Winter is on its way and many of us are contemplating a holiday getaway to somewhere warmer for a week or two. But when that budget flight fare you’ve been waiting for comes along, be sure you know what you’re doing before you hit the ‘book’ button. Budget fares aren’t always what they seem, yet if you know before you go, they can still work for you.
When booking with a budget airline, check the add-on costs you’ll almost certainly be asked to pay. As well as the basic fare, budget airlines usually charge a hefty luggage check-in fee (up to $30 for a standard case in many instances – and that’s per leg). Get around it by carrying hand luggage only. Want a meal on the way? It’ll come with a price tag, too. Not only that, but most budget airlines don’t allow you to carry your own food and beverages on board. By paying for your meal when you book, you’ll beat the much higher cost of a last minute order when you’re in the air. In-flight entertainment? Pay up or dream on – or simply download a movie onto your device before you leave home. Many budget carriers also charge for a rug. Save the expense by carrying a warm garment on board.
Check your check-in
Budget airlines are notorious for closing boarding gates well before the departure time, and refusing to board passengers who are running only a minute or two late. Double check your boarding pass and plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before the gate officially closes. Budget boarding gates are usually at the far end of the departure hall so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes and allow plenty of time for the long walk to get there. And be prepared to board your plane up a flight of stairs rather than via an air-bridge.
The hidden cost of departure and arrival times
There’s a reason why budget airlines are low-cost, and it’s often because their flights leave and arrive at unsociable hours. While that may not bother you, you do need to take into consideration the extra costs this can entail. If you’re flight departs or arrives in the middle of the night or in the very early morning, it’s unlikely there will be a public bus or shuttle available to take you into town, and taking a cab will cost and arm and a leg. Then again, if you’re prepared to camp out in the terminal for a few hours, you’ll make a considerable saving.
Budget airlines often save costs by flying into an obscure airport, far from the city you are actually trying to get to. When booking your ticket, don’t forget to check your arrival destination, and build into the cost the price of travelling from it. Of course, if you’re feeling bold, you can always approach another passenger or two to organise a shared taxi to the nearest town or city.
No one is saying ‘don’t travel budget airlines’, but if you plan to take this option, be prepared for the inconveniences, and enjoy the savings!