When you plan a trip, you probably do the exact same thing.

I do open my favorite airfare search website, also known as an “Online Travel Agent” or OTA, and look to see how expensive the flights are during times I am looking for.

So let’s say I want to plan a trip and get a good deal for a round trip since I’m on a budget. From a bit of searching I can see that a round trip in coming months is as low as $500. The prices almost always depend on the number of layovers and flight times. Basically the more flexible I am with my time and comfort, the less I will pay.

Now this is where most people stop their search, they just choose the cheapest flight that looks the least painful, maybe with an airline they like, and book it.

However, nowadays you should really take extra fees into account before you book. For many flights, checked bags or even carry-on baggage can be very expensive. Many airlines have lowered the upfront cost of their tickets, only to make up for the lost revenue in fees for upgrades, but mostly they make their money on baggage fees.

Most airlines baggage fees are reasonable but for a trip like the one mentioned above, if I am traveling with a partner or family, those fees can add up fast. Fees of about $120 per checked bag is not uncommon to see. So if you have a family of four and each have a checked bag that increases your flight cost by $480. If one of you goes over the weight limit, you’ll be charged per kg or per pound over the max at a very steep rate.

Before you book you can usually see this info on Google Flights by choosing the outbound and return flight and then on the final page you scroll down to the bottom to see the baggage fees.

As you can see in this example above, a round trip flight to Rome is made more expensive by bag fees, In this case if you brought two checked bags it would be $936 for the flight instead of $616 per person, so that’s a significant increase.

In this scenario, assuming you do want to take at least one bag, it’s probably better to just spend $100 more to fly with a better airline, because American is not a great airline, they have terrible customer service, and are constantly delayed.

There are usually flights that cost just a bit more that have free baggage, and usually the airlines with free baggage will give you a better overall experience.

Some airlines around the world have even started charging outrageous bag fees where customers are forced to pay as much as $400 per bag when they fly.

There are TONS of reviews on TripAdvisor talking about this scam and honestly it’s just that. Here’s one for example:
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This customer was unable to pay to add baggage to his booking on the Thai Lion Air website, because they only accept Thai Credit Cards. This is the real basis of the scam too, is that you can buy bags in advance online at a much cheaper rate but ONLY IF you have a Thai bank credit card. This customer, fortunately, was able to add bags at the lower rate using a website that allows you to add baggage to Thai Lion bookings at the lower rate.

He luckily avoided the huge fees he would have to pay at the airport, but very few people do as much research before the flight as this guy did. Good job Kevin.

For the most part, if you buy your baggage in advance with a service like buybaggage.com you can still fly with these budget airlines and save a ton of money. You just have to make sure you really do your homework and don’t get caught in any of their expensive traps. One other airline Blue Panorama (or Albawings) is tricking customers into paying a 50 Euro fee for adding their middle name to their booking. 50 Euros is a lot of money especially when your ticket cost 100 Euro total. And the kicker is that their website is basically designed to make you not put the middle name in, it doesn’t even have a field for middle name! Here’s a screenshot I just took during the booking process on their website:

As you can see, no middle name field, I suppose they expect you to put your first and middle name in the “name” field. What a joke. One customer even reported that they did in fact put their middle name in and then took a screenshot so they had proof!

“Because when I reserved my tickets you guys didn’t use my middle name on the booking so they wanted us to pay the tickets again. Luckily I took a photo of the screen when I booked and my name had the middle name on it. After 45 minutes of arguing they let me get on the plane without paying again.”

Sounds like a very frustrating situation to be in but this customer clearly did their homework and knew they were going to try the middle name thing on them. This is another good reason to read reviews about an airline before you book, especially if it’s one that you haven’t heard of before. In my experience, 10 minutes of reading can save you from hours of issues later on so it’s well worth your time to do some research and avoid scams like this.

Overall, there is a big spectrum of quality when it comes to airlines. You need to be diligent and not get caught in any scams or it could really cost you a lot of money and really stress you out. To summarize, here’s a list of things to do before you book:

  • If you want to bring a checked bag, try searching with Google Flights and add checked bags to the bags filter.
  • Before you book, read the baggage allowance policies on the airline website or on a website you trust. Example search: “Thai Lion Air baggage policy” (replace Thai Lion with whatever airline you’re researching)
  • Read reviews about an airline before you book with them. Again this can be easily done with a quick google search. Example search: “Thai Lion Air reviews”
  • Look to see how much the bag fees will be for you and determine if buying a slightly more expensive ticket will be cheaper and better overall.

All of this research may not be really fun to do, but it’s way better than having a small crisis at the airport and dealing with extremely rude staff on an airline you never should have booked with in the first place. Overall, if you do your research you can save yourself hundreds of dollars per trip and you can even take advantage of these budget airlines by paying the low ticket price and avoiding their real money-making pitfalls.

Best of luck on your future bookings, thanks for reading!
Disclosure: It is a guest post and all the opinions mentioned here are of the writer.

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The Poor Nomad
(Your Travel Guide)