Anyone who lives in Europe knows about the low cost airlines that chiefly operate from the UK but also from other countries. The fares are often highly competitive, my wife recently flew Ryanair from Malaga, Spain to Bristol, England for €18 return, including taxes, for a 2,500km round trip. To put this in perspective, the bus fare from where we live in Granada Province, in the South of Spain, to Malaga Airport is €25 return for a round trip of 200km. And Spanish bus fares are highly subsidised.
There’s no point in asking how they do it, their on-line booking algorithms are extremely sophisticated and the likes of Ryanair are highly successful companies. If you can get yourself a cheap flight then there is no less expensive way of going on holiday or visiting friends and relations. Unless you fall foul of their baggage policies.
Visitors to Europe from the United States that use the UK as the start and end of their trip may not be aware of the hidden pitfall of luggage allowances which baffle even frequent European travellers.
At the time of writing in April 2010, these were the luggage policies and charges of the four largest low-cost airlines flying between the UK and Spain.
Ryanair. 5kg hand luggage free. 15kg hold luggage £15 booked in advance (£35 at the airport); 2nd 15kg suitcase in the hold £35 booked in advance (£70 at the airport); excess baggage £20/kg.
Monarch. 10kg hand luggage free. 20kg hold luggage £9.99 to £15.99 (£18 at the airport); excess baggage £7.50/kg (£9/kg at the airport).
Flybe. 10kg hand luggage free. 20kg hold luggage £9.99 (£18 at the airport), additional 20kg £28.00 (must be booked more than four hours in advance); excess baggage £12kg for the first 3kg, £15/kg for the next 3kg and £20/kg over that.
Easyjet. No weight restriction on hand luggage. 20kg hold luggage £9.00 (£18 at the airport), additional 3kg £12, 6kg £33, 9kg £54, 12kg £75 if pre-booked or £10/kg at the airport.
So, it is clear that in addition to the price of your flight you need to pay very close attention to the amount of luggage weight you are planning to travel with. A little too much shopping on holiday and it could cost you a lot more than you bargained for.
Not surprisingly, more and more people are opting to courier their luggage rather than run the risk of a huge bill at the airport. Not only does it make for stress-free travel but it means that without the wait at the luggage carousel you get to the front of the car hire queue!