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Smaller bags and cheeky fees: The not-so-secret tactics British airlines use to get your money

The low-cost carrier will be introducing a new baggage policy that will lower the checked baggage fee.
The low-cost carrier will be introducing a new baggage policy that will lower the checked baggage fee.

As Brexit looms, British airlines are scrambling to find ways around the imminent price hikes without volunteering their own profits. Although some form of increased tax is inevitable, major corporations like EasyJet and Ryanair are determined to keep attracting customers with low prices, one way or another.

Instead of increasing the cost of the journey itself, airlines are now bringing in hidden fees. You might think you’re still getting a bargain, until you slip up at one of the recently introduced hurdles and find yourself another £40 down after all.

For example, flying with hand-luggage only has always been a useful hack for saving money. Some companies, like Monarch, charge around £29 each way for a 20kg bag, adding an extra £58 to the cost of your flights.

Wizzair’s hand luggage allowance is far smaller than most budget airlines’. (REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)
Wizzair’s hand luggage allowance is far smaller than most budget airlines’. (REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)

This is especially useful for those flying with Ryanair who, until recently, could take a 10kg hand luggage bag and a smaller laptop bag or handbag for free. Now, however, Ryanair are scrapping their second bag policy, claiming that some passengers are ‘taking the p**s’.

Priority boarders will still be able to take two bags, but will pay £5 for the privilege. There’s still an option to take two hand luggage bags, but one will be put in the hold instead of being taken on-board.

Tinier hand luggage allowances

If you’ve taken this into consideration and have managed to squeeze everything into one standard hand luggage bag, the end might still not be in sight. Whereas the majority of airlines keep their hand luggage requirements in the realms of 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm, Wizzair’s is far smaller at 42 x 32 x 25 cm – the size of a standard handbag or laptop bag.

So if you’re trying to take a week’s worth of holiday clothes on the plane, you’ll have to think twice about that spare sunhat.

Beat the airlines and check ahead

And make sure you spot these cheeky tactics in advance, because airlines are notorious for charging over the odds to make changes at the airport. An extra bag booked in advance with Ryanair costs £25, while one booked on the day at the airport is £40.

This is, of course, ignoring the heightened fees that will exist as of November, like British Airways move to charge customers £8 who book their flights via a third party website or app.


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If this wasn’t enough, EasyJet have also added a new fee for passengers who try to board at the last minute at Gatwick Airport. Although they’ve always told customers they can board up to 30 minutes before the gate closes, the company has often been lax with these rules.

But now, passengers have the option to spend £7.50 on ‘missed flight cover’ or, if they decide to take the risk and leave it too late, will be charged £80 to get rebooked onto a different flight.

Food for thought

But if you’re past struggling to get onto the plane and are hoping to relax with a nice glass of wine and some hot food, think again. Budget airlines are known for their overpriced snacks, but now even the likes of British Airways are thinking twice about what’s included in the ticket price.

They no longer include a free meal on short-haul flights – a move which has angered passengers but saved them £22 million in the first year alone.

At least on British Airways and Thomson flights, families can rest assured that while they’re eating their pre-purchased meal deals, they can do so sitting together. The ‘family tax’ is a sore point for users of other airlines like Flybe, Ryanair and Monarch, who say passengers must pre-book flights in order to guarantee that they’ll be sat together.

With the number of hidden costs increasing so frequently, soon ‘budget’ airlines could be a thing of the past.