A few weeks ago the British the consumer watchdog Which? released a study revealing that budget carriers – including EasyJet, Jet2 and Monarch - automatically added travel insurance to online ticket purchases.
Selling insurance as the default option – whereupon customers must untick boxes to avoid paying for the insurance – is against European Union directives and is consequently banned. Lorna Cowan, editor of Which? explained: “With airlines still opting people into insurance, consumers could unwittingly buy a product which is of no use to them, and at up to £10 ( 16.44990 USD) per person this can add up,” she said.
“Buying insurance at the same time as your flights may seem like an easy and convenient option. But if you’ve already got an insurance policy, or it doesn’t provide the right amount of cover for you, it’s as useless as no cover at all.”
British Airways has also launched a website designed to illustrate the differences in service received by low-cost passengers when compared to more traditional airlines. Whereas everything from food & drink to priority boarding was included in the cost of a flight with BA, the airline is quick to point out, these represent additional costs of a ‘cheap flight’ with a competitor.
So, could this be the beginning of a backlash against charges which see passengers forced to pay for everything from checking-in at the airport to putting baggage in the hold and (perhaps most notoriously of all) using credit cards to pay for tickets at a cost of £5 ($8.22 USD as of 28 Jul 2009) per journey per person?
The Air-Sickness Bag and Toilet Tax
Unlikely. The cheap flights revolution is ingrained in the national consciousness to such an extent these days passengers are even willing to suggest which charges they would like to see introduced in the future.
When Ryanair suggested it would be able to cut the basic cost of tickets even further with the introduction of new charges, passengers were quick to endorse everything from a ‘fat tax’ for overweight passengers, corkage fees, and even a charge to smoke in a specially converted cubicle.
A plan to charge passengers to use the toilet – termed ’spend a pound to spend a penny’ – eventually triumphed, but was later rejected by the Irish airline. However, a plan to charge for sick bags has also been mooted of late.
So it seems not only do passengers begrudgingly pay the charges demanded of them, they would also be willing to pay more if it lowered the basic cost of a flight.
Are the “No-Frills” Carriers Here to Stay?
It seems the best course of action for dealing with low-cost carriers is to stoically bear the cost of travel. Think of a cheap flight as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ deal. While the original cost of travel – the flight – is included in the bargain, there are likely to be a myriad of other charges along the way.
By only using what you really need – and cutting costs, by carrying less luggage, for example – will the cost of travel fall. No-frills carriers are still likely to cost less than their flag carrier counterparts and, while this is the case, charges for everything for toilet paper to the use of a wheelchair seem likely to stay.