I have updated this guide on beating budget airlines fees and charges, have a read through and start saving today! If you have any tips yourself let me know and I’ll add them.
(1) Find the Cheapest Tickets
You’ll often see plenty of promotions for budget airline flights, but you can never actually find that cheap offer. Try using a site such as Skyscanner, where you can look across a full month to find the cheapest rates.
Beware – the flight checker sites usually don’t have a relationship with the budget airline so once you find the cheap ticket go direct!
(2) Fly Hand Luggage Only
If you want to stow luggage in the hold, you could be paying up to $S240 for a family of four return on a shorthal flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur – more if you didn’t pre-book or were overweight. Tigerair charges a minimum of $S15, Jetstar $S18 and AirAsia $S18 – these are one way and per passenger for 15kg-20kg.
However no airlines charge for basic hand luggage. Up to 7kg is fine on AirAsia, 10kg on Tigerair and Jetstar.
Here are some tips to travelling with hand-luggage only:
- Stick to the carry-on rules – Most airlines and airports have strict regulations on liquids, usually a limit of 100ml containers so if you don’t want to lose you favorite shampoo then think about decanting what you need into smaller bottles.
- Don’t buy those expensive carry-on sized cosmetics and toiletries, They will always been more expensive per ml than a standard size – instead grab some old hotel or just clear empty bottles. Make them clean and squeeze in what you actually need.
- Buy a cheap lightweight case – That’ll mean you have a little bit of extra weight to use.
- Weigh your luggage before you go – Most of the budget airlines weigh carry-on luggage now when you check-in so make sure you don’t have to chuck things away by weighing it before you leave home.
- Get yourself a soft case – they are more flexible and will usually allow you to carry a little bit more
- Don’t forget to leave some spare space and weight – as you nearly always bring back souvenirs and gifts
- Remember your bag will need to pass the size test – Don’t forget that your bags size is important too, a bag that’s too large (even if it’s underweight) may attract a big fee if you have to check it in last minute.They can force you to pay up to $S45 per item, per flight to put luggage in the hold at check-in.
(3) Do you really need to Purchase Priority Boarding?
Remember that even if you don’t select priority boarding, you still get a seat on the plane, so why pay the extra?
(4) Don’t select the travel insurance
Un-check that box for the travel insurance, most airline travel insurance will be more expensive that getting an annual travel insurance. But you should always travel with some just in case.
(5) Extras, Extras, Extras,
If the budget airline offers you car hire, hotels, or anything else check to see first if it’s a good deal – just because they say it is doesn’t mean it actually is!
(6) Check fees before bringing sports equipment
Some of the budget airlines charge expensive fees for sports equipment, so check what you might end up paying.
(7) Always book hold luggage in advance
It’s much cheaper to book cases stowed in the hold online in advance rather than at the airport, so decent planning is important. AirAsia charge $S45 compared to pre-book of $S18, for sports equipment not pre-booked it’s more expensive at $S56 compared to $S28. You are also limited to 20kg.
(8) Some key hold luggage rules:
More bags doesn’t always mean more weight
No matter how many bags you get, often your total weight allowance (usually 15kg-22kg) is fixed. So make sure you check out what your limit is.
Always use the scales
Always weigh your baggage as every kilo over could cost you $S20-25 per extra kilo. If you didn’t manage to at home just nip over to an empty check-in desk to weigh it. Most hotels also have a set of scales in the room you can use too. If you are over think about putting the excess into your cabin baggage if you have some space and the weight left.
Over the limit on your allowance, what about chucking some things away – anything cheap and heavy – as long as the are worth less than the excess you might pay Of course, putting things in the bin have an environmental cost.
Sneaky tricks that some people have done:
Most airlines only check your carry-on baggage weight at the check-in desk, so just carry your heavy items until after check-in. A laptop or iPad weighs a few kilos, so carry them and save that weight allowance for something else. Travelling somewhere cold – well remember that winter coats are usually quite heavy so wear them for a few minutes in the airport and then put them back in after check-in.
Pocket that carry-on
I’ve flown Ryanair (a European low cost carrier) a lot in the past and have had my luggage weighed many times. I was once over the 10kg limit by 800 grams so I proceeded to put all of my heavy items I could find into my coat pocket. They don’t weigh you so there is no harm.
Pool your luggage without actually pooling
If you are travelling with anyone else and one of you is overweight why don’t you pool your luggage allowance unofficially. Put some things in their bag for the flight (or even just check-in), then take them out after the flight.
If you are taking low cost carriers in Europe these are also relevant:
(9) Flight Delayed?
You could be due compensation of $S100’s! Any flight delay due to the airline could give you some cash under EU regulations, check out my recent post on EU Flight Delay regulation.
(10) Don’t pre-book seats and still sit together
European budget airlines often charge to book specific seats or for priority boarding. The flights are usually short, so if you don’t sit together it’s not going to be too bad, but if you’ve got kids it might be another matter.
To help ensure you sit together here are some tips:
- Turn up early to the gate. If seats are unassigned, arrive early and lurk by the boarding entrance to boost chances of grabbing a prime spot. If seats are assigned at check-in, do it online if possible, early.
- Find the best seats using Seatguru, which shows the best and worst seats on each plane and request these at check-in if it’s possible.
(11) Avoid a 70-mile trek into town
- Be careful in Europe some of the city centre airports like “London” Southend airport are a long distance from the actual citiy. “London” Southend airport is 40 miles from central London, Stockholm-Skavsta is 60 miles away from the Swedish capital and Oslo-Torp is 70 miles from the centre of Oslo.
- So factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport. Take the time of day into account too – if the flight gets in at midnight, a taxi’s cost could wipe out any savings if you can’t take public transport.