Let’s analyse prices for a set date over the Easter weekend (April 2009) for flights from London to Malaga in Spain. We will consider direct flights only and all the extra charges that are prevalent in the industry.
British Airways – Flight price of £183.90 return from London Heathrow. This includes online check-in (T -24 hours), snacks / drinks on board and a baggage allowance of 23kg. A £3.50 booking fee applies so total is £187.40. Upgrades offered to Club Europe (34″ seat vs standard economy 31″) for £119 outbound and £93 inbound (giving a total £399.40) – this would give you lounge access, priority check-in and boarding and slightly better food.
Note, same economy flights were found on a major online agent for £163.20.
Monarch Airlines – Return flight of £197.50 available from London Luton. However we need to then add £14.98 for a 20kg bag. Assigned seating is available for £6 each leg for a normal 29″ seat or £17.50 each way for a 34″ extra legroom seat. A credit card booking fee of £6.37 applies giving a total of £230.85 for the standard seat or £253.85 for the legroom seat. Meals are available onboard for purchase at £6 each.
Aer Lingus – Flight from London Gatwick to Malaga return for £116.79. Checking in 20kg of baggage adds £15 and a service fee of £8 is also added. Assigned seating and online check-in (T – 30 hours) are freely available. So total is £139.77 which is good value – and you can earn miles on partners British Airways, Qantas, American and Cathay. Note, drinks and snacks need to be purchased on board so add another £10-£15 to the fare.
Easyjet – has a flight from London Gatwick to Malaga priced at £112.88. To that we have to add (£7.50 x 2) £15 for checking in a 20kg bag each leg. “Speedy boarding” is charged at £15 extra (meaning you have priority boarding the aircraft – this can be a hit and miss affair though). Easyjet opt you in for travel insurance so you have to uncheck it if you don’t need it. Finally a credit card fee of £5.45 applies, for a grand total of £148.33. Drinks and snacks can be purchased on board.
Ryanair – Base fare for the flight ex-Stansted is £156.67. For checking in a bag of 15kg you will pay £30 extra. Priority boarding costs £8. Uncheck the insurance if you don’t need it. Finally credit card fee is £10, giving a grand total of £204.67. Like the other ‘budget’ airlines you pay for food and drinks onboard.
Conclusions – If you have a lot of luggage then BA’s 23kg allowance is the most generous – and be aware of Ryanair’s 15kg limit. The agent fare found for BA looks the best deal. Whether you would want to pay an extra £212 to travel in BA’s Club Europe on a short-haul flight is another question. Aer Lingus and Easyjet also had reasonable prices whilst Monarch and Ryanair looked a little expensive.
Obviously if you are travelling at Easter then you will pay a premium; if you have more flexibility you can always find lower fares on all the above carriers.