In the latest edition of industry mag routeone, the "usual massive rip-off fees for everything else" was highlighted in a rare moment of candidness, under the veil of The Whisperer column. There's no need to whisper about the add-ons charged by airlines, we're all too aware of how a cheap flight can double in cost one payment is made!
To be frank, there's absolutely nothing one can do about the charges made by Ryanair, Flybe, easyJet et al. And they know it. Their fares (especially Ryanair and easyjet) are so low, many are more than happy to pay an additional £8 when processing the fee with a credit card. Often it's £20 per suitcase and some airlines automatically add insurance and you have to remember to un-check the box, else have another cost incurred. If you've taken out comprehensive travel insurance, no further insurance is needed - be it through easyJet for a flight to Norway or National Express for a London-Bristol trip by coach.
MoneySavingExpert.com is the website of choice that we both use when planning a low-cost flight within Europe. The brain child of financial journalist Martin Lewis, MSE is THE most powerful consumer website in existence. It has stayed true to its 'no ad' roots and delivers genuine, consumer-focused advice on all areas of expenditure in life. Transport has a very large section and air travel appears to be one of the areas where the greatest potential savings can be made.
While ways consumers can save on bus and train tickets covers many of the bases readers of this blog will already be accustom with, the MSE website has itself developed an application for finding the cheapest air fare. Called FlightChecker, the app is effectively a number-cruncher that is heads and shoulders above the rest due to the parameters you can set.
Where else in the transport industry can you use a journey planner and not have to give a destination? You can't. In the rail industry, it is impossible to use a journey planner for free that covers the whole country and state which TOCs you do and do not wish to travel with. Local Traveline websites permit this for all operators, but they do not cover the entire country.
Mindful that people aren't too bothered about their destinations, but limited by price, FlightChecker will allow you to tick the 'I'll go anywhere' box and then state a maximum price you're willing to pay. A little misleadingly, FlightChecker states that the prices it returns includes all charges and taxes. This does not mean "the usual massive rip-off fees for everything else" though, as the app does not ask for luggage requirements or how you plan on paying for the flights.
If you've got a weekend with nothing to do in, say, February, FlightChecker is the place to visit. Right now, for example, you can fly out on 25 February for a long weekend in Berlin for just £42.11. Travel without any hold luggage and provided you pay with a debit card of some description, the final price ought not to exceed £46.
FlightChecker is not a splitfare for the airways, but more a chance for consumers to make the most of the low prices budget airlines charge, and in their own small way, feel less aggrieved at the add-ons. Ironically, though, the cheaper the fare purchased, the greater the percentage the add-ons become!