It seems like airlines charge you a fee for everything these days – selecting seats, checking bags, meals on board. While the fares on these thrifty airlines might seem low, their fees can really add up. Be smart about which fees you pay and which you don’t.
Here are some helpful tips to cut costs on airline fees:
Don’t pay for extras when you book. If, for some reason you have to change or cancel this flight, the extras might not be transferable and they’re almost always nonrefundable. Wait until a few days before the flight to add the bags, meals or seat selections you need for the flight. Waiting until you’re almost ready to fly also gives you a chance to accurately weigh you bags to make sure you pay for the right amount of luggage.
Know the rules. When flying with ultra-budget airlines like Ryan Air make sure you know exactly what is expected of you. These airlines may have mandatory online check in or require you to do things like print your own boarding pass in advance. If you show up at the airport without having done so expect a hefty fine.
The same goes for baggage. You’ve got to play by the rules. If you know you’re travelling with checked luggage it’s always cheaper to book it online in advance of the flight rather than pay at the airport. Weigh your bags and make sure your within your paid limit as excess luggage charges at the airport can be very expensive per kg. A horrifying new trend is for ultra-budget carriers to charge for carry-on bags. Spirit in the US charge more for a carry-on bag than a checked bag! Also, don’t expect to be able to pool your baggage allowance with other passengers you’re travelling with. If you book 15 kgs of checked baggage for one passenger in your group and 25 kgs for another, don’t expect to be able to take 20 kgs each.
You don’t always need to select seats. Unless you’re super tall or it’s a long-haul flight, don’t bother selecting seats in advance if you have to pay for it. It’s generally a waste of money as airlines will seat your booking party together on check-in if space permits. Do check the seating chart a day or two before the flight and see how full the flight is (by seeing how many seats have been selected.) If it’s looked full, you might want to book & pay for seats together. You can always move once you’re on board if the flight isn’t very full.
Do you really need priority boarding? This is another waste of a fee. For airlines that don’t have allocated seating, boarding can be a bit of a bunfight.
Come to your flight prepared. In-flight meals and entertainment systems are extra expenses you just don’t need and, depending on the airline, can add a lot to your base fare. Pack your own snacks and use a vending machine to grab drinks once you’re through security. Make sure your electronics are charged up and ready for the flight. Put a few new books on your Kindle or load audiobooks to your iPod. Bring enough supplies to entertain your kids if they’re travelling with you.