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Avoid airline charges with these 10 insider tips

When booking flights, all those little extras add up. Here’s how to save on airline charges and still have a great journey.

10 insider tips to avoid airline charges

1. Max your family allowance

Child in airplane goggles - family packages help you avoid airline charges

When you travel with kids, it can often feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick. But some airlines offer perks for children. Aer Lingus charges half price for checked bags and seat selection within Europe for children under 11. So use this to squeeze your extras into their bags. And Ryanair offers a Family Plus package with free seat selection for a child sitting next to an adult, 2 x 20kg checked bags per booking and a 1 x 10kg check-in Bag.

READ MORE: Aer Lingus baggage allowance explained

2. Check in online

Woman checking in online - Avoid airline charges

Turning up at the airport without checking in online can incur a fee of €50 with Ryanair. So don’t forget to do this before you turn up at the airport. If you’ve bought a seat, you can check in 60 days before your trip with Ryanair, so you could sort boarding passes for both your departure and return flights before even leaving Ireland. And if you haven’t bought a seat, you can still check in 48 hours before departure. En route to the airport and forgot? You can still check in online up to two hours before your flight, so whip out your smartphone and get online.

READ MORE: Ryanair hand luggage allowance and how to avoid the fees

3. Sit together – free

Girl sleeping with stuffed animal in airplane

Don’t want to pre-pay for a seat? You still have a good chance of being automatically allocated seats next to family and friends – if you check in as early as possible. Simply find out how far in advance you can check in online and set an alarm to remind yourself to do so. The best seats go quickly, even when allocated at random. Check in late, and you could end up scattered throughout the plane.

4. Watch how you pay

Man paying by credit card

It’s best to pay by Visa or Mastercard regardless of whether it’s debit or credit. This is because they both voluntarily adhere to a ‘chargeback’ scheme, which refunds your card in certain instances of disputed transactions.

READ MORE: Which is the best travel credit card? Answers to frequently asked questions

5. Double-check your name

It seems like a no-brainer, but double-checking every element of your booking before clicking ‘confirm’ – and immediately upon receipt of your confirmation email – can save you an eye-watering fee down the line. Writing in the wrong name – mixing up first and surnames, or simply having typos – could cost you €115-€160 with Ryanair; €100 with Aer Lingus; and €65 with Flybe – but Ryanair has a 48-hour grace period where these changes are free. And remember, the name must match the one listed on a passport – a David booked as a Dave can be liable for a hefty charge at the gate.

6. Compare travel insurance

Buying travel insurance from the airline is often more expensive than arranging your own. On one airline, we saw single-trip cover offered for €18, but a basic policy bought directly from an insurer was only €12. And if you travel more than two or three times a year, it’ll nearly always be cheaper to buy an annual policy. Use comparison sites to find the best deal.

READ MORE: Tips on how to save enough money at home to pay for your trip abroad.

7. Wear your luggage…

Wear your luggage… How to avoid airline charges

It can be hard to keep up with the changing rules around hand luggage. Some airlines allow a small handbag in addition to your main bag; some don’t – and others seem to change their rules on this every other week. But you can always make use of what’s already on your back. Wear a jacket with deep pockets – and lots of them. Dubarry coats are always a good bet, with plenty of space for your phone, passport, charger, purse etc. If you care more about practicality than appearances, you can pick up a Bagket – these jacket vests can carry up to 7kg of gear between 22 pockets, and can be converted into a shoulder bag once you arrive.

8. …or pay in advance for bags

Woman changing her name online before travelling - how to avoid airline charges

If you know that you’ll need checked baggage, it’s usually cheapest to pay for it at the time of booking. However, you can often add a checked bag to your booking up to two hours prior to departure, but double-check if there’s a penalty to do so – one budget airline charges €25 at the time of booking, or €40 afterwards. If you’ll be shopping while you’re away, pack a lightweight bag in your hand luggage and book a bag for the return leg only.

READ MORE: 15 of the best ever packing tips for a stress-free packing experience

9. Pack a picnic

Lunch in a pink lunch box

While we’re used to a lack of meals on short flights, a long-haul trek without food is a new development. And with airline charges as much as €35 for a meal, you could save a bundle by bringing your own aboard. Bring your own from home, or pick up a meal from the airport. Plenty of places at Dublin Airport provide nutritious, plane-friendly dishes that will stand you in good stead. Don’t forget to buy or fill up a large bottle of water after going through security, too – it seems like no airline ever gives out enough, even when it is complimentary.

READ MORE: Check out our tips on getting free in-flight extras.

10. Think twice before upgrading to extra legroom

Plane seats

Don’t assume extra legroom seats will allow you to sprawl out. The space in front of them is often taken up with people queuing for the loo or stretching their own legs with in-flight exercises. If the reason you’re paying extra is because you simply want a bit more space, choose an ordinary seat towards the back of the plane, which is where any empty seats are usually found, and you might luck out and nab two seats for the price of one.

READ MORE: Cheats to turn your economy fare into a first-class experience

10 tips on how to avoid airline charges

1. Max your family allowance
2. Check in online
3. Sit together – free
4. Watch how you pay
5. Double-check your name
6. Compare travel insurance
7. Wear your luggage…
8. …or pay in advance for bags
9. Pack a picnic
10. Think twice before upgrading to extra legroom

*Revised July 2019. All prices are lowest estimated prices only and are subject to change. Charges may vary if you book through an online travel agent rather than the airline direct. Always check the terms and conditions applicable to get up to date information. While information was correct at the time of publication, we’d recommend that you check the details with the airline or online travel agent before booking.

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