Louise Manfield is a frequent flyer on Salut!, having added her pearls of wit and wisdom to my postings ever since the site was launched nearly a year ago. We had first "met" - electronically -when Louise contributed comments to my blog at Another Place and she may still, for all I know, loiter in that corner of the internet, which I prefer to avoid. She is also a frequent flyer in the ordinary sense, and devotes her Salut! Forum slot to some trenchant thoughts on the small-print turbulence of low cost aviation
I fly a lot, and the price of the ticket comes out of my pocket, so I have become a one-woman travel agency, aided by my sleek Mac, hunting out bargains using low-cost airlines.
Through choice I would travel business class around Europe and First Class to far away places, but unfortunately I don't have that choice!
Low cost should not be confused with Last Minute. If on the spur of the moment you think a weekend away in some romantic location would be a lovely idea, then forget cheap tickets, they don't exist. If, however, you are organised and book your tickets a month or so in advance, low cost flying does come into its own.
I fly frequently between Geneva and Brussels - book a month ahead and you can grab a ticket for €10 one way - and that same ticket on the same plane booked a couple of days before departure will cost anything up to €300! And don't even entertain the thought of flying on a Friday or a Sunday night!
These prices are, of course, just the basic seat price - a return ticket from Geneva to Brussels may cost around €30 but one then has to add on various taxes amounting to €70 or so. This is fine - we know that we have to pay these hidden extras. My gripe is the "Hidden, Hidden" extras and this is where the airline companies make serious money.
Airline companies now show you immediately on the internet the "all in" price - your seat and airport taxes. Fine. However when you move onto the page to give your credit card details, this is where you get stung unless you are attentive (which I must admit I am not). Here are a few examples on how your final bill increases without you realising it, just desperate to get the whole thing over and done with, and print out your electronic ticket.
I haven't named the companies, suffice to say that most of us use them at least once a year - and their "Hidden, Hidden" extras are basically the same.
Want to change your flight? Fine, that will cost you a flat fee of €60 plus the difference in price - if your new ticket is cheaper you are not refunded the difference.
Paying by credit card (how else do you pay when booking through internet or on the phone?). That's fine too, but will cost you between €3 and €10.
Want to take your skis with you? No problem, but that will cost you at least another €30.
Going skiing and everything won't fit in one bag? Take a second one, it will only cost another €7.50. And watch out that just before pressing the button you don't add on extra costs for travel insurance, cancellation fees etc. etc. as often these boxes are pre-ticked and you might well already be covered with private insurance or through your credit card.
Lastly, the first prize must be to the airline that proposes "Speedy Boarding".
Note that this does not mean "Speedy Passport Control" or "Speedy Security". It means that you can get on the plane first when boarding is called, along with families with young children. And it costs only €7.50 extra!
On a recent flight from London to Geneva, those holding Speedy Boarding Passes were called and nine-tenths of the passengers got up to get through the final check. Of 60 odd people on that flight, we were about five who hadn't bought the right to queue to board the plane first ... that is a lot of extra cash going into the airline's pocket! Just to sit in a minute seat for three minutes longer than the other passengers. Silly or what!
Long live Cattle Class, but take a couple of extra minutes when booking your tickets online to make sure you don't get done for all those expensive extras.
* Louise on Louise: A year and a half ago I moved to Switzerland from France with 2 children, 1 dog, 2 cats and a 40m2 removal lorry full of furniture; the lorry has gone, we are still here! Cat Number One moved house six months ago but still drops by every now and then for a chat and a snack.
Visit her - Louise's. not the cat's, blog Chocolate and cuckoos, which she defines as:
A new chapter in Switzerland. Views on life in general by a grumpy old(ish) woman and edited by her dog, Angus.