You Could Pay Up to $270 in Hidden Fees Flying This Budget Airline, Study Finds

Are low-cost carriers really the most affordable option after extra fees are taken into consideration?

View from an airplane window, over the wing, while it lands in Rome, Italy

Alessandra Amodio/Travel + Leisure

Budget airlines can make a whirlwind European vacation more attainable, but the low fares can also come with extra costs.

A new analysis from TradingPedia looked at several airlines that fly to and from the U.K. to see if low-cost carriers are really the most affordable option after extra fees are taken into consideration. These include add-ons for carry-on bags, checked bags, seat selection, convenience fees for online bookings, and more.

"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," wrote TradingPedia in a blog post. "For this comparison, we looked at fares marketed as 'value,' 'budget' or 'standard' rather than more expensive ones."

Popular budget airline Ryanair topped the list for highest fees — a flight with the Irish carrier could end up costing travelers more than $270 in extra charges. (For example, the airline allows passengers to bring a small personal bag that fits under the seat in front of them for free, but charges for anything larger than that.)

Beyond Ryanair, the study found Spain-based Vueling had the second highest hidden fees with up to $262 in extra charges. That was followed by Hungary-based Wizz Air with up to $241 in extra costs and United Kingdom-based easyJet with up to $227 in extra fees.

Major carrier British Airways doesn’t charge for things like carry-on bags, but the airline does charge certain ticket holders for a checked bag or advance seat selection, bringing the total extra fees up to $87, according to the study. 

British airline Jet2 had the lowest potential hidden fees, with up to just $82.

In the United States, many airlines have largely done away with change fees, but still often charge for things like checked luggage and even carry-on luggage in some cases. According to NerdWallet, U.S. carriers with the worst fees are Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

The Biden administration is pushing to eliminate hidden fees and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed a rule that would require airlines and others “to show the full price of a plane ticket up front, including baggage and other fees,” according to the White House.

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