EXTRA charges are taking off in the new age of air travel.
Airlines throughout the world are rapidly “unbundling” their fares and asking passengers to pay for services that were traditionally included in the standard ticket price.
These optional extras are referred to as ancillary revenue and now represent a multi billion dollar industry, with a recent study showing that 47 of the world’s airlines collected more than $USD21billion in extra fees during 2010.
“In this ever changing environment, it’s important for travellers to recognise that these optional charges can significantly increase the cost of a ticket,” Flight Centre Limited executive general manager of marketing Colin Bowman said.
“For example, it’s reasonably common for extra charges on some low cost carriers to be higher than the actual airfare price and higher than the cost of a normal ticket on a full service airline.
“When you compare fares today, you really have to look at what you’re getting for your money and how much extra you will need to pay for the services you require when you’re travelling internationally or domestically.”
Flight Centre has scoured the fineprint to compile a list of services that are no longer automatically included in ticket prices in the new age of air travel.
1) Boarding passes
United States low cost carrier Spirit Airlines recently announced a $USD5 charge for boarding passes printed by its ticket agents. Passengers can avoid the fee by printing their passes at an external computer.
2) Credit cards
Airlines throughout the world frequently apply fees if customers choose to pay with anything but a particular style of credit card. If you don’t have the right card, you have to pay the fee.
In addition, you may have to cough up the fee for each person travelling and for each travel sector, even if you pay for the entire trip in a single transaction.
3) Checked bags
If you’re travelling with more than hand luggage, you may need to pay extra.
Checked baggage charges are now one of the largest sources of airline ancillary revenue.
Typically, you will be required to pay in advance. If you pay at the airport, additional charges may apply.
In addition to charging for checked bags, airlines strictly police luggage weight limits, which means you may be charged extra if your suitcase is overweight.
4) Hand luggage
Spirit Airlines added a new dimension to baggage charges last year when it announced plans to charge for hand luggage.
Under Spirit’s system, charges of up to $USD45 each way apply if a passenger’s hand luggage cannot be stowed under his or her seat and needs to be stowed in the overhead locker.
5) Assigned seats and priority boarding
Low cost carriers do not typically assign seats.
If you want a guaranteed seat with your travel companions or family, you need to pay extra.
Similarly, some airlines now offer passengers a priority boarding service.
If you’re happy to pay the priority boarding fee, you get first shot at finding your preferred seat.
6) Airport check-in
Tiger Airways and Jetstar in Australia have moved to introduce charges for travellers who choose to adopt the traditional tactic of checking in at the airport.
You can avoid the charges by checking in online and in advance.
If you’re flying with Tiger Airways in Australia and choose to check-in at an airport counter without paying in advance, it will cost you an extra $30 per person each way.
7) Window or aisle seats
US Airways is one of a number of airlines to apply surcharges for seats with a view or with extra elbow room.
In 2008, the airline introduced an additional $USD5 charge for window and aisle seats.
Some airlines also allow travellers to pay extra for exit row seats or for seats with additional legroom.
8) Blankets and pillows
Gone are the days when you simply had to ask for a blanket.
On many airlines in Australia and overseas it will now cost you extra, as will a pillow.
9) Meals and entertainment
Meals and entertainment were one of the first casualties of the shift to unbundled airfares.
On most airlines, you can now expect little change from $10 if you want a soft drink and a packet of chips, while you may need to swipe a credit card to get access to the in-flight entertainment program.
10) Infant charges
Don’t assume that your toddler will fly for free because he or she will be sitting on your lap.
While a child aged under-two will often be able to fly free domestically, some airlines, including Tiger Airways in Australia, apply an additional fee for babies and infants who don’t have a seat of their own.
Tiger’s fee is currently $30 each way on Australian domestic routes.
While not yet part of the aviation scene, additional charges may eventually apply if you want to use the bathroom or sit in an actual seat.
Irish low cost carrier Ryanair has reportedly toyed with the idea of charging passengers for using toilets during flights, in addition to contemplating introducing ”standing” seats on short haul flights.