Additional fees charged by airlines for checked-in baggage, airport check-ins and other extras will be reviewed by the regulator to see if they're unfair on passengers.
The plans came to light after an MP raised concerns about fees charged by budget airline Ryanair.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon asked the Government if it would confront Ryanair about its charges for changing passenger details on boarding passes and other travel documents.
Responding to Shannon, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said work due to begin this summer will include a review of various airlines' administrative fees and charges to determine if they're "clear to passengers when they choose between airlines".
It will also look at how airlines inform passengers of changes to their flight times.
Check out our Budget Flight Fee-Busting guide to learn more about airlines' extra charges – and how to avoid them.
What are these extra fees?
Budget airlines' prices sometimes miss out airport fees, passenger duties or 'extras' you have to pay more for, and this isn't always clear when you're paying for your ticket.
You might be surprised at what counts as an extra. For example, some airlines charge you for the privilege of checking in at the airport (rather than doing so online before you leave home).
These extra charges and fees may include:
- Airport fees
- Air passenger duty
- Checked-in luggage (luggage stored in the hold)
- Checking in at the airport
- Fees for paying by credit card
- In-flight meals
- Booking fees (if you pay in person or on the phone)
- An 'infant fee' for passengers with very young children
- Checking in a musical instrument, bike or sports equipment
You may also be hit with additional charges if you need to change your flights, or change the name on a ticket.
How can I beat these charges and get the best deal?
When added to the original ticket price, extra fees can make air travel far more expensive than it first appears. They make it harder to compare the true cost of an airline ticket as well, meaning passengers sometimes miss out on finding the best deals.
Top tips from our budget airline guide include:
- Consider flying with hand luggage only. No airline will charge for basic hand luggage, although there are size and quantity limits.
- Always book hold luggage in advance. It's much cheaper to go online in advance to book cases to be stowed in the hold, rather than doing so at the airport.
- Beat airport check-in fees by doing it online. Some airlines let you check in online up to a week before you travel.
- Take a plane picnic. It's only drinks you can't take through security, so bring your own snacks to save on pricey (and often unappetising) airline meals.
- Don't assume budget airlines are the cheapest. After checked-in baggage and other extras are added, they may not be. If you have particular dates in mind you can use a price comparison site to find the best deals.
What does Ryanair say?
In response to the CAA's comments, Ryanair says it "does not have any 'hidden fees'. All Ryanair charges and fees are clearly outlined on the Ryanair.com website and throughout the entire booking process."
It adds: "Customers are asked to ensure that the details they enter at the time of booking are correct before completing their booking and we offer a 24-hour 'grace period' to correct minor booking errors".
The firm told us that its name change fee is charged "to discourage and prevent" unauthorised online travel agents from "screenscraping" Ryanair's cheapest fares and reselling them at inflated prices.
Ryanair told us it has cut its checked-in baggage fees for flights under three hours – with these short flights accounting for 92% of all passenger flights with the airline.
From 2 June the cost of checking in a 20kg bag on short international flights fell by 13%, and for domestic flights of under two hours it fell by 38%, the company added.
The cost of checked-in baggage for longer flights has not changed, and nor has the price of extras, such as airport check-ins and ticket name changes.
What does the CAA say?
"The Government and the CAA continue to emphasise to the airlines the importance of compliance with ticket transparency obligations, ensuring that terms and conditions (including any administration fees and charges) are clear to passengers when they choose between airlines.
"To enhance consumer protection in this area, the CAA will start work on unfair contract terms with the airlines this summer, in accordance with the CAA's Strategic Plan 2016-2021.
"The work will include a review of the airlines' terms and conditions (Conditions of Carriage) with the aim of ensuring the rights and obligations of the consumers and businesses are fair and balanced and consumers are not being penalised by unfair contract terms."
How much power does the CAA have?
If it finds that airlines are breaching passenger rights or consumer law, the CAA can order them to change their terms or policies, or compensate customers. If an airline fails to comply with this, the CAA can take it to court.
In the last five years the CAA has ordered procedural changes or passenger compensation from 18 airlines and travel agents/operators, including Ryanair and fellow budget operator Jet2.
In 2011 it ordered Ryanair to display "unavoidable taxes, fees and surcharges" in its prices at all times.