These tricks will help you avoid budget airline fees and fly anywhere for next to nothing
In my latest holiday trip I booked an amazingly cheap flight that started at $35, but could have easily been $200 due to budget airlines micro-fees. Budget airlines achieve their outrageously inexpensive pricing through different loopholes and tactics, which may not directly affect the flyer, but to increase their profits they strip away what other airlines would give for free. These fees can be a surprise for someone who usually flies with a higher quality airline. By being aware and preparing a traveler can fly at a fraction of other flights and travel the world on a budget.
The first trick that you may experience after booking your flight with a budget airline is the partially hidden in-person check-in fee. The airline doesn’t tell you until they send a email reminding the unsuspecting traveler to check-in a few day prior to your flight. Included in this email is a footnote stating there is an in-person check-in fee and that checking-in online is free. This is the start of the micro-fee roller coaster. Once you touch or click that button to check-in online you realize what little the airline gives you.
It all starts when that web page loads and you see what looks like advertisements to add an extra bag or priority boarding. These are not external advertisements but instead the airline advertising how you can buy extra “features” for your flight. This may suprise a traveler who never flew a budget airline as some add-ons are what other airlines give for free.
Once you start the free online check-in process the airlines then ask you if you would like to select your seat. Of course, this is an additional fee, and depending on what seat, extra leg room or basic economy, it will be a different price. Here is the trick, if you dont mind where you sit I suggest not choosing any seat at all. I found people either choose the cheap seat or no seats at all increasing your chance of getting a seat with extra leg room or near an emergency exit. Of course, this is all a gamble, but like any good blackjack player, you need to play by the odds.
Next the airline might ask you if you want to priority boarding. In which I respond “am I a joke to you?”. Priority boarding should not be an option as it interrupts the flow of boarding as you need to wait for the rich priority boarders to store their Gucci luggage before you can pass by to get to your seat. This is just a another way for the airline to make a quick buck. I dont recommend priority boarding unless your some sort of celebrity and in that case I ask you why are you flying a budget airline.
Cheap airlines usually only allow one bag and that bag needs to fit under the small area under the seat in front. Yes, that’s right, you need to pay extra to even have overhead luggage. I always find people surprised that they can not check-in their 23 kg luggage for free and that they are being charged to check-in at all. If you follow the philosophy of one bag travel, you might be able to get by with one bag.
In another attempt to save money these airlines dont use their own staff to man the check-in kiosks, among other things, so these people dont really care how big your bag really is. So, if your bag is slightly larger than the specified dimensions of the under-seat bag, you will be fine.
If you can not fit all your items in the carry-on bag, you might need to purchase a checked bag. When flying with a group you might be able to split a checked in bag and save some money. The checked bag prices are quite steep and, in my case, double my ticket price.
Now that you passed the process of checking in and security lines comes the next part of the torture that cheap airlines unintentionally, or intentionally, instill. Do not expect any in-flight entertainment so be prepared with your own. Some of these airlines offer wifi but expect the slowest speeds you ever experienced at outrages prices.
Do not expect even a complimentary cheap headphone or any food, drinks, or even a magazine unless you are willing to pay. The trick here is to bring your own. Many people think food, even things like fruit, are not allowed to pass security, but the truth is they are, and they are even allowed on the flight, they are just not allowed outside the airport at your destination. Customs and random security checks at baggage pickup will enforce this.
What is not allowed pasted security is liquids, such as water. What you can do here is bring an empty bottle and fill it up after you get through security at a water fountain. Alternatively, an option is to buy your food after security, but this is how the airport makes a quick buck. Airport food and drinks are extremely overpriced. If you can, bring your own sandwiches and snacks for your flights and layovers.
A outstandingly cheap flight can quickly become an overpriced flight for the unaware traveler. Flying does not need to be an expensive endeavor. $35 flights do exist and should be enjoyed by all.