Study: Budget Airlines May Be Charging You Hundreds of Dollars in Hidden Fees

Low-tier doesn't always equal low-cost

How much are you paying in hidden fees?
How much are you paying in hidden fees?

Say what you will about budget airlines but, assuming you don’t care about breaking your knee caps against the back of the seat in front of you, you really can’t beat the prices.

At least that’s what they would have you believe.

Per a new study from the financial media platform TradingPedia, which looked at several popular airlines that fly to the U.K, due to the myriad of hidden fees tacked on at checkout, low-cost carriers may not actually be your best bet where money saving is involved.

For the uninitiated, “hidden fees” include things like baggage fees, seat selection fees, online booking fees and check-in fees. And they have a propensity for adding up quickly.

“To be fair, these fees are not exactly hidden on the websites of the airlines — they are fully disclosed on each screen while you are making an online booking. However, they are not added to the final cost of the fare in advertisements and special offers, and do not become clear until the actual process of booking the flight is completed,” TradingPedia notes. “For this comparison, we looked at fares marketed as ‘value,’ ‘budget’ or ‘standard’ rather than more expensive ones.”

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All of that said, Ryanair, an Irish ultra low-cost carrier, was found to charge the most in additional fees — roughly $275 in additional fees, in fact. That’s significant when compared to major carriers like British Airways and Norwegian Air, who both charge closer to $85, particularly when some of the fees, like baggage, aren’t really optional (the carrier charges for both checked bags and carry-ons). And, of course, when the whole point of flying with a low-cost carrier is to save money.

The good news is, back in September, the U.S. Transportation Department proposed a rule that would require airlines to disclose fees for baggage and ticket changes the first time airfare is displayed. More recently, President Biden has joined the crusade against “junk fees,” or at least fees that aren’t disclosed outright.

The bad news is that, in the meantime, these hidden fees are still very prevalent. Know what you’re paying for and don’t assume that a low-cost carrier is truly the lowest cost option.


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