“10 Low-cost Airline Money Grabs, and How to Avoid Them”
Whilst discount carriers are often a cheap way of getting from A to B, they can afford the low prices because they hold many of their passengers to ransom. Faced with paying an extra fee or not travelling, the majority have to dip into their pockets. However, forewarned is forearmed, and the following tips ought to save future heartache.
1. Beware The Change: Many airlines let you alter bookings for what appears a small fee. However, they will also charge the difference between the original and the new rate. Within a couple of days of travel, this difference can be hundreds of dollars.
2. Cabin Carry-On: Don’t refuse to pay in advance for checked baggage, hoping that staff will turn a blind eye to the odd extra kilo in your carry-on. Discount carriers tend to police cabin baggage mercilessly so they can hit passengers with huge excess baggage charges.
3. Have Back-Up Money: Airlines are incredibly quick to take your money and glacially slow to give it back. Should you be in the unusual situation of actually getting a refund, it can take up to 6 weeks. Often the refund will be due to the airline cancelling a flight, so try to have back-up funds to buy a replacement ticket.
4. Take Noise-Cancelling Headphones: To maximise revenue, the aircraft are jammed with as many people as they can legally get away with (in parts of the world, this is open to scary interpretation!). As well as being surrounded by hundreds of strangers, carriers see passengers as a captive audience. Flights are one continuous advertisement for food, drink, lottery tickets, etc. Making things worse, some airlines charge $3/minute for cell phone usage and actively encourage it. Blocking out most of the noise might keep the murderous feelings at bay.
5. Low-Cost Isn’t Necessarily Lowest Price: Discount carriers rely on people assuming they are, by definition, the cheapest option. However, when booked a long time in advance, some full-service airlines are very competitive. There will be restrictions, but the ticket will probably include checked luggage, refreshments and no hidden fees. Definitely worth a look.
6. Connection Crisis: If you are booking a connecting flight, even with the same airline, ensure there is sufficient time to make it. Most discount airlines WILL NOT re-book or refund if they consider a delay to be beyond their control. Their definition of this is vague to say the least.
7. Priority Boarding Bulls**t: For a not-inconsiderate fee, some discount carriers offer you the chance to be first on board the aircraft. Unfortunately, you’ll still be battling with other fee-payers and, if the aircraft isn’t on a jet-bridge, you’ve just paid to be first on the bus!
8. You’re Landing Where?: Several low-cost operators fall just short of committing fraud when they claim to serve a city, and airport operators are just as guilty. Make sure the airport you’re flying to is actually close to the city or you could be hit with the cost of ground transportation too. Frankfurt-Hahn, for example, is 60 miles from the city centre – not exactly a cheap cab ride
9. Seats Apart: Some discount carriers save cash by running a free-seating policy. A boarding card is just that – a bit of plastic that gets you on. As far as they are concerned, your ticket will get you on but they couldn’t care less if you’re separated from your two-year-old. If you have a family, you have two choices. Either go with an airline that assigns seating for free. Or turn up at the airport a day early!
10. E-Theft: This is cropping up more and more. With a lot of low-cost airlines, the only way of booking a ticket is through their website. For this privilege, some of the unscrupulous outfits add on a service charge for electronic payment. There’s no other way of paying, so it’s basically charging an excessive amount of money for nothing. By strange coincidence, this is the dictionary’s definition of extortion.
Of course, these are only ten of the worst offences and the airlines are coming up with new scams almost on a daily basis. But if you only take one bit of advice from this article, let it be this: Always, always, read the terms and conditions. Always.
Then read them again!