The hidden cost of budget airfares

The hidden costs of budget airfares can add up to make a cheap flight ultimately costly.

The hidden cost of budget airfare

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?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th Oct 2015
    A number of your points also count for so called 'full service' airlines. Just be aware of excessive credit card charges, seat selection (Air NZ) and others. Be alert, the cheapest is not always the cheapest, compare apples with apples and let common sense prevail, nothing is for nothing
    26th Oct 2015
    I agree with all of the above comments from Leon. As a frequent flyer some or all of the above can apply and it really is a case of buyer beware. The one missed is the gestapo at the check-in counter who really push the boundaries when passengers have followed the rules. Don't get me started on our EasyJet experience flying out of Athens earlier in the year. Whilst we got it sorted it the rottweiler lady who ruled the queue was pretty bad.
    We should know better but always try for a bargain so expect a bit of argy bargy. Next cab off the rank is Spirit Airlines in the US. Life experience coming up. We know the form!
    26th Oct 2015
    On a trip around Europe a few years ago, we covered 11 countries and all was well UNTIL we boarded a 'budget' airline from France to England.
    First of all they claimed that our luggage was over weight and charged us a ridiculous amount of money for it and then we landed at Luton, which cost us another pretty penny to get us and our luggage to London.
    We learnt our lesson that cheap is not always best !
    26th Oct 2015
    I suspect that the lesson really is about 'research' and then standing your ground if you have a leg to stand on. Sometimes you have to mention things like regulators and internet comments when airlines over-step the mark. That's why you have to understand the rules of the particular airline BEFORE you book. No good at the gate.
    26th Oct 2015
    Not exactly to do with budget airlines but to do with airport to CBD travel in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. I recently travelled to Newcastle for 6 nights. The Newcastle airport (Williamstown) is around 45 km from the CBD. A taxi is around $50 to $60. The Port Stephens bus service which is part of the integrated service runs buses from the airport (check timetable) and very inexpensive. If you are a pensioner, you can get a $2.50 all day ticket which covers that journey and unlimited travel on all buses, trains and Stockton ferry. You can travel as far as Sydney, Cessnock and Wollongong by rail on that ticket. It is a midnight to midnight ticket. Also be aware that the Newcastle authorities have recently terminated all trains into central Newcastle as the rail crossings were disrupting motorists. It now terminates at Hamilton and there are shuttle buses to take you in and out of the City to meet the trains. Ironically they are looking at putting in light rail that may use the same corridor (rail) and still need to cross roads in the CBD so why cutout the train service as they will still need to cross roads and disrupt motorists. So much for encouraging people to use public transport.
    26th Oct 2015
    And don't expect to be fed and watered on some of these low cost budget flights either. Well not unless you pre-book and pay in advance.
    26th Oct 2015
    But who needs to graze if it is only a 5 hour flight or less?
    26th Oct 2015
    DickB thank you for your information, being born in Newcastle and promising myself a trip there (on my bucket list) I shall take it all on board.
    About the budget airlines, I get slightly irritated with friends who will only use them, then moan about this and that while using them, I would rather get what I paid for.
    26th Oct 2015
    My wife and I fly with budget airlines numerous times a year, and our overall experiences with doing so have been first class. The trick is to ALWAYS read the small print and fully understand what your airfares DO and DON'T include well before you think about booking, and to know in advance just what you DO and DON'T need. It's always a bit of a balancing act. For instance, if the flight is at an unsocial hour and public transport at your destination isn't running when you arrive, are you prepared to sit it out or sleep on the floor at the airport until it does start running? Or, if your flight is only relatively short, do you REALLY need a meal on board, or can you wait? Bear in mind budget airlines don't provide 'free' food and their on-board prices are usually inflated. Also, weigh your cabin baggage very careful before you get to the airport. It will usually be checked and budget airlines are strict about weight allowed in the cabin. Again, is it the end of the world if you and your partner end up sitting apart from each other? Our experience has usually been that staff at check-in are happy to assist in accommodating you as far as they can as long as you are pleasant to them. Our reasoning is that you are only ever on an aircraft for a few hours and it's only a small fraction of your holiday time at the end of the day. A little inconvenience and flexibility can save as lot of money. But I agree in general with the comments in your article, and they raise some very valid points. It pays to be aware.
    26th Oct 2015
    Spot on.
    26th Oct 2015
    D'oh !! If you can't work out 90% of what is written here yourself, taking your time and thinking, then maybe you shouldn't leave the house :( If that doesn't work for you, maybe try asking a relative, friend or the cat/dog. Bon voyage ;)
    26th Oct 2015
    heyyybob, being rude doesn't make you smart. There's really no need to try putting other people down. I have read some wonderfully helpful and constructive comments on numerous websites relating to travelling over the years, and the fact that many people are prepared to take the time and trouble to pass on their experiences is great. I have certainly benefitted from it over the years. Please try being positive, not negative, it's so much more pleasant for everyone.
    26th Oct 2015
    Oh dear johnp. Wrong end of the stick, I'm afraid. I'm not rude or smart (like you, perhaps). I too have done all that you mention. Just suggested a more intimate experience in planning your around-the-world trip, enlisting the personal aid of friends and relatives to assist you through the process. If you haven't got a cat/dog they should be enough to help :) Please try to be positive and try and recognise a touch of levity when you see it ;)
    26th Oct 2015
    Thanks for your comments, heyyybob. Happy travelling.
    26th Oct 2015
    Cheers, you also :) Happy trails.
    26th Oct 2015
    I had a flight with tiger recently and with all the extras they put on I would have been better of going with quantas or virgin I would never fly with tiger again
    26th Oct 2015
    Read the fine print BEFORE you book!
    26th Oct 2015
    Mick, yes and if you book in advance, check the fine print at a later date re luggage allowances. They can change from time to time with no warning. Some regional areas only have one airline that travels in that area so you have no choices available. We tried to confirm a booking on-line + print our tickets etc. and discovered it wouldn't work. I rang their Customer Service and was adviced that information was not applicable to flights in some areas and that they had to be done by the staff on the check-in counter.
    26th Oct 2015
    I haven't found Tiger to be that cheap lately. When they started out they used to have some fantastic fares from Perth, and we flew with them to Singapore quite a number of times. But we haven't now flown with them for a couple of years. I think they have been hit hard by the emergence of Scoop.

    I guess, with all the budget airlines, if you want all the extras that are included when flying with the mainstream airlines, you are, as often as not, either as well off or better off, to fly with the major airlines, because the extras do certainly add up. What the budget airlines do offer, though, is the chance to save money on flying if you are prepared to forego certain conveniences. That, for us, is the only real advantage of budget airlines over mainstream airlines.
    26th Oct 2015
    Yep. Scoot (owned by Singapore Airlines) does provide a good service (only flown twice with them) and will be even better shortly with their purchase of some Dreamliners to replace their slightly aging 777's which, of course, are still good workhorses. Virgin bought Tiger Australia (from Singaqpore) last year and yes that has had a slight flow on effect price wise but reckon they will improve now they have sorted out some 'problems' they had :( Virgins answer to Jetstar so a Good Thing all round :)

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