Top tips to keep flight costs down

We all love a bargain. And if we can combine that with getting away on a short break to a favourite city or a week on the beach, then even better.

However in recent years are love of cheap flights has been soured with airlines seemingly adding on more and more so called ‘hidden charges’ to our bookings. That £49 flight to the sun soon escalates to well over the £100 mark.  Even more confusing is that different airlines charge for different things, making it even more important to compare the total price for your flight, not just that initial tempting lead in offer.

So what can you do to play the airlines at their own game and still travel without having to dig deep for those ‘extras’?  Follow our tips for how to get cheap prices on your flights and how to keep that price down by avoiding charges.

  • Total price - our most important tip is to check the total price for everything on your booking and compare this across airlines before confirming. Low cost carriers are not always low cost and can soon become more expensive than scheduled carriers once those ‘add ons’ are totted up.
  • Checked in Baggage – all low cost and charter airlines will charge you for putting a bag in the hold. It can be as much as £35 each way on Ryanair, costing a family of four £280 in bag fees alone.

Yet other airlines still offer one free bag per person, such as British Airways and BMI,  so this is where you make some of the biggest savings.

If your chosen airline charges, then look to travel hand luggage only; or if travelling with others, then try and share a hold bag to halve your bag costs. You can book your flights with no bag and add checked bags before you travel without paying a premium. Just be ruthless with what you are packing and only pack what you really need.

In addition some airlines charge you for checking your bag in, adding a check in fee to the bag as well as the bag charge itself. Watch out for this on bmibaby and Jet2.

  • Excess baggage – woe betide if you turn up with more baggage that you are allowed. It is vital that you know your checked allowance as excess can be as much as £20 a kilo at the check in desk. Always pre-book your extra weight or bags on line. You will save at least 25% on the airport fees.
  • Hand Luggage – again it pays to know your allowance. British Airways and easyJet have the best allowances with no weight limits. Thomas Cook has the worst at a miserly 5kg and only a small bag allowed in the cabin. If an airline finds your bag is too big at the gate, you can face paying up to £40 for it to go in the hold. And when an airline says you can only take one bag, then stick to it, including handbags, laptops and shopping at the airport, it will all need to go inside your allowance to avoid additional fees.
  • Seating – do you really need to pay for a seat or priority boarding? For airlines that have allocated seats, the key is to check in on line as early as you can. British Airways charges £10 to pre-allocate a seat, yet 24 hours before the flight you can pick you own seat on line for free. Many other airlines are the same.

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Ryanair and easyJet offer early boarding. Avoid this like the plague and save yourself up to £14 each way by getting to the gate early and being first in the queue instead to get onboard.

  • SMS messages – recently some airlines have begin to offer a service where they text you your booking confirmation and details about your flight. Avoid the charge and keep in touch online for free and avoid paying up to £3 for this service.
  • Booking fees and card charges – however the airlines like to describe these, they nearly all add a fee for paying by certain types of cards.  Every airline charges the most for credit cards. Debit cards or paypal have the lowest charges and are even free on British Airways, BMI and Virgin.  Otherwise invest in a Mastercard Pre-paid card to waive fees on Ryanair and an Electron Card for all other carriers.  This alone can save up to £50 on a family booking for four.
  • On board food – remember the free airline meal and drinks? Well they still exist on long haul flights and scheduled carriers such as British Airways still offer them on short haul flights. However on everyone else you can sample the delights of the over-priced trolley as it makes its way down the aisle. Avoid the rip-off prices and take your food from home and buy drinks on airport, or select a carrier that still gives you refreshments for free. You then get what you want at a fraction of the cost.

On board food costs up to 400% more than the high street so a family of four can save nearly £50 return for sandwiches, a choccy bar and drink on their break.

  • Boarding cards – with online check in and the home printing of boarding cards becoming the norm, avoid being a mug and losing your boarding card on Ryanair and Jet2.com. Failing to check in online with the Irish carrier and to arrive at the airport without your boarding card from home will cost you a whopping £40 each. Jet2 also charge although all other airlines will still re-print for you free of charge

And the savings don’t just stop with your flight booking and airline travel.  You can also save money on the following items that airlines offer by shopping around instead;

  • Travel Insurance – save up to 27% on your policy
  • Car Hire – this can cost up to 450% more with an airline than using our price comparison service
  • Hotels – save up to 20% on hotel bookings
  • Airport parking – discounts of 15% are easily found
  • Travel Money – shop around and be up to 5% better off using best buys rather than the airline offering

Finally, many people complain that they never seem to be able to get the lowest fares in the first place. Our advice to find and book those £9.99 deals is this;

  • Sign up to all of the email newsletters of your favourite airlines and price comparison websites. You are then among the first to hear of sales and promotions of the cheaper tickets.
  • Flexibility - Most sale prices are for midweek travel and to the least obvious destinations – so prepared to be flexible on dates and places to get the best deals.
  • Book early – the earlier you book, the better the prices generally are.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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