Budget airlines offer bargain basement prices, but before you get too excited about the apparent savings read the fine print and beware of hidden fees. All of the budget airlines are able to offer low cost flights for a reason – they’ve maintained lower budgets by limiting the services that are offered and charging fees for standard services. The only exception I’ve found to the excess fees charged by budget airlines is JetBlue, an American based airline with service to the Caribbean, which offers a variety of amenities free of charge including leather seats, personal TV screens, complimentary snacks and beverages, first checked bag free and extra leg room. Nearly every other low cost carrier is guilty of the warnings listed below
1. Checked Baggage Fees
Even the major carriers are now charging for checked bags. However, in many cases the first checked bag is free for major airlines and the charges can be avoided altogether for members of the airline’s frequent flier program. While most budget airlines are charging even for carry-on bags. For example, Spirit Airlines not only charges USD 28-33 for the first checked bag but also charges USD 30-40 for a carry-on bag.
2. Carry On Baggage Fees
On a recent trip to Australia I took a chance on Virgin Blue (now known as Virgin Australia) because the flight was significantly cheaper than a similar flight on Quantas. That was before I incurred a charge for a checked bag and an overweight carry on. I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles on every major carrier on every continent and this was the first and only time that I’ve been asked to weigh my carry on and subsequently charged for an overweight carry on. Had I just paid the premium to fly on Quantas I would have received a more generous luggage allotment (and avoided any excess luggage fees) and I would have been served an in-flight snack free of charge.
3. Seating Fees
Many of the budget airlines do allow passengers to pre-select their seats. Southwest offers open seating so you might need to fight for an aisle or window seat. Spirit Airlines allows you to preselect a seat for a fee (including the option of a deluxe leather seat) for a fee ranging from USD 1-50 per seat. Advance seat assignments on AirTran range from USD 6-20 with priority boarding (to secure that overhead cabin space for your carry-on) available for an extra USD 10. Similar fees are applicable for Allegiant Air.
4. Booking Fees
Many airlines charge a fee to process a booking through the call center. Allegiant even charges a fee of USD 17 to make bookings through their website.
Photo Credit: Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff on Flickr