Checking in

Ensure that you check in on time, as budget airlines are very strict about timely departure. So, get to the gate at least 30 minutes before your flight time, or you run the risk of losing your seat without a refund, credit or transfer.

Next time you fly, save some time and hassle and use the online check-in facility, but beware, some low-cost airlines will even have a separate charge for this service as well. Oh, and print your boarding pass once you’ve checked in or you could be on the hook for more fees.

And make sure your name is spelled correctly on your ticket before you print it, as making any changes after purchase could set you back some more dollars.

Boarding and seat selection

Most budget airlines will not allow for you to choose your seat upon check-in, so if you’re travelling with friends, it’s best to check in as early as possible, keeping in mind that those who check in online will take priority over those who check in at the airport.

Also keep in mind that lower prices generally mean that you won’t have the option of the extra legroom seats, unless of course, you guessed it, you pay for them.  

Paying with credit cards

If you pay for your flight with a credit card, prepare to be slugged with a transaction fee on top of the usual credit card fees. Sometimes these can be as high as $11 per transaction, which can quickly add up if you’re flying with other family members. As a rule, debit cards are cheaper than credit cards.

Non-primary airports

Sometimes the airport that a budget airline uses will not be the primary airport for that destination. In other words, the airport to which you are flying or departing will be one that is much further away from city centres. It pays to check the actual location of the departure airport beyond that of the city name. If you were to fly to New York, for example, you could end up at one of three airports. If the airport at which you arrive doesn’t have public transport, you could end up with a hefty transfer fee that may take some of the shine off that cheap flight you purchased.

This cheap flight thing can be a little complicate huh? Sometimes a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold. So, the next time you book inexpensive airfare, carefully read the fine print to ensure that your budget holiday doesn’t turn into a blowout.

Have you had any bad experiences with budget travel? Or have they been good? Why not share your experience of budget airlines with our members?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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