News: Airlines load extra charges onto air fares

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Five airlines fly between the UK and Dutch capital. Fares were checked on the same morning earlier this month for a day trip on 24 August. The only genuine government tax is a £5 Air Passenger Duty, collected by the British exchequer. But several airlines multiply this figure tenfold.

The lowest bill for extras was on easyJet, which levied a total of £10 on top of its basic fare of £37 - this was also easily the cheapest deal overall. Indeed, on other airlines the "taxes, fees, charges and surcharges" total more than the price you would pay to fly on easyJet. British Airways had a base fare of £34, but the extras amounted to £50.

On BMI, the basic fare was lower, at £22, but the addition of an "insurance surcharge" pushed the bill for extras to £54.40. Intriguingly, Lufthansa - which sells BMI flights under its own brand - was the one airline to display a tax-inclusive fare on its website, quoting £88 return; more than the price when booked through BMI direct.

KLM charged £53 in tax, but because its lowest fare quote of £255 return was so disproportionate to the rest of the market, this represents only a small proportion of the total.

Finally, the Belgian airline VLM charged £55 in tax, a pound less than its basic fare, and warned that travellers could be asked to pay even more between buying the ticket and the date of travel: "If a tax is introduced or increased after the reservation was made you will be obliged to pay it prior to departure." But the airline says that if any taxes, fees or charges fall, it will hand back cash.

Bargain of the week: KL for less

Malaysia Airlines has traditionally offered some of the cheapest flights to Australia and New Zealand. The seat sale that begins today continues that tradition: if you book by the end of the month for travel next May, you can fly to Auckland for as little as £489 or to Adelaide, Brisbane or Sydney for £20 more. All flights require a change of plane in Kuala Lumpur.

For once, though, fares only as far as the Malaysian capital have been included, and have never been so low: through Airline Network (0870 234 0731; www.airline network.co.uk), you can fly there and back from Heathrow for just £309 return. Unsurprisingly, the offer is heavily restricted. These fares apply only for outbound travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the quietest days for aviation.

Additional Research by Francesca Bingley

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