How much extra can airlines charge for baggage and seating – and how can you avoid hidden fees?

Airline passengers are said to be particularly vulnerable to ‘consumer harms’, says the government

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 08 January 2024 07:58 GMT
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<p>Flight check: Liverpool John Lennon airport, with services on easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and other airlines</p>

Flight check: Liverpool John Lennon airport, with services on easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and other airlines

In the King’s Speech this week, the government vowed to crack down on “drip pricing”, such as when extras are added to the basic air fare.

Airline passengers are said to be particularly vulnerable to “consumer harms”, including additional charges for luggage or seating. Carriers say charges are clear, and passengers can choose what they need.

But how high can the price of extras rise – and can you avoid them? These are the key differences.

Airport check-in

Very few airlines charge a fee for checking in at the airport. Two that do are Ryanair and Wizz Air.

For Ryanair, passengers who have not checked in online up to two hours before their flight can do so at the airport with the payment of a fee – £55 in the UK, less elsewhere. Passengers who have checked in but cannot present the boarding pass on the Ryanair app or on paper must pay a boarding pass reissue fee of £20 in the UK, €20 (£17) elsewhere.

Wizz Air allows passengers to pre-book airport check-in for £11.50/€13 – but airport check-in without pre-booking costs £35.50/€40.

Checked baggage

Airlines vary widely in their practices, and often it depends on the length of a flight – and sometimes how much demand there is for it. These are the basics:

British Airways

Domestic and European flights tend to have a charge of around £17 one way for a 23kg bag – rising to £50 for many long-haul flights.

EasyJet

On the longest easyJet flight, a six-hour haul from Belfast to Hurghada in Egypt covering 2,762 miles, a15kg checked bag costs £31, while a 23kg case is £40. On a short flight such as Belfast to London Gatwick the price falls to £21 and £26 respectively.

Jet2

For a typical flight such as Newcastle to Faro, a 22kg checked bag costs £38.

Ryanair

A typical flight is from London Stansted to Budapest. On this, a 10kg checked bag is £15, while a 20kg case is £25.

Wizz Air

The airline has a wide range of options. From Liverpool to Warsaw, for example, the rates are as follows:

  • 10kg: £22
  • 20kg: £40
  • 26kg: £42
  • 32kg: £46

It is clearly worth taking one mighty 32kg bag than, say, a 10kg and 20kg case.

Cabin baggage

British Airways

BA has an extremely generous free allowance of two pieces (one small backpack sized, one large roll-along) with a weight limit of 23kg each.

EasyJet

A large piece of cabin baggage typically costs an additional £24.

Jet2

The airline has a 10kg allowance for every passenger, with generous dimensions

Ryanair

Typically £14 including priority boarding

Wizz Air

Typically £29 including priority boarding.

Assigned seats

British Airways

Charges vary according to the class of travel and ticket type (as well as extra legroom in economy), but my view is that they are never worth paying.

Families are automatically seated together before general free online check-in begins 24 hours before departure. If you are travelling without children, then timing your online check-in for exactly 24 hours ahead is worthwhile: you can normally source reasonable seats at this point.

Frequent flyers with Silver status and above can select seats at any time for free.

easyJet

Most seats are on sale for £7–£10, though if you want to be in the front part of the cabin, or an emergency exit row for additional legroom, the price increases – to around £40 for the front row of the plane.

Jet2

Seats range from around £10 to £31 – the highest, once again, for the front row.

Ryanair

Starting at around £7, front row typically £30.

Wizz Air

“Ordinary” seats are around £15, with the front row going for £36.

How do I avoid the charges?

Travel light and be relaxed about your choice of seat.

If that does not work for you, then avail of British Airways’ enormous cabin baggage allowance: an implausibly generous 46kg. You can select your own seat 24 hours ahead, or – when travelling with a family – allow the assignment elves to do the work for you.

Frequent easyJet flyers should sign up for easyJet Plus. Annual membership costs £215 and allows you to choose any seat on the plane, including the cherished front row, free of charge.

The additional cabin bag – normally around £24 – is free with easyJet Plus. If you like a seat with extra legroom, assuming space is available at the front or in an emergency exit row, assume another £16.

You also get a dedicated bag drop at bigger airports, fast track security and speedy boarding. While I don’t place much value on these, the seat selection plus free cabin bag is worth around £40 per flight. Therefore if you anticipate making at least six easyJet flights (or three round-trips) in a year, membership is worthwhile.

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