Here’s how to make what appear to be good deals on cheap flights a good deal better.

WITH the weather still miserable, a £1 flight to the sun sounds like a dream. Yet, while you’ll often see incredible promotions advertised, unless you do it the right way, it’s more like a nightmare. Budget airlines have more bolt-ons than Frankenstein; they’ve the bare-faced cheek to describe baggage, checking-in and even paying as “added extras”.

It’s no exaggeration to say that if you get it wrong, your £1 flight could have more than £200 of extra charges. Yet this isn’t a tirade against budget flights. After all, if you know what you’re doing, it’s possible to jet off to Europe for 2p return (I’ll show you how to find those prices).

Whether you’re booking with Ryanair, easyJet, BMI Baby or Flybe, think of it as a hurdle race. You need to jump over every one of these extra charges to get the super cheap flights – and here’s how:

Don’t pay to pay

Outrageously, budget airlines consider paying an optional extra, even though they charge whether you pay by credit or debit card and don’t accept cash. This isn’t small potatoes.

Ryanair, for example, charges £5 per person each way. That’s £40 return for a family of four – an amount likely to be vastly in excess of its payment processing costs.

They get away with this by allowing people to pay with certain niche card types for free. Yet that tactic is unravelling. Previously, only certain specialist bank accounts offered these cards. Now the recent growth of pre-paid cards, which anyone can get and load up with cash before spending, means the game has changed.

For almost all budget airlines except Ryanair, paying on a Visa Electron card is free. The cheapest prepaid version of this is the Travelex Cash Passport card, which is free, and just charges a small amount for top-ups. The undoubted winner in add-on charges, Ryanair has changed its payment policy. Out went free-pay on Visa Electron, and in came freepay on pre-paid Mastercards.

The new card you need for Ryanair is the free FairFx Anywhere card. It charges only1.5 per cent of the transaction amount each time you use it.

In other words, buy Ryanair tickets costing £200 and you’ll be charged £3 – far cheaper than Ryanair’s add-ons.

For a full breakdown of each airline’s fees, go to

Don’t overload on baggage charges

If you want to stow luggage in the hold, expect to pay £10 to £40 per case return, and possibly only get 15kg weight limit. Take more and the excess cost is huge: BMI Baby charges £10 per kg and Ryanair levies £20.

Worse still, the allowance is done per case. But there are ways to beat this: Take only hand luggage. No airlines charge for this (yet). Up to ten kilos is normally fine, and should be enough for a decent weekend away, but do check out size restrictions.

Wear heavy clothes.

If you are near the weight limit, put on your heaviest clothes and shoes to travel.

A coat could easily weigh 2kg, which would cost £30 in excess baggage.

Pre-plan your packing. It’s usually substantially cheaper to book hold cases in advance. For example, on Ryanair, if you book, the cost is £30 return for the first case and £70 for each additional case. But turn up at the airport and it rockets to £70 return for the first case and £140 for each additional one.

Throw stuff away. Many items of travel clothing or things like shampoo cost less to buy per kilo than the excess charge. This is particularly important on the return journey, when you have bought things abroad.

How to find the 1p flights

Budget airlines often take out massive advertisements for their flight sales, promoting fares as low as a penny each way, including taxes and charges. The problem is when you go to their website to try to book one, they’re scarcer than a nun at one of Jordan’s parties.

There are two quick steps to beat this: Know the sales terms. These sales are always very specific, such as only to certain destinations during a particular month. It’s crucial you are aware of those restrictions and keep them in mind when you search.

Use a special flight-finding tool. Because I find this such an annoyance, a few years ago I had the free site,, built. Then, when you see a budget airline sale advertised (or even if not), you can opt to search for, say, any flight under £10 including taxes and charges to Barcelona in August. You can even say “I’ll go anywhere” and see everything available at that price.

Sit together without paying more

Some airlines charge for pre-booking to make sure you sit together. So rather than forking out for priority boarding for all the family, pay for one person who can save seats for the others once they are on board.

Avoid check-in fees

One of the more infuriating charges some airlines have is a staggering £80 per person per return flight for the “luxury” of checking in at the airport. The easy way of sidestepping this is by checking in online first. This can be awkward on your return journey, as it may mean finding an internet cafe, although some airlines allow you to check in for the return before you leave.


Tesco’s free January/February instore magazine has a voucher for a free eye test at its opticians on page 114. Book your appointment by phoning 0845-601-3479. The voucher is valid until February 28.

TV money guru Martin Lewis runs the consumer revenge website; ensure you get his weekly e-mail so you’re constantly saving money.

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Bouquets of the Week

I WOULD like to nominate Susan Skelton, who lives over the road from me.

Four years ago, her son’s partner died leaving a baby boy, Daniel. Sue took over and is raising the little boy, who would be a credit to anyone.

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