6 Hidden Flight Fees Travellers Fall for Every Time

Sophie Miura

Few things excite travellers more than the words: Flash flight sale. And given that we're on the cusp of fall, now is prime time to snap up a heavily discounted airfare, as major carriers hold their end-of-summer sales. Before you buy that ridiculously cheap flight, though, check the fine print.

"With more airlines going to à la carte pricing for airfare, fewer and fewer amenities are included with the fare," says Matthew Ma, co-founder of The Flight Deal, a travel website that cuts through the clutter of flash sales to deliver only the best deals to your inbox. "We had long been disappointed by the various fare alert sites available on the web," he explains. So, they created a new metric to determine if a sale airfare is worthwhile. "By breaking down a fare and assigning a price per mile travelled, we've established our baseline for price comparison," he says.

We tapped Ma to find out how he knows if an airfare is too good to be true. These are the six things to check before you book your next trip.

What Are the Baggage Fees?

Hands down, Ma says baggage costs are the most common hidden fees travellers fall for. "With Basic Economy fares becoming the norm, it is really important to understand baggage fees," he says. 

Is There a Seat Fee?

"The second most common hidden fee is that the best seats—the window, aisle, closer to the front of the plane—will require a fee to be assigned in advanced," says Ma. If you have a specific preference, you could be charged an additional fee, which can add up.


Is the Airline Reliable?

It mightn't be a common issue, but Ma says it's smart to be wary of airlines that are offering sales due to financial issues, as it could lead to cancellations. "Is the airline offering the flash sale having financial difficulties? For example, Air Berlin recently had a good sale, but it also recently declared bankruptcy and cut all its long-haul flying out of Berlin," he says.

Where Does the Connecting Flight Depart From?

Nonstop flights can be costly, so travellers who are willing to take a connecting flight or book each leg of the journey separately can make considerable savings. But before you confirm the booking, Ma says to triple check the details. 

Is the Airport Correct?

It might sound like a no-brainer, but in the excitement of a flash sale, it can be easy to confuse airports. Ma points out that some of the most commonly confused airports are:

  • San Jose, California, and San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Bali, Indonesia (located in Denpasar ), and Balikpapan, Indonesia
  • Sydney, Canada, and Sydney, Australia
  • Santiago, Chile; Santiago, Dominican Republic; and Santiago, Spain
  • Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine
  • Granada, Spain, and Grenada
  • Manchester, New Hampshire, and Manchester, England
  • Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England
  • Salvador, Brazil, and San Salvador, El Salvador

What is the Cancellation Policy?

The takeaway? Read the fine print, and make sure you're protected before booking. "In general, we worry less about whether or not it's too good to be true and rely on the various protections in place," he says. "We also wait a week or two after the purchase of the flash sale airfare before making any other prepaid travel arrangements to ensure the issued ticket is valid."

Have you had experience with hidden fees?

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