3 budget airline gimmicks to avoid this Summer

21 April 2009

Regardless of their reputation, when times are tighter than a pig in a passage you find yourself putting your holiday in the hands of a budget airline. And while not everyone has a bad experience of these skymongerers, it's all too easy to have your wallet burgled. Here are three optional extras from three budget airlines to avoid this Summer:

easyJet - Speedy Boarding (£6.50 per person, per flight)

easyJet don't allocate seats on booking, so there's often a scrum for the precious few seats with extra legroom, or those near the front of the plane - as if boarding first makes any difference once you're all waiting for your bags. Regardless, easyJet offer Speedy Boarding so you can "be among the first through the gate to get the widest choice of seats".

For a family of four, Speedy Boarding on a return flight will cost you £52. Unless you've flown the route several times and know the boarding procedures inside out, don't bother. Many airports in both the UK and abroad require shuttle buses to transport you from the terminal building to the plane. Speedy boarding may guarantee you're the first to board the bus, but you'll have no guarantee of boarding the plane ahead of the pack.

easyJet at least acknowledge the criticism; when Speedy Boarding is offered during the booking procedure online, the text reads:

"You have to be at the gate when boarding starts. If you’re bussed to the aircraft we can’t always guarantee you’re off the bus first."

Even that is misleading; "we can't always guarantee" should read "we cannot guarantee". Don't use this service. Ever.

Jet2 - seat reservations (£5.99 per person, per flight)

If you've booked a Jet2 flight before, you may have already been stung by this dreadful "family tax" - we like to call it that, because that's exactly what it is.

Travel with the premium airlines, and you receive seat reservations as part of the ticket price. Travel with other budget airlines - easyJet, Ryanair - and you sit where you like. Not so with Jet2; your seats aren't reserved, but neither is it a free-for-all - you have to pay to reserve a standard seat, or leave it to the luck of the draw on the day. The website warns you:

"Make sure you all sit together by selecting your seats now!"

How is that different to easyJet or Ryanair? Because out of fear they won't be able sit with their partners or worse, their kids, people start paying £5.99 per person per flight to reserve seats on the plane. That means plenty of bog-standard seats are already booked in advance, so out of fear of having to sit three rows away from your child, you have no choice but to do the same. For a family of four, that's an additional cost of £48.

We tried contacting parent company Dart Group PLC for comment but they haven't answered, so we're happy to brand them as a family unfriendly airline until they do.

Oh, and don't think we didn't notice, Jet2, that you've have just pushed up the prices of the optional extras in the past week, just in time for the Summer bookings. An extra pound has been added to both checking in bags and seat selection - a family of four with two bags who want to sit near one another have another £12 to shell out, compared to a week ago. Cheers.

Ryanair - gift vouchers (available in multiples of £25)

We're not sure who would appreciate the gift of a Ryanair flight, but clearly there are people who know somebody. If you're thinking of helping out by buying these as a gift, a couple of points to consider first. First are the terms and conditions, which include:

  • There is a €5/£5 (or local currency equivalent) handling fee for processing the purchase of gift vouchers.
  • Gift vouchers must be redeemed within 6 months (186 days) of the voucher issue date after which date the voucher becomes void.
  • If a voucher is partially redeemed the remaining balance is void.

So unlike probably every other gift voucher you've ever bought, you'll pay Ryanair extra for guaranteeing them business, the vouchers are worthless after six months and even if they're only part-spent, Ryanair keeps the rest of the cash.

One other point worth noting - the vouchers are dispatched by email; if, for whatever reason (and there are plenty) the individual doesn't receive the voucher, they have to phone a premium rate number for assistance. Our advice? Give them the money, or buy the flights on their behalf.

TOPICS:   Travel


  • The B.
    Fair play on the EasyJet speedy boarding, I hadn’t thought of that, I took the Missus to Venice for Valentines with them last year and used it, had no problems at all, got emergency exit seats there and back. It should be noted that they also prioritise families with small children resulting in me nearly slapping the woman behind me who kept insisting she be first “because I have a toddler”, had to laugh when she was told to feck off out of the emergency exit seats because toddlers aren’t really that good at opening them, she had a complete strop at the staff.
  • Pizza_D_Action
    FPMSL at RyanAir gift vouchers.... £5 processing fee to buy one and then any remaining balance after your first purchase is void....... Did I say that Ryanair = bell ends?
  • Lumoruk
    lol nice one bob i would have laughed out loud at her too
  • James R.
    Speedy boarding......?.....are we not all going to the same place and besides, who the hell want's to sit next thier wife / husband for several hours when you could be chatting up the air stewards / stewardesses...?
  • Truant
    When I flew with Easyjet from Gatwick a few weeks ago, they only had one check in line for all their flights. Unsurprisingly, this meant hours in line to check in. However, priority ticket holders could go straight to the front of the queue. If I'd known, I would have paid that little extra.
  • Robin
    Speedy Boarding with Easyjet - If you check-in online you are allocated group A, this gives you a partial headstart. If you do pay for the speedy boarding, you do get the faster check-in as well. Seat Reservation - As far as I remember, most of the charter airlines sell this, and whilst i don't agree with, it seems harsh to single out Jet2. I think if they offer seat reservation, you should be able to choose the specific seat, not just that you will be sat together as many airlines offer. Ryanair gift vouchers - I looked at these, as a possible way of avoiding the credit card charges, what a rip off, but then what do you expect from them! Visa Electron for the win. I think the baggage charges will hit a lot of families, how much do you need for a week in Magaluf? If you are booking for a family of four, consider only paying for three cases. With Ryanair everyone in the party has to book the same extras, split the booking in two can cut down the charges.
  • Paul S.
    Which of the charter airlines sell standard seat reservations Robin? Would be interested to know who else does this. I can understand charging a premium for reserving a seat with additional legroom, but we're talking about a standard seat - that a parent can't be guaranteed to sit alongside their child on a flight without paying a substantial amount of money is disgusting.
  • Meep
    Monarch also charge to reserve standard seats. We decided not to cough up. We thought that people would be willing to swap seats, either that or they can look after my kids during the flight while I have a snooze!
  • Naomi
    Although Robin is spot-on with the tip for using online check-in for Easyjet to get into boarding group A, this only works if you have just hand luggage. For anyone else, the only way to get into that boarding group is to be among the first to check-in, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I flew to Ibiza with them from Stansted and arrived hideously early for my flight. Being in group A does get you on pretty early- straight after anyone who's coughed up for speedy boarding and those with tiny kids.
  • Paul S.
    The problem is Naomi, that regardless of whether you're Group A, have kids or have shelled out for Speedy Boarding, you'll get on the plane the same time as everyone else if you can't walk onto the plane down a gangway. Plenty of airports, home and abroad, have the planes parked up several hundred metres from the terminal, meaning everyone gets on the same bus and boards the plane in no particular order. In these instances it seems Speedy Boarding can only help with check-in queues, so unless that's a deal-breaker, it's not worth it.
  • Which B.
    [...] Ground Service handling. However the reviews for Speedy Boarding provided by passengers (which we warned against yesterday) prove why this optional extra is best [...]
  • Robin
    Thomson and Thomas Cook both charge 12gbp per adult and 7gbp per child to be seated together on a short-haul flight. At Bristol (where just about everyone is bussed to the aircraft) they have an interesting solution. Passengers board the bus by the rear doors and are encouraged to move towards the front. The bus drives to the aircraft, and the front doors of the bus are opened. And only then does the mad dash start....
  • Sue
    what a mess up. go to check in to be told that I have to go to the other end of the airport to pay for my baggage and/or speedy boarding card, the back to check in for the boarding pass. Thats after discovering after waiting in the queue for for baggage payment that I had been sent to the wrong desk and there was another queue there. Then when asking where the departure gate was, check the information desk, which again is the other end of the airport. Never again Easyjet I shall use an airline which includes everything in the price and allocates a seat when checking in.
  • Korey B.
    Why not put the fun back into travel by solving the entire baggage problem with one sturdy well-made steel luggage cart? All three of those bags will fit on one cart, so you free up a hand -- and a shoulder. That, alone, will make you feel lighter on your feet and give you a more fun and relaxed outlook!
  • John
    Ryanair Vouchers are a shameless scam. You need the recipient's full name as on the passport before you buy (which kinda negates the surprise element) or they are unusable. We got one for €50 without my girlfriend's middle name so it's worthless and Ryanair are uncontactable apart from Premium phone lines.

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