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Is it always cheaper to buy a low-cost airfare? Here are the hidden charges to watch out for

Here are the hidden charges to look out for and the best ways to avoid overpaying.
Here are the hidden charges to look out for and the best ways to avoid overpaying. Copyright Portuguese Gravity
Copyright Portuguese Gravity
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Air travellers can find themselves paying more for extras than they paid for the original flight ticket.

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An elderly couple travelling with Ryanair recently went viral after they were charged €129 to have their boarding passes printed at airport check-in.

It highlights some of the hidden costs that can make a seemingly cheap airfare become far more expensive.

Europe’s airlines have numerous undisclosed costs for everything from luggage to onboard wifi that can mean the original ticket triples in price by the end of the booking process.

Here are the hidden charges to look out for and the best ways to avoid overpaying.

Which European airline charges the most extra fees?

Air travellers can find themselves paying more for extras than they paid for the original flight ticket, according to research by NetVoucherCodes.

This is an example of ‘drip-selling’ when a service ends up much more expensive than originally advertised.

NetVoucherCodes found that 97 per cent of European airlines have at least one hidden fee.

The independent site for voucher codes and deals compared costs for add-ons like carry-on baggage, checked bags weighing up to 20kg, seat selection, priority boarding, insurance and onboard wifi to find out which airline has the highest hidden fees.

The most common hidden cost among European airlines is seat selection, an option on 94 per cent of carriers.

Ryanair came out as the top airline for hidden fees, with passengers paying up to 344 per cent more in extra charges.

On average, the carrier charges €9.30 for seat selection, €26.30 for check-in baggage and €17 for carry-on baggage. While the original flight may only cost an average of €21.50, the extra fees alone add up to more than €50.

Wizz Air comes in second place with a total flight cost of 272 per cent more than the original airfare due to hidden fees. EasyJet ranked third, with the final price at 170 per cent more than the initial flight cost.

Carriers including Pegasus Airlines, Loganair and Icelandair have the least hidden fees, though their original airfare starts at a higher price.

NetVoucherCodes found that Belarussian airline Belavia has the least hidden costs, with seat selection, check-in baggage and carry-on baggage included in the ticket price.

How to avoid paying hidden fees when booking a flight

If you want to keep your airfare low, there are a few tactics you can use to avoid paying extra costs.

“To avoid baggage fees, try fitting all your belongings into a carry-on bag,” says Rebecca Bebbington, a money travel expert at NetVoucherCodes.

“These tend to be free with budget airlines but be sure to pack strategically to avoid overweight baggage fees.”

You should also research the seat selection fees of different airlines. If you don’t mind where you sit, consider skipping seat selection during booking and try choosing your seats for free during online check-in 24 hours before your flight.

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“If you’re travelling in a group, book tickets together to increase the chances of being seated together without paying extra for seat selection,” says Bebbington.

If you’re flying long-haul, research meal options beforehand to see what’s included and avoid being stung with prices on the plane.

Where food isn’t included in the cost of the ticket, it might be better to prepare snacks beforehand and bring a reusable water bottle to avoid high in-flight food and beverage costs.

To avoid forking out for printing boarding passes at the airport, make sure you check the airline’s regulations. Some, like Ryanair, require you to print your boarding pass or download their app for the electronic version.

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