Smart Consumer: How to ensure your airline charges aren't sky high
Thinking about booking a flight for your summer holidays? Then you need to have your wits about you -- especially if you're intending to fly with a low-cost airline.
Always be wary of paying for extras that are not essential. Your goal is to pay the advertised fare (which includes taxes and charges) and nothing else.
If you subscribe to updates and alerts from the airlines, you'll be among the first to hear of special deals. Look out for promotional offers where no taxes and charges are payable. We've all heard of someone who has got a €2 ticket with Ryanair so, if you can be flexible, why shouldn't it be you next time?
You can avoid paying the €5 each-way booking fee if you use certain cards to pay. Aer Arann, for exampe, don't charge for using debit cards.
Aer Lingus don't charge fees when you use a Visa Electron card. It's not available at Irish banks but you can get one at www.entropay.com, and there is a charge of 4.95% each time you load money to the account.
For Ryanair flights, paying with a pre-paid MasterCard debit card attracts no extra charge. If you already have an EntroPay account, you can apply for a card there.
The easiest ways for Irish residents to get one of these cards is via Payzone.ie or Rubycard.ie.
The next thing to watch out for are baggage charges. If you bring large sports or musical equipment (such as double bass, harp or drums), you will be charged €30/€40 with Aer Lingus; €40/€50 with Ryanair; and €20 with Aer Arann -- each way.
Bringing hand luggage is the only way to travel, as no airline charges for this. With Ryanair and Aer Lingus you have a 10kg hand-luggage allowance, so take full advantage. Ryanair charges a €35 fee at the airport if your hand luggage is too big or if you have a second item, so check the dimensions allowed.
Also check that you don't have big bottles of shampoo and toothpaste as you'll have to ditch them or pay to have your bag put in the hold.
Liquids and gels must be carried in containers up to 100ml and put in a transparent, re-sealable bag of 20cm x 20cm. Use a sandwich bag to avoid paying €1 for two bags at the airport and decant lotions into containers rather than buying expensive mini-sized items.
If you must put your luggage in the hold, make sure you book it online, and you can always amend your booking later.
If not, imagine having two bags for check-in when flying with Ryanair and paying at the airport -- that would cost you €210 return and would no doubt put a dampener on your holiday.
Checking-in may be "unavoidable" but paying for it can be; that is, if you manage to bag one of those promotional fares from Ryanair that waives it. Otherwise there is no way out of paying this €5 each-way charge. But do not pay it at the airport, as that will cost you €10 each way.
Once you've checked in, always print your boarding pass. Ryanair will charge you €40 for the pleasure. That's €80 return!
If you're flying with Ryanair, there are no pre-assigned seats, so turn up early to boost your chances of grabbing the best spots. Priority boarding will cost €4 online or €5 at the airport; that's €32/€40 for a family of four, so do you really need it?
If you do, then get priority boarding for the burliest member of your group who can save seats for you.
Finally, keep costs down by bringing your own food and try not to change the booking. Otherwise, you're looking at €100 for a name change with Aer Lingus or Ryanair, or up to €55 for time and date changes.