The “dramatic” rise in charging for flight add-ons has resulted in almost nine out of 10 airlines charging for at least one additional fee on top of the headline price for a flight, according to a report.

Ryanair has emerged as the carrier that levies the most for extras such as seat selection, baggage check-in and insurance, as it becomes increasingly difficult to find an airline that offers everything up front.

Analysis by NetVoucherCodes, a money-saving voucher website, found 89% of all airlines charged for at least one extra, with the figure rising to 97% among European carriers.

The controversial issue of add-ons was reignited last week when an elderly couple were charged £110 by Ryanair for new boarding passes after they mistakenly checked into the wrong leg of their flight.

Ruth Jaffe, 79, and her husband, Peter, 80, accidentally downloaded their return boarding passes instead of those for the outgoing leg on a flight to France. The charges they incurred prompted others to complain about Ryanair’s fees on social media.

In June, Rishi Sunak ordered a review of “drip pricing” under which companies hide the true cost of products and services by charging consumers extra fees. The prime minister said the government would investigate how widespread the practice was and, if necessary, draw up measures to tackle the problem.

NetVoucherCodes examined a series of similar routes for the world’s top airlines and calculated the costs of add-ons such as carry-on baggage, 20kg checked bags, seat selection, fast tracking, insurance and onboard wifi.

In the case of a Ryanair flight to Ireland, an initial cost of £18.39 quickly quadrupled to more than £80 after optional extras were added, with fees of £22.49 to check in baggage, £14.50 for one piece of carry-on luggage, £8 for seat selection and £18.39 for insurance.

Ryanair said there were no hidden fees at the airline, adding:The flight quoted from the UK to Ireland at £18.39 is outstanding value. All products referred to are optional, which the consumer can choose to add or not to add. If they opt for none of these additional products they can still travel with a carry-on bag at £18.39, which is fantastic value for consumers.”

NetVoucherCodes calculated that the average extra cost for European airlines was £45.43 when using its methodology. For international airlines, the average was £26.09 and for the US it was £61.20.

Wizz Air came second after Ryanair, with a flight to Hungary at £34.29, plus £93.56 in add-ons. The airline has a fairly cheap base fare, meaning that if you were to travel without any of the extras, you would be saving money rather than going with an all-inclusive airline.

Wizz Air said the fees were not hidden but clearly outlined on the airline’s website and app. It added: “We are an ultra-low-cost carrier and to keep our fares low, we offer optional add-ons at an additional charge, such as checked luggage or preferential seating. This means that Wizz Air unbundles its products so that customers only need to pay for what they need.”

Martyn James, a consumer rights expert, said the add-on culture had increased dramatically and that airlines had been stopped in the past from some practices.

“They used to charge you to pay by debit or credit card, but how else do you buy online? They were told not to do that,” he said. “When these revenue streams were closed they looked at the process and thought, what else can we charge for?”

James said comparison websites should include extra costs in the overall price from the start: “I am having to tell people to be cynical and don’t assume a deal is a good deal.”

He has called for the Civil Aviation Authority to be given more power to make airlines add charges up front, and noted that sometimes more expensive flights might be a better option, if everything was included.

Katy Maclure of Jack’s Flight Club, which monitors airfares for the cheapest options, said customers needed to become more aware of the fees as more airlines employed the tactics. “It has become more common over the last few years, and flagship airlines are going from including checked bags to not,” she said.

Maclure gave the examples of Lufthansa and British Airways, which include charges on checked bags to some locations. Only a select few, such as Emirates, had everything covered in the initial price, said Maclure.

James said more support was needed for passengers, especially for the vulnerable or elderly people: “If we are making things cheaper for airlines by doing all the online check-in, why not have someone stand by self-check-in desks? Why not have someone there who can print stuff out?”

Passengers should be realistic about how much luggage they needed and read the terms and conditions about cabin bags, he said. “Be cynical and check everything and go online and see if you can get an idea of the seat and hold luggage charges alone, that will give an idea of minimum fees you will face at the end.”

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/651050870/5pYtwLrdRJs5zHus?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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