Tenerife: Comparing Flight Costs
The price ranged quite astonishingly with Iberia being double the price of the cheaper ones. They were also the only non-direct flight in that you had to change at Heathrow. Despite all the charges that are laden on you by the no-frills airlines, Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2 were all within £40 of each other. At £1,133, Ryanair was the cheapest, closely followed by Jet2 at £1,149.77 and easyJet at £1,176.24. Yet the basic fare at Jet2 was two and a quarter times higher than Ryanair. What this shows is that Ryanair charges much more for add-ons than Jet2 does.
Thomson and Thomas Cook both charged the lowest for hold baggage at just £25 and £24 per person respectively and easyjet charged £30. Travel insurance for the whole party varied by as much as £20 with Jet2 being the most expensive and easyJet being the cheapest. The conclusion we reached was that buying travel insurance elsewhere was usually a better bet than buying it via the airline. And if you travel more than twice a year, an annual policy is probably a better buy.
Total charges for Ryanair amounted to £386 or 34% of the bill. Is this wrong? Ryanair – and all airlines – would probably argue that by giving passengers the choice of what they want they give us the opportunity to fly cheaply. If we want the frills, we pay. Except that in some cases you have no choice. You can decide to take no baggage, you can decide not to designate a seat but you can’t avoid administrative fees or charges for paying by credit card..
The Office of Fair Trading has warned travel companies to change misleading credit and debit card practices. It can commence proceedings but it has limited power. It can impose an enforcement order against those that – in their opinion – continue to use misleading practices. They can also name and shame the main and persistent offenders.
They have announced a 90 day consultation period to study the situation. As Cavendish Elithorn of the OFT says, “You can’t buy online with cash and people are being frustrated about being asked to pay for nothing.” It estimates we pay £300 million just to pay for using cards. It would like debit cards to be free as Monarch has recently announced it will be on bookings with them.
But what can the OFT do against administration charges? These cover all sorts of things like volcanic ash disruption, (in the case of Ryanair) handling fees, fuel surcharges, wheelchair levies and, for all we know, the flowers in the chairman’s office! The answer is that they can still be charged but it looks as though we will have to be told about them up front and not at the end of the booking. We needn’t necessarily need to be told what’s included. But at least in this way, we can decide whether to continue or go elsewhere.
Both of the tour operators charged quite a bit more but if you compared their package holiday prices (which would include accommodation) with what deals the airlines were offering for similarly starred accommodation then they look pretty much the same. Tour operators would also have a coach taking you to your accommodation rather than you having to pay for a taxi to get you to your destination.
What this research shows is that checking for the best deals was time consuming. We think of ourselves as reasonably knowledgeable but it still took one of us the best part of four hours to get the raw facts together. We also checked the British Airways, flybe and bmi websites to make sure we hadn’t accidentally missed any flights they had. For the traveller who only flies occasionally – say once or twice a year – many airlines are making booking tedious, unnecessarily time-consuming and downright off-putting. No wonder some people give up or just opt for the first or the airline they “think” will be the cheapest. Don’t fall into that trap. It is necessary to look around.
Be prepared to take some time. Then ask yourself a series of questions. Can the four of you get away with 3 bags? Make sure you include this when you book. You’ll be charged extra at the airport Can you take sandwiches instead of buying snacks or a meal on board? Do you need to sit together? Planning will probably save you more money than deciding at the last minute. In that way you might be able to avoid some of the costs we suspect will always be hidden as administration fees regardless of whether they are shown to you on the first web page or ten pages in.
The Research Brief
The brief was to check the total prices for 4 people, two of whom were children (but were over 12) leaving on August 1st and returning on August 14th. If there was no flight on the 14th, we took the 13th or 15th but if there was a difference in price we took the cheaper of the two. Each person in the party would take one bag to be stored in the hold and all would require travel insurance for the trip. Where reserved seating was available, we booked it allowing the mythical family to stay together. The seven airlines were easyJet, Ryanair, jet2, Monarch, Iberia, Thomson and Thomas Cook.
We should also point out that the “bookings” were made two weeks ago so prices might have changed since then. We picked booking six weeks in advance because that is the time at which tour operators want the final part of their bills paid. We “paid” using a credit card rather than a debit card. We did not include any meal charges that were levied.