Booking Flights: – The hidden baggage fees. Until the last few years, booking a long haul flight was pretty easy and you knew what price you were going to pay. 9 times out of 10 you got your baggage (normally 23kgs) included. Pricing for airlines has become more clear since January 2012 when all airlines had to include the price of taxes and airline fees/charges in the overall price to ensure passengers knew exactly what they would be paying. Before 2012, consumers and passengers could see deals advertised but these would not include taxes or any fees the airlines wanted to add on top, making that £99 deal not as good as it may have first seemed!
As some of you may know I fly… I’m a flight attendant for a British Airline with over 8 years of flying experience. I also like to think of myself as an expert in getting the best airfares, holiday packages and travel extras. My friends are always surprised by how cheap I manage to travel for. It takes a bit of playing around with the system and being a little bit flexible but it’s well worth it when you see how much you can save.
However on booking a recent trip from the UK to the USA, British Airways who I tend to normally fly with if the price is right and also to get my Avios points were coming up silly expensive and it is never worth paying extra just to get your flying points, it’s costing you much more than you’ll be earning. Now before 2018 British Airways and other European carriers use to always include baggage in the price, but the legacy airlines now have to keep up with the low-cost airlines and a lot of profit can be made from baggage alone.
Later in this blog, you will be able to read about my experience on booking this New York trip
Long Haul Baggage Charges
It used to be that on most airlines, especially the legacy carriers like British Airways, KLM, American Airlines etc. If you fly long haul your baggage was included in your ticket, making it easy to find the cheapest tickets overall for a long haul trip. However thanks to the growing rate of the low-cost model and low-cost airlines, these legacy airlines have had to change what they offer to keep up with the competition.
This can make finding that cheapest price much harder, even with the flight comparison sites like Skyscanner. Most of these airlines use to offer 2 economy classes, (economy and premium economy.) They now offer you 3 different economy fares and will be called different things by different airlines and might offer slightly different ‘extra’ products but in general, they will offer:
It’s the basic fare with hand luggage only. No luggage in the aircraft hold, no seat assignment normally until you check-in at the airport or 24 hours before your flight. You will also normally be in the last group to board the aircraft, get fewer points if you use the airline’s loyalty program and not be entitled to any upgrades. Also depending on the airline you may or may not get a meal or complimentary drinks.
Again depending on the airline. Economy will include a checked-in bag, sometimes a chance to pick your seat 24 hours before departure and a chance to board the aircraft before economy basic passengers.
Not much has changed with this one over time. Sometimes you get a smaller separate cabin, better food, bigger and wider seats and the choice to board and disembark the aircraft before the rest of economy. You also get to pick your seats before other passengers.
Over the years comparison sites like Skyscanner have really helped travellers get the best deals on the market, but they have one problem, they don’t include baggage, seats and optional extras. They only include the airlines cheapest fare for that flight in each class. (Economy, Economy Plus, Business or First). With different airlines charging different amounts for seat selection and checked-in baggage, the cheapest and best fares on these comparison sights might not the cheapest ones after you go to the site and enter all your details. ALSO, some of the cheaper fares are through third party companies, coming in even cheaper than the airlines themselves, however on some of these sites, you can’t add extras like hold baggage or seat selections until you get to the airport, which is normally 50% more expensive than online.
What Issues Did I Have Getting The Cheapest Fare
So my recent booking to New York is what inspired me to write this blog post. No lie it took me hours to pick the airfare that I wanted and normally I have this down to a fine art. This is because even by using Skyscanner, the comparison site I use and recommend, it is like other comparison sites and only gives you the cheapest fare with no baggage.
The Problems I Faced Are As Follows
Finding a good reasonable fare, going to the airline’s website if they were the cheapest option, filling in all my booking details and then get to the adding additional extras, to find the prices differ from £30 – £125 for adding baggage. Some airlines like Virgin Atlantic didn’t make it clear if you could even just add luggage (I still don’t think you can online till after you book). With Virgin, for example, you had to buy a complete package which included picking your seat and luggage (I don’t care where I sit).
When booking through a 3rd party agent like lastminute.com or the other sites Skyscanner recommends, the offers can be cheaper than the airlines themselves. This is normally because of block bookings on popular routes, the only issue I had with this is some 3rd party sites would not let you add extras like checked baggage and some would charge a lot more than the airline’s website.
It’s also good to know that airlines codeshare. Codesharing is where airlines form a group to fill a plane. For example, you might find a flight from British Airlines for £450 return, you might also see a flight from American Airlines for £480 return. Both these flights will be on the same aircraft operated by either American Airlines, British Airways or one of their One World Alliance Partners. Always book with the cheaper one, it’s the same Aircraft at the same time going to the same destination.
All of the examples below are taken from Skyscanner on the 16th of September 2019 for flights departing on Thursday the 3rd of October 2019 to Thursday the 10th of October 2019.
Here we can see a British Airways flight and an American Airlines flight both going from London to New York City. Both departing at 09.45 and returning at 19.00. The only difference is the price. British Airways are charging £299 and American Airlines £316. Both these fares are basic economy fares that do not include hold baggage, seat selection or any other extras.
Both these flight will be on the same aircraft because British Airways and American Airlines codeshare and work together. The outbound flight will be operated by American Airlines and the return flight operated by British Airways. The only difference is who you’re giving your money to and by booking via British Airways you’re already saving yourself £17.
This below fare is an example from low-cost airline Norwegian. Return flights from London (Gatwick) to New York City. The fare is £332, this does not include hold luggage or any extras. It’s £40 for a bag if booked online and £80 if booked at the airport. The weight allowance is one of the lowest at only 20kgs. Also snacks and drinks are not included in the price. So with baggage and the fare you’re looking at £412 per person. Not so low cost now!
By booking through a 3rd party site off Skyscanner I found it was only an extra £30 to add your bag saving £15 per leg. It was only an extra £4 in total to book through this company, but customers might not click it because it was not the cheapest. In fact, 3 other companies were in front of it.
But What If You Don’t Want Anything Extra
Then the basic fare could be for you! If you can complete your travels with only hand luggage. Hand luggage differs again from airline to airline. Most airlines like Lufthansa and Aegean will offer you 8kg, where British Airways will offer you a very nice 23kgs. Another fact to consider when booking your tickets.
If you don’t mind where you sit or being split up from other members of your party. You’ll be one of the last people to pick your seats or be auto allocated at the online check-in or airport check-in desks.
Basically, if you are happy to get from travel point A to travel point B with hang luggage only then these fares are fantastic for you. Whilst they are cheaper than standard economy we really have to ask ourselves if the airlines have put the prices down for these fares or are they the standard prices and we are now paying more for the privilege of checked-in luggage, helping the airlines make millions a year more from its customers.
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