Airlines are inflating fares by as much as £39 per passenger by “aggressively” selling extras such as better seats, more leg room, checked-in luggage and speedy boarding, according to research.
The amount of money made through hidden charges reached record levels last year as traditional airlines started to mirror tactics employed by budget carriers, the study found.
Researchers said that airlines made as much as 43 per cent of their total income through additional fees not included in the headline ticket price.
The Civil Aviation Authority began an investigation this summer into claims that unclear charges were often levied at the last minute.
Yesterday’s report by researchers in the US found that Jet2.com, a British low-cost carrier, had the second highest “ancillary revenue” of 67 airlines globally. Each passenger paid an average of $50.84 (£39) through the sale of extras such as checked luggage, advance seat reservations, extra leg room, in-flight meals and commissions on car hire and travel insurance. The extras accounted for 29.4 per cent of the airline’s income.
Almost a quarter of Ryanair’s income — more than £1.3 billion — came through the sale of added extras, the fifth highest proportion in the world, the study found. About £12.60 was added to average passenger fares.
Ryanair has been criticised repeatedly over hidden charges, with 30 different fees listed on the airline’s website. They include £160 to change a name on a booking at the airport and £15 to reprint a boarding card.
The study, by IdeaWorks, a US travel consultancy, found that budget airlines were “aggressively seeking revenue from checked bags, assigned seats and extra leg room”.
Traditional flag-carriers were also found to be expanding their use of hidden extras. Earlier this week it was revealed that British Airways was teaming up with Marks & Spencer to charge for food on short-haul flights.
Alex Neill, director of policy at Which?, the consumer group, said: “While the cost of a flight might look like a bargain, you should always check exactly what is included in the price.”
The study found that the 67 airlines collectively made $40.5 billion (£31 billion) through the sale of added extras, up 6 per cent on the previous year.
Steve Lee, commercial director at Jet2.com said: “We do not charge for the first name change, nor minor spelling errors, unlike many other operators. Our customers choose to buy a range of additional products such as insurance and car hire and as the only airline that offers pre-booking for hot food, we have been hugely successful in providing additional quality merchandise for our customers on board.”
The charges that send prices soaring
2% booking fee to use credit cards
£20 booking fee at airport/call centre
£15 to print boarding card
£45 for airport check-in
£90 to change flights
£160 to change name on booking
£50 to check in bag
£100 missed departure
1% credit card booking
£45 to change flight or name on booking
£45 to check in bags
£10 excess luggage fee
£80 missed departure
3% credit card booking
£10 to book via call centre
£40 to change flight or name on booking
£50 to check in bags
£8 to pre-book a seat
£17.50 airport check-in, re-issue boarding card
£35 to change flight or name on booking
£45 to check in bags not pre-booked
£12 per kilo for excess baggage